Wednesday, October 20, 2004

mum on bcci?

What Paul Glastris says. Lots of people have been wondering why the Kerry campaign never does more than mention in passing Kerry's BCCI investigation. After all, we're talking about exposing money laundering on a global scale, which included funding for terrorists. But the most relevant issue related to Kerry's BCCI work is the fact that he did it in spite of tremendous pressure from colleagues and supporters. There were so many senators who had personal and professional ties to people involved in BCCI, the pressure was extreme. But Kerry did the right thing in spite of that, and was instrumental in ending a global crime network. (For a decent summary of Kerry's role in BCCI, see here.)

This was only one of several times Kerry took the hard road against peer pressure, starting with his work with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, through Iran Contra, through BCCI, deficit reduction, and most recently his vote against mandating $87B to the Iraq war effort without working out a way to fund it.

Bob Shrum's position is apparently that average people won't understand the BCCI story. Its certainly true that the entire conspiracy is a complex and tangled web that almost no one really understands. But why doesn't Shrum understand that a good communicator can craft several compelling themes from the story? Create some conventional wisdom based on big picture truths?

One question is--what's the downside to the story? What could Bush/Cheney drum up to counter the CW? The worst I've heard is that Kerry was "more showhorse than workhorse". But this doesn't jive with the facts at all. The BCCI scandal was a hot potato that nobody wanted to handle. Kerry got a tremendous amount of flack for refusing to drop it or orchestrate a whitewash. Sheesh, Kerry even got an angry phone call from Jackie Onassis wanting know why Kerry was skewering a good friend of hers (Clark Clifford).

Kerry did apparently weather some personal attacks, allegations that his family had ties to drug dealing (!) that appear to be your typical slimy political pressure. Perhaps Shrum decided that the slime, if recycled right before the election, would hurt more than the BCCI themes would help.

As far as I can make out, most people have been assuming Kerry was holding the BCCI story as a hole card. Now that the election is only 13 days away, however, that hope is shrinking fast. BCCI is not a two-day story--it's a character tell that would have been best woven into the public perception of Kerry as a man. A really good man who truly demonstrates principled action in spite of political cost.