The Note

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As John Kerry begins his own (semi-)private Idaho vacation, here are the mistakes his campaign has made of late, allowing an aggressive Bush-Cheney operation to win a series of news cycles, during this (ALL TOGETHER NOW!!!) critical period in defining John Kerry for America:

1. The "Crooks," "I actually did vote for the $87 billion," and "more leaders" quotes, and the handling of their aftermath.

2. Still failing to present a coherent, unified message.

3. The failure of his campaign to successfully tape the original "leaders" quote and nip the matter in the bud.

4. Believing his own "bring it on" rhetoric and getting drawn into an extended debate on national security, just as he is leaving for vacation.

5. Failing to take a page from the Dean campaign in the fall of 2003 by not staying ahead of the story.

6. Having Dean serve as a surrogate on a media conference call on national security (a bizarro choice even before the Spanish comment). Dean couldn't even stay on his OWN message; what made them think he could stay on Kerry's?

7. Failing to instantly repudiate Dean's remark.

8. Buying a jockstrap in front of the press corps. Just weird.

9. Not more aggressively checking his instinct to equivocate and parse (see mistake 1), even if that equivocation might have some degree of intellectual soundness.

10. Waiting too long to put out Holbrooke, Richardson, and others to push back on the "leaders" quote.

11. Going off on vacation. It's unavoidable, and goodness knows Kerry deserves a break and that some of his verbal errors were probably owing to fatigue, but now might not be the best time, with the Iraq stuff swirling out there . . .

12. Failure to go back in time in a time machine and quit the Senate to run for governor or work in a business in the late '80s -- thereby limiting all this votes 'n' quotes exposure. (Granted, this one would have been tougher to pull off than some of the others . . . )

13. Not fully affecting the look and feel and stature of an actual, full-fledged general election standard bearer.

14. By making all these mistakes, squandering the post-nomination window of attention and frittering away the momentum he had built up. Not to mention -- to a large extent overshadowing Spanish deaths, more killed in Iraq, the Medicare controversies, and other Bush problems about which more donkey hay probably could have been made.

14. Not fully realizing that by making all these mistakes, the door was opened for the Bush-Cheney campaign to get some of its mojo back, allowing it to get a much-needed shot of confidence -- for themselves and those skittish Hill allies.

(In the hauntingly "normal" Note-Orin mind meld, our gal Deb has something similar in the New York Post. LINK)

This has all taken place as the Bush campaign has manifestly moved the White House political phasers from "stun" to "kill."

Karl Rove attended Grover Norquist's off-the-record Wednesday meeting yesterday, and the AP's Scott Lindlaw managed to convince an attendee to describe what Mr. Rove said. LINK

"Addressing a small group of conservative activists, Rove assured them that Bush planned a nimble campaign able to counterpunch even before Kerry opens his mouth. The White House adviser pointed with pride to the Bush camp's response Tuesday, when it got word that Kerry planned a national security speech to veterans in West Virginia."

Go read the whole thing.

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