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Leading With The Left
May 16, 2003 PERMALINK
The DLC memo is titled "The Real Soul of the Democratic Party."
But it should be "Kneecapping Howard Dean."
However, it is so ludicrously ham-handed, Dean trumpeted it himself on his campaign web site. (A smart rapid response that bodes well for the future.)
If the memo was a principled argument over what the party should stand for, that would be fine.
You can have honorable disagreements within one's party.
But the memo is nothing but a string of half-truths and contradictions designed to ward off insiders from backing Dean, while at the same time undermine Dean's support from the Left.
In fact, before the memo rips Dean as a leader of the "out-of-touch" "activist wing," it goes right at Dean's current base of liberal support:
Unlike Gov. Howard Dean, we never forget to give the late Sen. Paul Wellstone credit for coining the phrase, "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
We often disagreed with Sen. Wellstone on the issues, but we always knew he was fighting for the little guy.
Translation: Hey liberals, Dean is playing you. He rips off Wellstone's words, but doesn't hold Wellstone's positions.
The problem with this argument is that Dean, unlike the DLC, treats liberals with respect and talks to them straight, even though he is not a liberal on every issue.
Here's an excerpt from Dean's recent essay written for the liberal website Common Dreams:
One of my goals as a Presidential candidate is to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party -- a line made popular by the late Paul Wellstone.
Some have questioned why I would so closely align myself with a politician whose politics were considerably more liberal than mine.
The fact is that I admired Paul Wellstone greatly, not only because of his politics, but because he stood up for his beliefs and fought for them until the day he died.
I can only hope that someday people will say the same about me -- that I, too, remained true to my core principles no matter what.
I believe that the Democratic Party needs to stand for something if we want people to vote for us.
And by standing against the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and domestic division, we may yet rediscover the soul of our Party.
The telling thing about the memo is that if everything it said about Dean and his electoral prospects were true, then there would be no need for the memo.
Dean would just lose on his own accord. Problem solved.
For example, it claims that Dean is from the losing "McGovern-Mondale" wing, while centrists have won most primary contests in recent years.(While it cites the Clinton-Tsongas duel of '92, it conveniently ignores that Clinton swerved populist/left to beat him.)
And in New Hampshire in particular, it claims that independent primary voters will "moderate" the electorate and squeeze candidates like Dean out.
If true, why would this have to be said?
Only if they are worried that Dean really isn't Mondale-redux.
Only if they are worried that NH independents will be drawn to Dean's blunt style.
Only if they are worried that Dean needs to be stopped now to pave the way for one of their candidates (according to The Note, the memo's authors are advising Lieberman and Edwards).
On a separate note, also evident in the memo is the contempt the authors have for their own party:
Myth #4: Democrats Are a Mushy Bunch of Wimps with Nothing to Say
OK, so maybe that's not entirely a myth.
And these guys have the gall to put a "D" in their "DLC"?!
As LiberalOasis has mentioned before, we can't beat Bush with self-proclaimed liberals alone.
In the end, regardless of the nominee, we will have to stand with those whom we disagree with sometimes.
But the DLC doesn't represent them. There are no millions of card-carrying DLC members.
And all they have succeeded at doing this week is give Dean another boost.
FROM THE MAILBAG
A reader writes in to take issue with yesterday's gun control column:
I grew up in a ranching/logging community in rural northeastern Washington State...and I strongly disagree with your analysis of the gun issue.
...For working-class rural men, the gun issue is their fundamental issue. Rural people choose to live in rural areas in order to escape the sort of restrictions that bind city-folk...
...they see anti-gun laws as part and parcel with zoning restrictions, recreational-vehicle regulations, the loss of access to public-land resources, etc.
In short, they view gun-control laws as the ultimate attempt to subdue, control and repress them.
...Many of these voters are attracted to the Dem's economic populism, but if the Dem's want their votes the party as a whole is going to have to adopt Howard Dean's position on guns.
[Editor's Note: The Dean position is no new federal gun laws, while supporting the assault weapons ban, the Brady Bill, and closing the gun-show loophole.]
A quieter approach to gun-control will not weaken the Dem's base or alienate the suburban-swing vote. Voters who are passionate about sensible gun-control have no where else to go.
Trying to make hay of Bush's "two-faced approach to the assault weapons ban" will alienate more far more voters than it will attract.
May 15, 2003 PERMALINK
Dem leaders appear hesitant to go after Bush's two-faced approach to the assault weapons ban. They shouldn't be.
To be fair, there is reason to be careful.
48% of voters in 2000 came from gun-owning households, and they voted almost 2-1 for Bush.
And there is anecdotal evidence that white, rural men left the party on the gun issue.
But take into consideration these recent poll numbers.
According to CBS/NYT, slightly more than 40% of Dems and Independents think of Bush as either "a moderate" or (get this) "a liberal."
(In fact, 20% of Dems call Bush a liberal, as opposed to 7% of GOPers.)
At the same time, somewhat similar percentages of Dems (44%) and Indys (53%) don't know who they're voting for in '04.
(To compare, only 27% of GOPers don't know -- their base is more solidified at the moment.)
Getting the message out that Bush is actually an extremist conservative that will let assualt weapons be manufactured again could help these Dems and Indys make up their minds.
And this is from last week's Pew poll:
The president's personal image is very strong:
Asked for one-word descriptions of George Bush, people's responses are overwhelmingly positive - many describe him as "honest" or "good," while others cite his leadership and confidence...
..By roughly two-to-one (52% to 27%) people use clearly positive words in their descriptions of the president...
Getting the message out that Bush is acting like a typical, waffling politician on an important issue could put a dent in these false perceptions.
Dems can't be intimidated by poll numbers. They need to work to turn poll numbers around.
And there's a big opening here.
Saying you support something, then not lifting a finger while it gets killed, isn't showing "leadership." It's plain cowardly.
Americans of all political stripes, gun lovers and gun haters, will get that.
But nailing Bush on being a weasel means not being a weasel yourself.
Sen. Chuck Schumer is leading the way right now, and he's hitting the right notes.
Still, the party leadership and prez candidates need to drive this too.
Yes, the gun issue is a tricky one. But running away from a signature issue is never the answer.
In this case, you'll just weaken your base, alienate the suburban swing, and do nothing to convince rural voters that you're better on guns than the other guy.
Rural voters should not be ignored, but Dems simply have to figure out another way to connect.
A Kerry aide said recently:
The basic rule in politics is that you're either on the offensive scoring or on the defensive being scored on.
On assault weapons, Bush -- who doesn't want to lose that "moderate" sheen -- is on the defensive. So start scoring.
May 14, 2003 PERMALINK
A reminder to all, but especially conservatives: fighting terrorism is hard.
No matter what you do to stop it, you are never 100% safe from it.
After all, he didn't declare all-out war after the attacks on the Khobar Towers, the Kenya embassies, and the USS Cole.
Bush did declare war. He knocked over the Taliban government. He repeatedly said Al Qaeda was "on the run."
Yet Al Qaeda remains, just as it did before Bush.
It was unfair to hyperbolically lambaste Clinton for failing to end terrorism -- especially with factual distortions.
And it would be unfair to hang every Al Qaeda attack on Bush.
What is appropriate though, is questioning if the Administration is doing everything it can to stop Al Qaeda for good.
Did the Clinton Administration? It's debatable.
It's a lie to say he did nothing.
Nevertheless, by the latter years of his term, the Clintonites were well aware of the enormity of the threat.
And working hard to stop it until the very last day.
The Bushies, of course, responded by ignoring the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman national security commission that was established under Clinton.
And so the question now is Bush doing everything he can?
As LiberalOasis noted last month, this is why the candidacy of Sen. Bob Graham is so vital.
With his long resume and stature within the political establishment, he can credibly attack Bush on national security without seeming like he is just playing politics.
Al Qaeda was on the ropes 12 to 14 months ago, but we didn't pursue the war in Afghanistan to its conclusion and break al Qaeda's backbone...
...By redeploying military and intelligence resources from Afghanistan, we have allowed the basic structure of al Qaeda to continue...
...The war in Iraq was a distraction. It took us off the war on terror, which we were on a path to win, but we have now let it slip away from us...
That kind of talk should help soften up Bush over time and diminish the false notion that he is the only one that can protect the nation.
Even Dubya seemed to hint, inadvertently, that the focus had slipped.
Al Qaeda is not "on the run" anymore, according to Bush yesterday, but is "going to get on the run." A telling step back in rhetoric.
Of course, a swift military response to this latest attack could quiet critics in the short-term.
(While the lack of one might provoke some conservatives to compare Bush to Clinton, and don't think the Bushies aren't worried about that.)
Both Bush and Cheney suggested a strike was on the table.
Bush blustered about "the meaning of American justice."
While Cheney said, "The only way to deal with this threat, ultimately, is to destroy it."
A military response is warranted, and has been for some time -- one that is truly targeted at Al Qaeda, without killing innocents with bombs and land mines.
But Cheney has it half-right. It's true that Osama and his leadership must be destroyed.
Yet without a parallel strategy of bringing economic prosperity and true democratic freedoms to the Arab and Muslim masses, the anti-American hatred that breeds terror will not go away.
Bush likes to say, "we're going to hold the terrorists to account. And the Taliban found out what we meant."
In reality, they haven't found out yet.
Taliban leader Mullah Omar has not been held to account. Not to mention Osama.
If all Bush accomplishes by 2004 is a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks, the questions will multiply.
And the "Top Gun" campaign footage may stay on the shelf.
Pre-Order "The Clinton Wars"
LiberalOasis recently received an advance copy of "The Clinton Wars" by former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal.
(A LO interview with the author should be forthcoming, stay tuned.)
The early take: this is not simply insider gossip and score-settling. This a far more substantive work that aims to analyze and understand the Clinton legacy, in terms of policy and politics.
It hits the shelves next Tuesday, but you can pre-order it now, and you should.
Also, think the media sucks now?
It will get even worse if the FCC approves a plan to allow even more consolidation, allowing conglomerates to gobble up local outlets.
MoveOn is organizing a "Stop The FCC" campaign. Go sign up.
May 13, 2003 PERMALINK
The cornerstone of the plan, however, focuses on small business...
...most new jobs are -- in America -- are created by small business owners, which makes it -- see, if you're interested in expanding the job base and you go to the origin of job creation, it seems like to me, and the origin of job creation is a small business owner.
-- George W. Bush, in Albuquerque, 5/12/03
"It won't affect us," said [Albuquerque small biz owner] Anne Raeff...
-- Albuquerque Tribune, 5/12/03
The problem with BS rhetoric is that it eventually catches up with you.
You can get people's hopes up. But that only makes it worse when there's no follow through.
The main problem with Bush's small biz proposals is the same as the rest of the plan: a heavy skew to the already wealthy.
For all of Dubya's talk that it's "the cornerstone," there are only, at best, two elements in the plan that touch small biz.
1. A hike of the "expensing limit" -- the cap on the cost of new equipment that can be written off -- from $25K to $75K.
2. The cut in personal income taxes, since many small biz owners report their business revenue as personal income.
The problem with both of these ideas is that not all small businesses are the same.
Regarding #2: just as wealthy individuals make off like bandits under the Bush Deficit Plan, so would wealthier small biz owners.
For #1: hiking the cap doesn't offer much help to the truly small business owners.
Blogger Dawn Rivers Baker notes:
...most small businesses are microbusinesses (employing less than five people).
63% of microbusinesses make less than $50,000 a year in annual revenues, and most of them don't bump up against that [$25,000] expensing limit to begin with.
Also, new equipment isn't the key to growth for every small business.
Albuquerque's Anne Raeff and her partner run a furniture store, and in turn:
The new rules, the two say, won't encourage any new investment on their part. The store doesn't spend a lot of money on equipment, they say.
And finally, a poorly constructed tax break can quickly become an abused tax loophole that doesn't create jobs.
[The current expensing limit] allows small businesses to expense up to $25,000 of the cost of vehicles that weigh more than 6,000 pounds.
Congress had trucks and delivery vans in mind, but many luxury SUVs now qualify for this deduction, creating "a loophole big enough to drive a Hummer through," said [Sierra Club's] Daniel Becker...
If Congress passes President Bush's proposal to increase the small-business expensing limit...small-business owners could write off the entire cost of a large SUV, he said.
If helping small business were a real concern to Bush, he'd be supporting the Small Business Administration in its efforts to increase access to capital.
But Dawn Rivers Baker reports:
Every budget [Bush] has submitted so far...included substantial cuts to the Small Business Administration's budget.
The SBA's flagship program, its 7(a) loans, have been decimated...
...I've actually had Republican staffers tell me, off the record, that they can see from his appointments that he doesn't really give a hoot about small businesses.
Small biz owner Raeff makes a similar point:
Rather than seeing tax cuts, Raeff said the president could focus his energy on improving access to small-sized business loans through the Small Business Administration.
"Providing stable and fair interest-loans to small business - that would stimulate the economy a lot," said Raeff...
..."I'd rather have access to capital than $500. Most small businesses, us included, take out second mortgages or use credit cards" to finance businesses, rather than going to banks.
Clearly, small business owners across America are scratching their heads.
And when they are still mired in the "soggy" economy in '04, they'll know who to blame.
The Swing State Strategy Slips
The Albuquerque Tribune piece linked above is notable for much more than just its substance.
Remember that a big part of the Rove strategy is for Bush to sell his policies on the road, mainly in swing states.
By getting out of the Beltway, you often get soft coverage, like "Chile Ribs Join Bush on Roomy Plane."
But if the locals aren't buying the policies, you also get stories like, "Not All Businesses Sold on Plan."
And since more Americans get news from local outlets than national ones, a string of those kinds of stories could be the death knell for Dubya.
May 12, 2003 PERMALINK
Treasury Secretary John Snow was sent to most of the Sunday shows yesterday, as the PR effort around Bush's tax plan continued.
Continued to flounder, that is.
Let's break it down.
1. Snow hit a buzzsaw of skepticism
This is due to a number of factors, but one of the biggest is that the Bushies have a record now, and it's a bad one.
They insist tax cuts equal job growth.
Yet each of the aforementioned hosts noted that we've lost jobs since the last tax cut -- Russert repeatedly.
This should be a wake-up call to Bush.
The media isn't rolling over on domestic policy as they have on foreign policy.
Performance matters, even more so in '04.
2. Snow set the expectations bar high
There is no way, no how, that Bush will be able to pin the '04 economy on Clinton.
Snow, on behalf of the Administration, has officially taken responsibility.
From CNN's Late Edition:
SNOW: If the president's tax plan...is adopted, it will have an immediate impact...
BLITZER: ...When you say an immediate impact, what does that mean, weeks, months?
SNOW: Well, if the president's plan is adopted, first of all, it'll have a direct impact on the stock market.
And the stock market is sort of a barometer of how people feel about the economy...
...[Also, it] will immediately begin to affect business behaviors.
Small business particularly, as the engine of job creation, will have...a real incentive here to expand and grow, put up "help wanted" signs.
In that exchange, Snow tried, pathetically, to limit what he is promising will happen right away -- a stock market spike and improved "business behaviors."
Not quite immediate job creation.
But this is a case where such specifics will likely get lost in the overall message.
Snow claimed immediate help. If the help doesn't manifest within a year, the Bushies are unquestionably holding the bag.
Bush has thrived on setting low expectations. He doesn't have that luxury anymore.
3. Snow set the reality bar low
Although he set the expectations bar high, his own growth predictions shouldn't give him much hope.
From Fox News Sunday:
TONY SNOW: ...Tell me what the growth rate will be in your estimation if the president gets the 550 billion he wants?
J. SNOW: It'll be substantially higher.
We estimate it will be about 1 percent higher by the fourth quarter of this year, and an additional 1 percent higher for the fourth quarter of '04.
As he noted soon after, we're at a 1.6% GDP growth rate now.
Many economists say you need to get up to at least 3% to start generating job growth.
In Snow's vision, we won't hit that mark until about the middle of '04.
The job losses would continue to pile up until then, and there would be no plausible way to make them up in time for the election.
Bush would have to explain how he lost net jobs over his entire term, something no President has done in decades.
Not Jimmy Carter. Not his daddy.
4. Bush will almost surely sign what passes Congress
The W. Post last week floated the possibility that Bush might not mind if no tax cut passed Congress.
In theory, he could then try to blame the Dems (ignoring GOP moderates) for blocking the plan, and putting politics ahead of the economy.
The risk would be that by not getting his way, he would look weak.
(And without a veneer of invincibility, this Emperor really has no clothes.)
Snow sent a big signal that they won't take that risk.
From Fox News Sunday:
...I prefer 550 [billion]. The president has said 550 is the minimum he wants, but somewhere between 400 and 550, you can do a lot of good to create jobs in America.
Sounds like it's safe to assume that if House and Senate find a compromise between $350B and $550B (which the Senate already moved towards), Bush will sign it.
(Yesterday, the NY Times hinted that Bush could attempt to sign it and disavow it simultaneously. Good luck with that.)
5. Would Bush sign a bill with tax increases? Maybe.
One still has to think it would be extremely unlikely for Bush to walk into the same wall Poppy did: promising no tax hikes and then approving some anyway.
But given the chance to the shut the door on the possibility of it, Snow hedged. From Late Edition:
BLITZER: So at this point, you're holding out the possibility the president would sign into law a tax increase for certain Americans?
SNOW: Well, what I've said is we have not yet reviewed those proposals.
Those proposals, I'm told, are in the nature, in most cases, of either spending increases or closing tax loopholes.
I'm not yet in a position to really give you a firm view on what is in the offsets, or how we would come down on them.
That sounds like they would try to argue the "offsets" are not really tax hikes.
But after a front-page headline like "GOP Senators Endorse Tax Hikes," that won't be so easy.
And this is historically dangerous ground for Dubya.
As Governor, he tried to pull off a tax package that was a net tax cut, but included some tax hikes.
If not for the fact that it failed to pass, Bush would have lost his conservative street cred.
Could it happen again? Doubtful, but keep watching.
6. The Weakest Argument Ever
From Meet The Press:
...the deficit in 2013, as a percent of GDP, will be far lower than [it was] in the Clinton years.
Can the math genius that runs the US Treasury explain how any deficit can be smaller than a surplus?
WASHINGTON, May 3 -- Leading religious conservatives said today that war with Iraq has wrongly opened to door to Communism and prostitution, leading to a breakdown of the moral underpinnings of Iraqi society.
At a news conference organized by the Christian Coalition, President Bush's former rival Gary Bauer noted, "When Saddam was in charge, the Communists were underground and the hookers were decapitated. We shouldn't have been dropping bombs. We should have been taking notes."
Sen. Rick Santorum echoed the comments, "Once you have pinkos and sluts banging each other, before you know it, the liberals will be crying out for a Department of Prostitution. And then how can you crack down on the rampant man-on-dog action? It's constitutionally impossible."
Noted role model Bill Bennett also expressed indignation. "Prostitution is wrong and we can't let it fester. I mean, I go to prostitutes. Have since I was a boy. But I keep it under control. Just a few hours from time to time so I can relax. But I never use my wife's money. It's on my dime and nobody gets hurt. If you can't handle it, you shouldn't do it. And nobody in Iraq can handle it."
President Bush was busying regaling his aides on how cool it is to fly an F-18, and could not be reached for comment.
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July 29, 2002
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