PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Offensive Kerry finally enters Bush's league

John Kerry stunned the political world last Monday by showing signs of running for President.

John Kerry stunned the political world last Monday by showing signs of running for President.

He savaged and challenged his opponents in an NYU speech that showed guts, passion, and an impressive grasp of things that occurred after the Vietnam War. Perhaps, his fellow Democrats dared to dream, this sad-faced font of endless healthcare statistics really wasn't the last man on earth to believe you could seize the White House by promising to be just like the incumbent, only taller and weirder. But as satisfying as it was to watch Senator Ambien trade his run-on sentences for sound bites, what truly deserves praise is his overdue recognition that, in order to control the message, you need to put the other guy on defense. (And before you even ask, being the second man in the race to dredge up 30-year-old misdemeanors does not count as offense). For the first time, Kerry actually issued a challenge to George W. Bush: "The President should convene a summit meeting of the world's major powers and Iraq's neighbors, this week, in New York..." It was specific, it reflected common sense, and it put any responsible White House reporter in the position of asking Bush why he wasn't doing it. Or at least it should have. Unfortunately, the speech was all but ignored. Perhaps the CBS scandal drowned it out. Maybe the Bush camp's retort was just too on-the-nose: It was hardly the first time Kerry had whipped out a shiny new position on Iraq. But it was a step in the right direction for a campaign that, before Monday, seemed to think losing the popular vote was required to win. If Kerry keeps up the heat and stays on offense - and manages to stop volunteering for defense - he might actually find reason to smile soon.
  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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