I’ve been pushing the “weak Kilgore” meme for months now, because I think it will be effective. It plays to Jerry Kilgore’s brief political history (he’s only run for office
once twice), his entry to the political world (his appointment to Secretary of Public Safety in ’94 is understood to have been a favor to the Kilgore family and to Southwest Virginia Republican leaders) and to voters’ likely perception of him once they encounter him (his vocal mannerisms are shockingly effeminate).
So I’m pleased to see that Tim Kaine’s campaign has adopted the word “weak” as their all-purpose one-word description of Kilgore. I’m not sure if I can take any credit for this, but I’m certainly glad to see them going this route.
In the Virginian-Pilot, columnist Margaret Edds rightly laments the simplification of the political world and the reduction of things to black-and-white, a battle of who can label the other candidate first:
Tim Kaine wants you to identify him as a “leader,” as in “Leading Virginia Forward.” And he intends to tag his opponent for governor with an opposite quality: “weak.”
As someone with family roots in Virginia’s far southwest, I can assure you that a man such as Kilgore who comes out of tiny Gate City and manages to emerge as the almost-certain standard-bearer of Virginia’s dominant political party has a wealth of inner fortitude and true grit.
High-paid consultants more interested in winning than governing conspire to define the opposition in ways that often bear little resemblance to reality. Candidates who might prefer to do otherwise are almost powerless to stop, because campaign after campaign has proved the effectiveness of the approach.
Can the consultants usually dredge up evidence for their claims? Oh, sure.
[C]onsider a Kaine campaign piece describing Kilgore as “weak and ineffective on parole abolition.” This is a truly astonishing claim since Kilgore was secretary of public safety in the administration that rewrote parole laws, changing them from a revolving door to a barely cracked one.
True, as the release states, thousands of prisoners sentenced before the new parole laws took effect still are eligible for parole based on the old laws. That’s the peg for the “Kilgore as weak” theme. But what is the Kaine campaign suggesting? That the commonwealth should have invited a host of prisoner lawsuits and gone even further into overdrive on prison building to keep everyone behind bars?
She’s right, of course — it sucks that politics is like this. But politics has been like this since the founding of the United States, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
I’d be hesitant to attack Kilgore in this manner so early (or, indeed, at all), were it not for his hiring of Scott Howell. In doing so, the Kilgore campaign declared that they were going to run a filthy campaign based on lies and smears. So far, they haven’t gotten anywhere near that bad, save for their bizarre counterfeit “internal Kaine campaign memo.” But with Howell on board, frankly, I don’t see any need to wait. Think of it as a preemptive strike for defensive purposes. If it’s good enough for President Bush, it’s good enough for me. ;)