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George H. W. Bush with Lee Atwater
Setting the tone. (Bush Sr. and Lee Atwater)
Dana Milbank:
Forgive me, but I’m not prepared to join this walk down Great Umbrage Street just yet. Yes, it’s ugly out there. But is this worse than four years ago, when Obama was accused by the GOP vice presidential nominee of “palling around with terrorists”? Or eight years ago, when Democratic nominee John Kerry was accused of falsifying his Vietnam War record?

What’s different this time is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success. They have ceased their traditional response of assuming the fetal position when attacked, and Obama’s campaign is giving as good as it gets — and then some.

Bullies don't like it when their targets punch back, which is why the GOP is apoplectic right now. I mean, their reaction to Biden's "chains" thing is comically hysterical. And Mitt Romney is genuinely unhinged.

I'm not sure why Republicans think that crying and whining about the big bad meanie Democrats is such a political winner. It never worked when Democrats tried it (just ask John Kerry).

Of course, the media punditry getting the vapors was nowhere to be found when Romney systematically mowed down his primary opposition. Or, for that matter, for decades of GOP smear campaigning. It wasn't the media who called out Lee Atwater for his "naked cruelty" against Michael Dukakis in 1988. It was Lee Atwater himself.

But let them kvetch on their fainting couches. We finally have Democrats who have learned from a long line of Republican no-holds-barred strategists—from Atwater to Karl Rove. And if there's one thing that bullies hate most, it's being on the receiving end of their own tactics.

Originally posted to kos on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 11:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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