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If the Democrats don't get it together, they're going to hand the election to George W. Bush

We're going to be stuck with George W. Bush for four more years if we're not careful. I don't care that the most recent poll shows Democrat John Kerry slightly ahead of Bush. With about 200 days left before the election, the GOP is probably thrilled that it's even close at all. The way Bush has been stumbling, bumbling and mumbling, Kerry should have a 20-point lead by now.

What I'm afraid of is that Kerry will stay ahead throughout the summer and into the early fall, and then Bush will dip into that vulgar ocean of money at his disposal and use it to overtake Kerry, just like Vin Diesel did when he hit the nitrous oxide and blew past Paul Walker in The Fast and the Furious. And yes, I did see that movie, but only so I would be able to use it to make a political point somewhere down the road.

Among my many concerns:

· The GOP is winning the mini-soundbite battle. For the past 50 years or so, the term "flip-flop" meant a cheap rubber sandal used at the beach or pool. Now, all of a sudden, it means John Kerry's voting pattern.

This is absolutely infuriating, because I would bet that 95 percent of all people who have served in Congress for at least a couple of terms have probably voted for and against the same piece of legislation at one time or another. That's the way things are done. People vote one way, and then they change their vote after a particular rider is added or deleted. It's so common that it doesn't even bear mentioning.

It's clear that the average American doesn't know a whole lot about the way things are done in a legislative body, and that may be for the best. Remember the old saying, "Those who have a high regard for the law or sausage should never watch either one being made?" That's pretty much what we have here.

The Repubs couldn't get their teeth into Kerry's military record (and they damned sure didn't want to hook their wagon to Bush's), so they veered off in this direction. All of Howard Dean's computer geeks should be able to put together a list of prominent Republicans who have voted for and against the same bill at one time or another and put this non-issue to rest.

· Resting alongside it should be the comparison of Iraq to Vietnam. This makes a lot of people very uneasy, mostly because it simply isn't true. I understand trying to make a point about our involvement in Iraq possibly turning into this generation-long commitment to ... nothing, but the analogy is easy to refute. The GOP just has to trot out some casualty figures, and it makes the Dems look desperate to try to make a point.

· The Dems should put together a fast-reacting truth squad along the lines of the cigarette commercials. The GOP keeps hammering away at how Kerry once voted to cut $4 billion from the funding for intelligence agencies, making it seem like he was trying to single-handedly do away with the CIA. The fact is, on that very same vote, the majority of Republicans voted to cut even more from the budget than what Kerry went for.

It would be so easy to turn that charge around, but the Dems have been slow to react, and it has cost them. I realize that the Democrats have a limited amount of money, but they need to hit back at these ridiculous charges before those claims take root in people's heads.

· The Democrats need to distance themselves from that ridiculous charge that Bush knew about Sept. 11 before it happened. Does anybody out there sincerely believe that the president of the United States knew in advance that people were going to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, killing thousands of Americans, and that Bush just let it happen so he could make some political points? That's absurd.

What I (and most other Democrats) dislike about George W. Bush is that he used that horrible event to push his bizarre domestic political agenda and as an excuse to launch a war against a country that he simply didn't like. On Sept. 12, 2001, Americans were united in a way they hadn't been in more than a half-century. Furthermore, people and nations all over the world were casting a sympathetic eye toward America, offering help and suddenly willing to form alliances that could have truly made the world a safer place for generations to come.

Instead, Bush took the low road, damaging the country with insane tax cuts that embarrass even some of its beneficiaries, and pissing away all of the international good will that had been built up.

All that matters is that we're WAY worse off than we were when he took office, and Sept. 11 has only a little bit to do with that.

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