Jewish World Review August 25, 2004 / 8 Elul, 5764

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You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em | In politics, as in life, timing is everything.

In the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush lost up to four percentage points during the campaign's final weekend after a Gore supporter leaked a 20 year-old drunk driving charge against the Republican candidate. The timing of the attack cost Bush the popular vote and almost cost him the White House.

Eight years earlier, "independent" prosecutor Lawrence Walsh filed indictments against Iran-Contra figures in hopes of swaying Bush Sr.'s election against Bill Clinton. At the time of the politically-charged indictments, Bush had pulled within one point of Clinton. Walsh's political hit job finished Bush for good.

But sometimes an attack can backfire when it drags on too long. Bush the Elder's decision in 1988 to paint Michael Dukakis as enemy no. 1 against the Pledge of Allegiance was one example of political excess, as viewers were forced to watch the GOP candidate visit every flag factory between New England and San Diego.

Sixteen years later, I am sensing that sometime soon that Americans will grow tired of John Kerry's Swift Boat controversy. I know, I know. The media stayed on Bush's National Guard story much longer and gave it wider coverage. But you and I both know that the mainstream media is shamelessly in Kerry's corner on this and every other campaign issue. Again, if you don't believe me, ask Newsweek's Evan Thomas who said as much earlier this month.

You can expect a spate of negative stories and hit pieces attacking the Swift Vets in the coming weeks, even as other public figures like Bob Dole speak their mind on this very controversial issue.

As for John Kerry, the Democratic candidate seems to have regained his footing. Kerry has gone on the attack publicly, and more importantly is calling swift boat vets privately to challenge their accounts. That is the sort of in-your-face approach required when a candidate's honor is called into question.

A good rule to remember in political mudslinging is this: "He who doesn't deny, admits."

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Former Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) hosts “Scarborough Country,” 10 p.m. ET, weeknights on MSNBC. Comment by clicking here.

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