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The Flaming Moderate

Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

September 26, 2003 PERMALINK
Is Dean A Closet Newt Fan?
(posted Sept. 26 2:45 AM ET)
(minor edits Sept. 27 2:30 PM ET)

The big flashpoint in yesterday‚s Dem debate was Dick Gephardt and John Kerry attacking Howard Dean for allegedly siding with Newt Gingrich on Medicare cuts:

GEPHARDT: our darkest hour ų when I was leading the fight against Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America, he was shutting the government down.

Howard, you were agreeing with the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270 billion cut in Medicare.

Now, you've been saying for many months that you're the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I think you're just winging it.

DEAN: That is flat-out false, and I'm ashamed that you would compare me with Newt Gingrich. Nobody up here deserves to be compared to Newt Gingrich∑

∑I've done more for health insurance, Dick Gephardt, frankly, than you ever have, because I've delivered it to a lot of seniors and a lot of young people.

And I'll stake my record on health insurance against anybody up here.

Later on, Dean pressed the Newt point:

DEAN: I do think it's important that if folks are going to talk about us being like Newt Gingrich, that we're not going to stand for that.

And then, Kerry stepped in:

KERRY: Well, in defense of Dick Gephardt, I didn't hear him say he was like Newt Gingrich.

I heard him say that he stood with Newt Gingrich when we were struggling to hold on to Medicare. That's a policy difference.

What‚s the truth? What was Howard Dean doing in the days of Newt?

It‚s a little complicated.

He most certainly was not a Newt ally, but he was not a traditional Democrat either.

In Oct. ‚95, when the GOP House passed it‚s controversial budget Ų the one that led to the shutdown that Gephardt referenced Ų the Star Tribune („You Say You Want a 'Devolution'?š, 10/27/95) reported:

Vermont's Democratic governor, Howard Dean, said the GOP budget cuts "absolutely stick it to the states" and could strip away the safety net for the poor in some states.

"It will just totally cripple our ability to manage," he said, "and it will essentially force a tax increase in most states. And Minnesota and Vermont are two of them."∑

∑"What they're interested in is cutting the budget and making sure that somebody else gets the blame," he said.

On health insurance, he was critical of Newt, in a 7/11//95 W. Post piece:

[Dean] has implemented state reforms including the extension of Medicaid coverage to a broader range of poor children.

Dean has urged House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to sacrifice $5 billion of the proposed GOP tax cut to implement a similar plan nationally.

"As you control costs you must expand coverage. We have expanded individuals covered as we have worked hard to restrain costs," Dean said.

"That is where the congressional plan falls apart.

"It helps to balance the budget but does nothing to move toward universal coverage in the private system. . . . The Republicans are missing a wonderful opportunity to expand coverage, not reduce it."

On welfare reform, Dean (who implemented welfare reform in Vermont) criticized parts of the House GOP bill that passed in March of ‚95. According to the 5/95 Tikkun:

Vermont Governor Howard Dean, reacting to the Gingrich plan, said that "When Americans elected the new majority" in 1994, "they voted to do things in a new way, but I don't think they voted to starve children."

And he fought the GOP hard on Medicaid cuts, telling the Associated Press in Sept. ‚95:

This will bankrupt the state. It will guarantee that either people will go totally without health care or there will be tax increases. This is a disgrace.

However, while being a GOP critic, he was not strictly adhering to traditional Dem orthodoxy.

He was not reflexively critical of everything in Newt‚s famous Contract With America, though he looked to the Senate to keep Newt in check.

From a 4/9/95 CNN interview:

I think they've done some good things in the welfare area and the unfunded mandates.

I think∑cutting school lunch programs so they can give tax breaks to people who make $200,000 a year is probably not something that most Americans would agree is a good thing∑

∑The Senate has a more bipartisan tone to it and we're hoping that the good ideas in the Contract will pass and that the bad ideas will be killed in the Senate.

And we won't get these cuts in school lunch programs, cuts in scholarships, 3,000 kids are going to lose their summer jobs this summer as a result of the Contract.

Dean was also big on eradicating the budget deficits, as he is now.

In that vein, he was willing to be candid and Ų for better or worse Ų entertain politically risky medicine to get there.

On the 2/28/95 edition of Crossfire, Dean expressed halting support for a balanced budget amendment, but baldly detailed what could happen in its aftermath:

I said I support this idea, and I think it ought to pass. My problem is this.

There have been a lot of statements up on Capitol Hill that say:

„We're not going to touch Social Security.š „We're going not to touch Medicare,š∑šWe're not going to touch veterans' benefits.š „We're not going to touch defense. We may add to defense.š

Well, then you're going to stick all the cuts on the programs, as you well know, that go to the states.

States cannot afford to do that without raising taxes.

(He has since indicated, in this campaign, that the Clinton economy taught him that strong economic growth can make such big cuts unnecessary.)

So it‚s pretty clear where Dean was at:

Opposed to the cruelty and mismanagement of the GOP, but willing to cut spending in popular programs -- not gut them -- to balance the budget and not burden state services.

It‚s certainly debatable whether or not Dean was right on those points, but he was not in lockstep with Newt and the anti-government GOP.

Having said all that, what about Medicare?

As Gephardt publicizes on his attack site, Dean was supportive in ‚95 of slowing the rate of growth of Medicare, which Dems at the time derided as cuts:

Gephardt pulls this from a 5/18/95 Montpelier Times-Argus piece:

He [Dean] applauded the efforts of Senate Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici, R-Nev., who presented his own balanced budget plan last week∑

Dean also said he could defend Domenici's approach to reducing Medicare costs∑

∑"I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent, or less if possible,š Dean said.

Dean has acknowledged the accuracy of the quote (not necessarily the preceding paraphrasing).

(It would be nice to get the rest of story and determine the context. But the publication is not on Nexis, and it‚s own website archives only go back to ‚99. Any Vermont readers want to take a trip to the library and report back?)

(UPDATE 9/26 3 PM ET -- Gephardt's staff has distributed the full article, scroll to the bottom of this column for more.)

But technically speaking, this doesn‚t mean he „stood withš Newt, as Kerry alleged, and it‚s not the „very planš that Gingrich backed.

This was the Domenici plan in the Senate, which was different than the House plan, and different than what forced the shutdown.

That doesn‚t make it a good plan worth defending, of course, but it was different.

And when the final GOP budget bill came down later that year, Dean opposed it, as noted above.

Gephardt and Kerry supporters can rightly retort that the heart of the Medicare portion, the reduction in the growth rate, was still similar, and Dean expressed support for it.

Then again, so did Bill Clinton. Sort of.

The AP reported (5/19/95, „Republicans Use Some of Clinton's Words In Defense of Medicare Planš):

Republicans threw President Clinton's own words back at him Friday in support of their argument that they are just slowing Medicare's growth, not cutting it.

But they didn't note that when the president sought to slow Medicare spending, he also promised big spending increases on drugs and long-term care for the elderly∑

∑on Oct. 5, 1993 [Clinton said:]

"Today, Medicaid and Medicare are going up at three times the rate of inflation. We propose to let it go up at two times the rate of inflation. That is not a Medicare cut. ... So when you hear all this business about cuts, let me caution you that that is not what is going on."

"The president said it better than we can," said [Sen. Pete] Domenici.

Clinton proposed to save $ 178 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over five years as part of his plan to guarantee health coverage for all Americans. It failed in the last Congress...

∑But Domenici∑did not include the rest of the president's remarks∑

Clinton went on to say, "We are going to have increases in Medicare and Medicaid, and a reduction in the rate of growth will be more than overtaken by the new investments we're going to make in drugs and long-term care."

So, what you would do with the savings from slower growth matters a lot.

Is it for tax cuts for the wealthy? Balance the budget? Otherwise improve health care?

The question for Dean is: What would he do with such savings? Then or now?

Right now, that‚s not clear. (We do know he‚s for a drug benefit, but not if he‚d pay for it with slower growth.)

In responding to these attacks from Gephardt and Kerry, he‚s trying to project strength -- stressing his Gov. record, making the Gingrich line seem out of bounds.

Conversely, getting bogged down in a tit-for-tat on the details, perhaps counter-intuitively, can make you seem defensive and weak.

That approach arguably is working for Dean, politically speaking (though reasonable people will disagree on how well he handled the attacks today.)

But so long as Dean doesn‚t fully explain his plans for Medicare, Gephardt and Kerry will keep attacking.

And senior voters may be listening, if not now then down the road.

Dean may not want to do it while under fire, but he should do it before Gephardt and Kerry run nasty ads aimed at seniors, most likely right before the Iowa caucus.

Bottom line: Dean did not „stand withš Gingrich. He stood with the Dems and he fought Gingrich, while taking some positions that were not Dem orthodox.

But, to inoculate himself from further attacks, Dean still needs to place his past Medicare statements into a comprehensive vision for where he would take the program in the future.

(UPDATE 9/26 3 PM ET -- Gephardt's staff has distributed a PDF file of the full 5/18/95 Times-Argus article, "Dean Says State Won't Absorb GOP's Cuts".

The context of the article fits with what has already been said above: yes, he was and is supportive of slowing Medicare's growth rate, but he was still anti-Newt.

Gephardt clearly excised the anti-Newt paragraphs in his sum-up on the site, and saying Dean supported Gingrich's Medicare plan is not technically accurate.

Dean clearly specified he supported Domenici's budget plan, with some reservation, and not Gingrich's.

Though Gephardt is certainly within his rights to debate Dean on whether slowing the Medicare growth rate is wise, not to mention Dean's comments about managed care, which the above LO piece did not go into.

Here is an extended excerpt:

Dean had harsh words for what he called the "radical right wing" in Congress, primarily members of the House, and Gingrich's Contract With America.

However, he applauded the efforts of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-Nev. [sic], who presented his own balanced budget plan last week.

Dean said he disagreed with some of the details of Domenici's plan. But he said Domenici's was a serious proposal that did not include tax cuts and recognized the need to put a permanent end to federal budget deficits.

Dean also said he could defend Domenici's approach to reducing Medicare costs. He said he supported more managed care for Medicare recipients and requiring some Medicare recipients to pay a greater share of the cost of their medical services.

"I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent, or less if possible," Dean said.

The Vermont governor has been an outspoken critic of the Contract With America, which he continued to describe Wednesday as the "Contract on America."

He said the 10-point plan was flawed because it was short-sighted. According to Dean, the Contract calls for reducing federal support for programs that will show results far in the future, such as child nutrition programs, job training and education.

If anyone wants the PDF of this article sent to them, email LiberalOasis.)

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September 25, 2003 PERMALINK
The Tipping Point
Bush Hits the 40s
(posted Sept. 25 12:45 AM ET)

It‚s just barely, but it counts.

The NBC/WSJ poll released yesterday has Dubya‚s approval rating at 49%.

What does this mean? Two key points.

First, as noted here earlier this week, the media coverage will now turn negative.

It has already been moving in that direction.

But now, the media cannot preface Bush‚s name with the word „popularš for the foreseeable future.

And that changes everything Ų the substance and tone of every article about Bush.

Of course, 49% is not a fatal number. This could theoretically be turned around.

But it won't be turned around with Bush trademark stubborn arrogance.

Only with policy shifts that the public is asking for.

That's where the second key point comes in.

The GOP is sure to take the wrong message from this poll.

The Bushies will likely look at this and say to themselves:

"This is a natural decline, simply returning to the 50-50 Nation of 2000.

"And if we stay the course on Iraq and taxes, and apologize for nothing, Iraq and the economy will get better, and we‚ll have an insane amount of campaign cash. So we‚ll be fine."

This is only half-right, and not where it counts.

It‚s true that 50-50 Nation is back, if it ever really left.

The approval-disapproval breakdown by party in the poll (stats from NBC Nightly News) is very similar to the Bush-Gore breakdown in 2000:


Approve Ų 16%
Disapprove Ų 78%

Approve Ų 46%
Disapprove Ų 44%

Approve Ų 85%
Disapprove Ų 11%

Election 2000

Bush Ų 11%
Gore Ų 86%

Bush Ų 47%
Gore Ų 45%

Bush Ų 91%
Gore Ų 8%

The Dems have almost fully come home, and the indies are split again (and the GOP support is a touch soft).

That's 50-50 Nation. But it‚s not the full story.

The sharp poll drop following the $87B speech indicates that rejection of Bush policy is also a huge factor.

In fact, the poll also showed it‚s not just Iraq, but tax cuts too.

When asked where the $87B should come from, poll respondents said (also from NBC Nightly News):

Cancel tax cut for wealthy Ų 56%
Reduce spending -- 13%
Borrow -- 12%

(UPDATE Sept. 25 10:45 AM ET -- Today's WSJ breaks down the "reduce spending" number as 7% for "forego new Medicare prescription drug benefit" and 6% for "cut spending on education, health care or environment.")

That‚s not just Dems. NBC noted that one-third of GOPers wanted the tax cut shelved.

This poll is a cry for policy changes. But Bush won‚t see it that way. He can‚t.

Bush would unleash a firestorm from his base (and the pundits) if he reneged on tax cuts. He has staked his entire presidency on them.

And yesterday, LO discussed how the neocon vision dictates his unilateral course on the occupation.

So instead of listening to the people, the Bushies and the Right will actively miss the point.

Just yesterday, Tom DeLay trotted out the tired Dems-are-with-the-terrorists line.

Which willfully ignored that the Bushies have been pushing that line all month, to no effect.

Also yesterday, over at Fox News, Brit Hume and his daily pundit crew tried to push the argument that the media has a „bad news biasš that distorts the picture in Iraq.

Whatever merits that point may have, it misses the point that US soldiers are dying in an occupation that doesn‚t make sense to many Americans.

But expect more arguments that miss the point.

Because the GOP won‚t, and can‚t, address head on what is troubling the people.

That‚s why, barring an unexpected explosion of US job growth, it will be very difficult for Bush to stop this slide.

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September 24, 2003 PERMALINK
The UN Speech: Digging A Hole
(posted Sept. 24 12:45 AM ET)

We were right. You were wrong. Give us money.
-- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show 9/23/03

One of the oldest adages is: when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Iraq is now one big hole of daily death and enormous cost.

Bush is in it because of his arrogant, unilateral ways. He‚d dig himself out if he ended them.

He won‚t.

From yesterday‚s NY Times:

"There's a feeling that you have to assert that the United States is still in control, if nothing else for domestic concerns," said a senior administration official∑

∑"We're going into an election year and the president has to project an image of power and authority," the official added.

But wait. That doesn‚t quite make sense.

Polls have consistently shown Americans crying out for Bush to change gears.

In the latest Pew Poll, 70% want the UN to play a „significant role in establishing a stable government in Iraq.š

And, even more surprising, 51% would support „giv[ing] up some control of military decisions in Iraq to the United Nations.š [emphasis added]

In turn, it is unlikely that domestic political concerns are driving Bush's bull-headed policy.

Instead, it‚s the neocon vision of Pax Americana on which the whole war was predicated, that prevents Bush from making the obvious strategic shifts.

What domestic political concerns did dictate was the tone of yesterday‚s UN speech.

The Bushies must have known that the UN and its members would hate whatever he did. (Which they did.)

But he had to do his best to make it look, to Americans, like he was asking for help nicely.

That way when the help doesn‚t come, they can try, at least implicitly, to blame France.

So there were no direct insults, no overt mocking of the UN as a „debating society.š

But neither were there any actual concessions that would lead to significant international support.

Will it work? Extremely doubtful.

Americans want more than anything else to curtail the steady stream of murders of our troops. Results, not excuses.

That reality doesn‚t seem to have sunk in deep enough among the Bushies yet.

Again from yesterday‚s NYT:

∑some administration officials say they are experiencing the unpleasant sensation of not feeling in control of events.

"I think there is a sense of being under assault and not being able to reclaim the upper hand in a way that seemed so effortless in the past," said one Bush adviser.

In the past, it was effortless to squelch dissent because there was 9/11, and then the run-up to war.

Now, the Bushies are without a (real or perceived) immediate crisis to use as a hammer.

Rehashed speeches describing failing policies won‚t do the trick. At this point, only actual success will.

Yet the White House is doing all it can to prevent that from happening.

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September 23, 2003 PERMALINK
Bush Hits 50%
(posted Sept. 22 11:45 PM ET)

After Bush‚s approval hit 50% yesterday∑

This White House [is] not publicly commenting because it says it will not be driven by polls.
-- John King, CNN White House Correspondent, 9/22/03

When it hit 52% earlier this month∑

The White House and campaign∑say they don't have to change the strategy at all∑

∑what they are trying to say is that this president has durable poll numbers.

Of all the public polls taken during the Bush presidency, they have crunched them all together and they say Mr. Bush has an average approval rating of 55 percent. Not great, but not bad...
-- King, 9/11/03

The Bushies tried pre-emptive poll spin months ago, when they announced that a drop like this is to be expected, and that such drops are not fatal, historically speaking.

They had hoped that would inoculate themselves from gloomy media assessments.

But the early indications are that‚s not going to fly.

CNN‚s Bill Schneider concluded flatly, „Bush is sinking.š

USA Today‚s headline was less harsh, but still not good: „Bush‚s Strength Wanes.š

And the following piece quoted a presidential scholar stating the poll reflects „visceral unhappinessš with Bush‚s performance.

And this is with Bush at 50%. Wait őtil he tips into the 40s.

That‚s when the coverage will really turn negative, with lots of „what went wrongš analysis, and no more „widely popularš prefaces to Bush‚s name.

With the polls moving downward all month, and the PR pushback from the Bushies failing to stop the slide, they tried another gambit last night.

A Fox News special, „A Conversation With the President,š which the White House insisted run on higher-rated broadcast outlets, and not just on the cable Fox News Channel.

Yet, with Bush‚s standing at a such a precarious moment.

With many concerns weighing on voters‚ minds.

With many worried about the economy.

With many disturbing by the regular killing of our soldiers deaths.

With many opposed to massive US spending on Iraq, particularly without a clear plan.

With all of that swirling in the air, what did viewers see in the opening segment?

Bush Hurt His Knee

BUSH: I've hurt my knee, and --

BRIT HUME: How bad is it?

BUSH: It's bad enough that I cannot run.

HUME: What is it? Is it --

BUSH: It may have been a little meniscus. I might have torn it a little bit.

Bush Likes Exercise

HUME: What are you doing for exercise?

BUSH: Exercise. Elliptical.

Jim Ryan here at the White House during a t-ball game, I believe it was, suggested that I go to the swimming pool back over there and run in the pool. Put a little floaty on and run.

HUME: Did it work?

BUSH: Yeah, it has. It's good exercise.

Bush Likes Golf

HUME: So you're more of a golfer than people know?

BUSH: Kind of, but I haven't played much since I've been president. As a matter of fact --

HUME: Really?

BUSH: I played once or twice this summer, maybe.

HUME: And what about at Camp David?

BUSH: They got a little green you can pitch to and a driving range.

HUME: You use it -- you use a range?

BUSH: I got a couple of 80-yard drives.

To be fair, they eventually got around to actual issues.

But it‚s LiberalOasis‚ bet that many viewers were scratching their heads wondering why Bush was taking prime-time space to talk about his golf game and not about the people‚s concerns.

Now this isn‚t quite Bush‚s fault. Blame the shoddy propagandists at Fox for producing some truly boring and ill-timed TV.

But everyone knows the Bushies want to avoid Daddy's mistake of coming across insensitive, inattentive and ineffectual regarding their economic woes.

Talking about his floaty won‚t save him from that.

And neither will responses like this:

BUSH: There's an employment lag that generally accompanies a recovery. The economy gets going and after a while employment catches up.

But this is an unusual marketplace in that∑productivity is very high, which means growth has to be higher than productivity in order to add jobs.

Or productivity has got to level off some and growth be robust.

I believe we're going to add jobs, because I believe this economy is strong.

HUME: How soon do you expect that to start happening?

BUSH: Well, you know, I don't know.

You ask these economists, they'll say, on the one hand here and the other hand here.

Points for learning his Econ 101.

But „I don‚t knowš when the jobs are coming isn‚t going save him from the dreaded 40s.

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September 22, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Sept. 22 12:15 AM ET)

The Sunday shows were notable for who wasn‚t on.

Despite a big UN speech for Bush on Tuesday, no Administration officials came on to preview and build support it.

Could be that, after two weeks where every top Bushie hit the shows, they‚ve concluded that the Iraq questions were getting harder and the questioners (save Russert) harder to mollify.

Also, Wesley Clark was absent, most certainly the recent unsteady campaign appearances signaled that he needed more boning up on issues before getting grilled.

The Clark absence gave Sen. John Edwards, on CBS‚ Face The Nation, a chance to take back the spotlight that Clark stole, when Clark stepped on Edwards‚ „officialš announcement speech last week.

Did Edwards make the most of it? No.

Edwards gave another solid, respectable performance, the kind that once made Beltway types think he was the perfect candidate (and won LO‚s respect at times as well).

But he didn‚t do what he needed to do: make some news and shake things up.

This is particularly surprising because he has a luxury that he hasn‚t had until recently.

He‚s no longer trying to keep his Senate seat. He can cut loose and be less cautious.

Yet he giving risk-averse answers on hot-button questions.

They‚re not wholly empty, but they are engineered to avoid taking strong, unequivocal positions.

Take, for example, a question about the PATRIOT Act from Doyle McManus of the LA Times:

McMANUS: ∑you have been saying∑that [the PATRIOT Act] act needs some radical revision.

When that bill was up in the Senate, you voted for it.

You said it was a good bill and you voted against four amendments that Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin had introduced to soften some of those measures.

Do you wish now that you had voted for some of those amendments back then?

Sen. EDWARDS: Well, here's the truth. The Patriot Act had some provisions in it that are very good.

Provisions about information sharing, things that would make us more effective in fighting the war on terrorism...

...The problem is it gave an enormous amount of discretion to the attorney general of the United States. And Attorney General Ashcroft is clearly abusing that discretion∑

∑We have to keep the American people safe. And I don't take a backseat to anybody in doing that.

But in that effort, we can't forget what it is we're supposed to be fighting for and protecting.

The basic message is fine: we need to balance our need for security with the need to protect essential freedoms.

But why dodge the main question about the Feingold amendments?

(Which, by the way, would have scaled back the „enormous amount of discretionš given to Ashcroft.)

This is not to be puritanical about answering questions directly. This is about being pragmatic.

Why not make a little news and announce that, in hindsight, you made a mistake in your original support?

Or (if that‚s too much for you) at least lean on the fact that many of the controversial provisions sunset in 2005 for a reason -- so Congress could see how they worked.

And, in turn, say that it‚s now clear that Feingold‚s concerns were legit and you support scaling the law back.

Either way, you‚d be taking a real stand, which would at least get you a headline or two.

He was similarly wishy-washy when talking about internationalizing the occupation with the show‚s guest host John Roberts.

(Bob Schieffer‚s daughter was getting married, for those of you who don‚t think the NYT wedding section is a Sunday must-read.)

EDWARDS: ∑what I'd be willing to do is give other folks a seat at the table.

∑other countries are not going to give us their troops, give us their financial resources, unless they're allowed to participate in the decision-making.

ROBERTS: But how big would that seat be?

EDWARDS: Well, I think those are things that have to be negotiated∑

Guess what John? You‚re not going to be negotiating. You don‚t have to play your cards close to the vest.

You can lay it out there, give us your ideal vision of how it would work.

Who would control the political transition, the military and security functions, the infrastructure rebuilding? Just say it.

Frontrunners have reason to get risk-averse because they don‚t want to blow their lead (not that it‚s always wise).

But when you‚re behind, you need to make waves, not avoid them like Edwards did yesterday.

Edwards could have another goal in mind that would explain his approach: the VP slot.

Note that when given the opportunity on FTN to attack Howard Dean or Clark, he passed.

While both Gephardt and Kerry camps have recently taken shots at Dean and Clark.

Edwards may want to avoid alienating any candidate, and any constituency, to make the case later that his inoffensive boyish Southern charm is just the compliment the eventual nominee needs.

Still, if he wants the consolation prize, it couldn‚t hurt to win a few primary contests first.

And he won‚t grab the requisite attention needed to win those if he insists on giving relatively toothless responses on the big questions of the day.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Guest Humor Column by Mark Spittle

The Liberal Lexicon

In 1995, Newt Gingrich‚s GOPAC developed a conservative lexicon and distributed it throughout the Republican Party.

The goal was to develop a consistent, conservative phraseology that would both subtly and dramatically hammer home conservative concepts. Many of the phrases and terms used have stuck, and are still being used by conservatives today.

For example, Gingrich identified „Optimistic Positive Governing Words,š which he said „can help give extra power to your message.š Some examples of these are:

-- family
-- freedom
-- hard work
-- liberty
-- moral
-- opportunity
-- protect
-- rights

To combat GOP critics, Gingrich proposed a set of „Contrasting Words,š which he indicated should be applied „to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.š These included:

-- bureaucracy
-- cheat
-- corruption
-- decay
-- hypocrisy
-- ideological
-- liberal
-- radical
-- spend
-- taxes
-- welfare

Liberals, for their part, have been weak to respond. In the eight years since GOPAC‚s lexicon was released, absorbed, and made a permanent part of our nation‚s language, the Democrats have failed to develop their own niche within contemporary English.

I have decided to rectify this gross error of judgment.

For the Liberal set of „Optimistic Positive Governing Words,š I propose a set of phrases which cannot be interpreted as anything but positive, upbeat and inspiring.

I urge Liberals of all stripes to pepper their arguments with these words, to better win over the casual listener, and to ensure that Liberal concepts are firmly affixed with positive, desirable mental images.

-- Freedom
-- Free beer
-- Hot chicks
-- Human rights
-- Money for everybody
-- Free money
-- Hot chick rights
-- Well hung
-- Endowed
-- Maserati in your garage
-- Warm
-- Wet
-- Forgiving
-- God
-- Nudity
-- Pretzels
-- Free chicks
-- Voting
-- Nude Voting
-- Choice
-- Choice of chicks
-- Choice of beer
-- Cayman islands
-- Newt‚s head on a spike

For „Contrasting Words,š I propose a more subtle approach.

Use these words in a sly manner, slipping them into discussions about your conservative opponents.

Use them to subtly paint a mental image of your Right-wing opponent in the mind of your audience. These phrases have been focus group tested, and are proven to work for even the most bland speaker, like Joe Lieberman.

-- Lunatic
-- Raving
-- Fascist
-- Nazi
-- Scumbag
-- Lying ratbastard
-- Thief
-- Stolen election
-- Mother of All Hypocrites
-- Sunovabitch
-- Bush
-- Texan
-- Dirtsucking mudlapper
-- Anal retentive
-- Sacrilegious moron
-- Warm beer
-- Ugly wife
-- Married his mother
-- Didn‚t pay Social Security for Maid
-- Rich beyond words
-- Schwarzenegger
-- Flatulent
-- Really annoying
-- Hung like a grape
-- Gun nut
-- Psycho judge
-- Face like a meteorite
-- Republican

Liberals, the time has come to stoop to the level of the Right. Adopt this lexicon, and fight the enemy on his turf. For conservatives truly are flatulent Schwarzenegger war beer Fascists!

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.


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