We don't always agree with the analysis of Ruy Teixeira, but on the issue of Kerry's cautiousness as a campaigner we are in foot-stompin' agreement.
Concentrating on Bush's blunders in Iraq has a certain logic for building a "fire-the-incumbent" sentiment among swing voters. Problem is, says Teixeira, that approach doesn't automatically translate into "hire the challenger to correct the incumbent's blunders," if the challenger has no clear vision of how to get out of this mess.
Bush's answer for the Abu Ghraib revelations? Tear down the prison and give a huge pile of money to private contractors to build another one in its place, which can be run by exactly the same people with the same policies as the first one. Great solution, no?
Kerry's solution? We're not sure.
Teixeira admits that maybe NOT knowing what Kerry would actually do with Bush's morass is his best strategy: "The theory is that anything as specific as an exit strategy on Kerry's part would shift the political conversation away from the actually-existing mess in Iraq and toward discussion of Kerry's strategy and whatever Bush's counter to that strategy would be. That would be bad since that would interfere with hanging the whole Iraq mess around Bush's neck and forcing him to 'own it,' as the expression goes."
BUT ... Teixeira knows there are TWO steps in moving the electorate your way in a presidential contest: "First, voters have to decide they're interested in firing the incumbent; then they have to decide that the challenger is a good alternative to the incumbent. Clearly, the [Kerry] cautious approach fits well into the first part of the process -- as voters are getting convinced the incumbent needs to go, why confuse them with a lot of 'bold' ideas from the challenger? Let the voters think long and hard about how bad the incumbent is, not the detailed plans of the challenger."
Teixeira doesn't grapple at all with what has become the strange, twisted logic of El Presidente's "reelect me!" strategy ... which is, "Since I got us INTO this mind-boggling mess of a failed foreign policy, won't I be the best one to keep wading us through the quagmire?" In other words, Bush hasn't got a detailed plan to get us out EITHER. So it wouldn't be the first time the American voter decided not to change nags in the middle of a cesspool.