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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

March 31, 2005 PERMALINK
First Quarter Assessment
(posted March 31 1 AM ET)

We’re essentially at the end of the first quarter of 2005, the first of seven (quiet, math majors) before the mid-term elections kick into high gear.

What’s happened so far? And how have the two parties handled it?

Restrictions on class action suits and the bankrupt bankruptcy bill

GOP: Successful payback to corporate backers, but some hurt feelings among social conservatives that their issues are on the back burner. Too low-profile to make an impression on the public.

Dems: A split caucus, ruining the party’s ability to attack the GOP for coddling corporations and hurting regular Americans.

Edge: GOP. At least they got something.

Social Security

GOP: An unequivocal, high-profile failure that’s fractured the caucus.

Dems: First successful attempt at reframing the debate through the help of a unified caucus. Nevertheless, messaging has been spotty.

Edge: Dems. Hopefully a model for the future.

Terri Schiavo

GOP: The second major failure of the quarter.

Coming off the heels of the Social Security fiasco, the dual failures have begun to make an impact in the polls. People are starting to wonder: who does this party work for?

Dems: A missed opportunity to emphasize the party’s position against government interference in deeply personal decisions.

(Some leaders probably think they finessed this perfectly, laying low while the GOP shoots itself in the foot. Ridiculous. They just got lucky, stumbling into that strategy by being too wimpy to stare down the Religious Right sans polling data.)

Edge: Dems. People already thought Dems lacked spine, whereas the GOP's fealty to religious extremists had been somewhat masked for the last few years via code words, and has now been exposed again. The GOP loses more here.

Foreign Policy

GOP: Wins the perception game, as the media begins portraying Bush’s phony “democracy” strategy as gutsy and visionary.

However, as matters overseas appear less threatening, the media is beginning to push international news to the back pages (of course, events can thrust them forward at any time).

Dems: Lacking a clear foreign policy vision, the party has been swerving between praise and nitpicking.

Edge: GOP, but how much will it count for in 2006?

Judges/Nuclear Option

GOP: Keeping the base happy by pushing rejected judges, but making the base nervous by being unable to maintain a unified caucus on the nuclear option.

The party doesn’t seem to realize the Schiavo debacle sets back their arguments about “liberal activist judges,” as most people were pleased to see impartial judges bring some sanity to an overheated situation.

Dems: The second major issue where the caucus has stayed unified and delivered clear messages, though the fights over the nuclear option and circuit court judges are still below-the-radar of most Americans, so no political payoff yet.

Edge: Dems. Decent momentum heading into an expected summertime brawl over a Supreme Court nominee.

Tom DeLay/Ethics

GOP: His ethics problems are growing drag on the party. His Schiavo moves negatively raised his profile, but helped shore up base support.

Members are generally standing by him out of loyalty and fear of showing weakness, though a few doubts have begun to be aired.

No one knows how long they’ll stick by him, but by waiting, they miss a chance to take a stand for clean government.

Dems: Eager to pounce and sensing an opening, they’re gearing up to make DeLay the face of the party in time for ’06.

Edge: Dems, but will they maintain the edge if DeLay walks the plank soon?

Overall Assesment

GOP: They’re learning that governing’s a bitch, that people don’t like it when your top priorities aren’t theirs, that their skills at media manipulation have limits.

They’ve been governing for several years with the thinnest of mandates, buoyed by wars and an ability to lie unchecked.

As national security concerns recede, as Dems get better at checking lies (helped by a growing liberal network), and as the issues confronting the party in power become more complicated, the GOP’s manipulation skills will be sorely tested.

So far, they’re failing. They’re not just failing on high-profile issues. They’re failing on issues they’ve chosen to make high-profile.

The open question: will they get better as they go along? Or are they all of sudden playing on unfamiliar turf, and won’t be able to find their footing?

Dems: A dichotomy, a work-in-progress.

They’re experimenting with unity, but are unable to display any on issues that had already been in the queue for years (bankruptcy) or suddenly appear (Schiavo).

Only with relatively new issues, where they were able to take a breath and collect their thoughts, have their handled things properly.

In turn, overall party messages are still fuzzy, limiting their ability to take advantage of GOP missteps.

The open question: will Dems learn the wrong lessons from polling data showing negative feelings toward both parties in Congress? (i.e., laying low on hot-button issues works! The public wants us to compromise more!)

March 29, 2005 PERMALINK
How Fast Is DeLay Falling?
(posted March 29 1 AM ET)

The ground shifted a little under House Maj. Leader Tom DeLay’s feet yesterday, as the right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial board displayed, in a hesitant and roundabout way, a lack of confidence in his leadership.

This follows the shot the NYT's David Brooks took at Delay’s network of cronies (though, as the Daily DeLay noted, Brooks flinched at pointing the finger at DeLay himself).

And the WSJ piece was followed by a couple of notable right-wing bloggers inching away from DeLay.

Does this mean conservatives across the board are giving up on DeLay?

No, in fact, some corners are digging in, and trying to steel the base for a long battle.

On Fox News yesterday, the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes and the W. Times’ Bill Sammon both tried to argue DeLay is being targeted by an unholy left-wing alliance.

Sammon said:

Tom DeLay is despised by the Left and by the press … and so the object is to caricature him like another Newt Gingrich, so he can become sort of like a whipping boy.

And Barnes went straight to conspiracy-theory mode:

The press has joined with the Democrats to go after Delay. It’s one team, the two of them.

Rush Limbaugh also made similar comments yesterday.

So the memo hasn’t been sent around telling folks to let DeLay hang.

These things can always change on a dime, but for the moment, it seems that it’s still just a small minority of conservatives expressing concern.

Now, these conservatives who are opening the door to criticism don’t deserve fawning praise for rising above party.

The only nice thing to say about them is that they are not morons.

They know that the right-wing program to gut the government is in jeopardy if the GOP gets bogged down in the ethical swamp.

And they’re begging their right-wing colleagues to put personal loyalty aside to avoid a larger disaster.

The question is, how long will it take before the bulk of the GOP listens and throws DeLay over the side.

A few months? That would weaken the party in the short-term, but would deny Dems a fat target in the 2006 elections.

Or, akin to how the GOP treated Gingrich in 1998, will they wait to see how the party does in 2006 before making such a call?

Dems need to be prepared for both scenarios.

They need to keep the heat on DeLay, with an eye towards making him the focus on 2006.

But they also need to realize that if their political pressure helps end DeLay’s career early, it will not be a time for champagne popping.

It will be a time to find a way to keep the pressure on, keep the GOP on the defensive, and continue making the case to the 06 voters why a Dem Congress is so necessary.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

MyDD and The Agonist on the "national security Democrats"

Preemptive Karma: Americans Approve of Doctor Assisted Suicide

The Stakeholder on Tom DeLay: "The folks at WSJ don't stray from the talking points often. And between this and Brooksy's recent foray, one gets the impression that somebody behind the scenes has let slip the dogs of war. Tick-tock, tick-tock ..."

The Washington Note on The Real John Bolton

Seeing The Forest and Majikthise discuss how the Left should have handled the Schiavo case

Raw Story interviews Scott Ritter: "The NeoCons are parasites. They build nothing. They bring nothing. They don’t have a foundation. They don’t stand for business. They don’t stand for ideology. They use a host to facilitate and grow their own power."

Oliver Willis: It's Time For A Moderate Backlash

Orkut Media's John Gorenfeld reports that Melvin Sembler, whose teen drug rehab program was shut down in '93 due to illegal child abuse, is now our Amb. to Italy, charged with handling the Giuliana Sgrena shooting

No More Mr. Nice Blog says an attempt to prove that the highly political GOP talking points on Schiavo are a hoax, may actually indicate they came from GOPers Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Dave Weldon

The SEA-EAT Blog has information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts for victims of the SE Asian tsunami

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