Over at TNR Josh Benson is suggesting that John Kerry should break the rules of the debate tonight and directly question George Bush. I would suggest this is suicide.
(1) Jim Lehrer has been a TV anchor for decades. You know what TV anchors do for a living? They manage people on camera. Believe me, Lehrer and his team are prepared for any number of scenarios where either candidate tries to get around the rules. And if Kerry (or Bush) tries to break them, Lehrer will put him in his place. Maybe Kerry could handle Lehrer's rebuke, but even then, it becomes a Kerry-Lehrer fight, not a Kerry-Bush fight.
(2) John Kerry isn't fighting the wimp factor. He doesn't need to be seen as combative. Any move to aggressively disregard ground rules and pull a stunt carries with it a pack of unintended consequences. Maybe Kerry would look good. Or maybe he would look desperate. Or a million other things could happen. This race is too close for a Hail Mary pass.
(3) Like much of the Democratic party, Benson seems to misunderstand the public's view of President Bush. If only the rabble knew what a [prick, dunder-head, evil oil baron, lying crook, etc.] he is, they think to themselves, then they would hate him, too!
Except for some reason, most of the country doesn't seem to hate Bush. John Kerry doesn't need to do a Howard Dean imitation. He needs to either (a) run on domestic affairs and attack Bush's economic record in a coherent and relentless way; (b) run on foreign affairs by somehow convincing America that he will be tougher in the war on terrorism than Bush is; or (c) wait for an intervening event to shake up the race (and be prepared to take advantage of it should it occur).
Benson's advice is the type of thinking which has put Kerry in this hole in the first place.
34 minutes ago