Friday, May 16, 2003

Joe floats another big idea: monthly debates

Joe Lieberman has proposed monthly, televised debates for the Democratic presidential candidates, stretching from July to primary season. David VonDrehle at the Post thinks it has something to do with Lieberman's widely-praised performance in the South Carolina debate. That theory holds water, of course, but I have another idea. As evidenced by the recent DLC-Howard Dean fracas, many Democrats are very concerned with nominating an electable candidate. Lieberman's poll performance and fund-raising have been less than stellar. So it's possible that he sees the regular televised debates as a way of winning over liberal Democrats worried about electability. In addition, the regular debates give Lieberman a national platform to show off his centrist credentials to moderates who may be swayed away from Bush.

posted by Scott | 5/16/2003 | |

Bush unfortunately seeking re-election

Team W has made it official today, filing paperwork with the FEC for the 2004 election. Hoping to counter charges that the GOP is the party of privilege, party officials has this to say,

... qualifying for Bush's elite group of fund-raisers, the Pioneers, will require raising $200,000 or more instead of the then-eye-popping $100,00 that was the ticket to admission for the 2000 race.

Uh, wait. I think maybe that was the wrong quote...

posted by Scott | 5/16/2003 | |

Chambliss to 'Meet the Press'

GOP freshman Senator Saxby Chambliss will be appearing on Meet the Press this weekend to talk terrorism. Here's hoping Russert doesn't let the Chambliss/Frist appointments for cash scandal slide.

posted by Scott | 5/16/2003 | |

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Kerry makes the right call

In order to be in DC for a crucial Senate vote on Team W's latest round of tax cuts, John Kerry put on hold the offical announcement of his health care plan today. Kerry's caught some flak lately for missing votes while out on the campaign trail. His presence in Washington today--official press events be damned--speaks highly of the candidate at a time that he is trying to rise above the muddy campaign fray and deflect criticism of some of his wife's recent oddball comments.

posted by Scott | 5/15/2003 | |

California Dems much too accomodating to Team W

In a tremendous display of backbone, DNC chair Terry McAuliffe has taken California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, a Democrat, to task over his promise to help the state GOP get Bush on the 2004 ballot.

Why is it even a question that Bush would make it to the ballot? Team W has decided to hold the GOP convention later in the year that it's ever been before, beginning on September 2nd, in New York City to coincide with the third anniversary of 9/11. Many, including myself, have decried the timing as crass political exploitation. For his part, McAuliffe blasted the move, demanding that the GOP not be allowed to get away with their exploitation scheme. The timing of the GOP convention, he said, was meant "to take advantage of a national tragedy."

I'm hard-pressed to disagree with McAuliffe. But Shelley's reasoning holds merit: "I've just got to wonder, in my mind, how they would have treated us if we'd reversed the roles, and we needed a Republican secretary of state to move the dates for us."

One wonders if McAuliffe has given any thought to potential charges of hypocrisy considering the last minute date finagling that the Democrats did in New Jersey to get Frank Lautenberg on the ballot. Then again, one also wonders if Katherine Harris would ever have been this generous to Democrats down in Florida.

posted by Scott | 5/15/2003 | |

Defense Secretary Clark, anyone?

An article in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yet again asks the question, "what is Wesley Clark up to?" Focused on the grassroots "Draft Clark" mini-movement, the article notes that Clark is at the very least "acting like a candidate." The CNN appearances, the trips to New Hampshire... these are not things regular folks do in their spare time.

But is Clark really running for the White House? Some think not. Catholic University political science professor John White has an alternative theory.

I honestly don’t think he is going to run. I think if there is a Democratic administration, you could look for him in the Cabinet, as secretary of defense. I think that is what this is all about.

Time will tell on this one...

posted by Scott | 5/15/2003 | |

The state of the Democrats' union

This American Prospect piece is three days old already, but its message is likely to keep reverberating well through the 2004 election. Senior editor Mary Lynn F. Jones says that the Dems should not bother worrying about winning back Congress in 2004 and focus all of their energy on the White House. Her careful analysis of each open race produces a 55-to-45-ish GOP-controlled Senate and a House that is, well, quite frankly too depressing to even think about.

So as Jones sees it, the moderate Republicans in the Senate will lose their current power, conservative Democrats will be further inclined to go along with the GOP's agenda, and the Dems will lose the ability to filibuster. Depressed yet? The GOP is going to make gains in the House that make Democratic control look about as likely as Jerry Springer getting elected to the Senate. (What's so funny? It's not like he's actually running. Oh wait...)

Where's the silver lining to this dark cloud? Well, you'd be hard pressed to remember it by the time you finish reading the party's obituary, but it is there. Jones points out that such a floor-mopping might "allow Democrats to be themselves during the next 18 months, freeing them to build a sustainable ideological vision for the party rather than triangulating furiously in the hope of picking up just one or two more seats."

She also makes the case that the American electorate likes a divided government, giving an advantage to the Democrat running for president. I have to wonder, then, how Jones reads the GOP sweep in 2002. A post-9/11 aberration? A wartime glitch in the electoral ebb and flow? While there may be circumstantial evidence to back up Jones's claim, I don't necessarily buy it. As the Reaganites love to say, a rising tide floats all boats. That may not be true economically, but it sure seems to working out electorally.

* * *

Related to this is the latest New York Times/CBS poll, which has the mainstream media in a tizzy over the fact that 66% can not name any of the Democratic candidates for president. Now, if they could stop their guffawing for a moment (relax, people, the election is still 18 months away), they would realize that there are some very good signs for the Democrats--some of which dispute the above commentary.

While the President's approval rating is at a high 67%, the GOP-controlled Congress only has an approval rating of 35%. Please try to keep this all in perspective, though. Just because you approve of the job someone is doing, that doesn't mean that you don't think someone else could do a better job. However, if you disapprove of the job someone is doing, that would indicate that you're more than willing to send that person packing.

So what else does the poll tell us?

A majority of Americans do not believe that George Bush has made any serious progress on the economy, job creation, public education, prescription drugs, or Social Security and Medicare stability. Instead, on these issues, they put their faith in the Democratic Party. Most Americans--including a surprising majority of Republicans--believes that health care is in need of fundamental changes. Most Americans put their faith in the Democratic Party to make those changes. In fact, besides handling terrorism, which only 15% of Americans cite as their biggest concern today, the American people favor Democrats over Republicans on issue after issue. The Democrats only problem? 49% of Americans--versus 37% for the Republicans--believe that the Democratic Party doe not have a clear plan for dealing with the issues of the day.

* * *

So what's it all mean? Are the Democrats screwed? Is Bush screwed? Are we screwed?!?!

Jones is right on one account. It is more important for the Democratic Party to find its voice than to pick up seats in Congress. However, who's to say that you can't do both? In the years that the Republican Party looked as hobbled as the Democrats do now, they never stopped fighting. They worked out a conservative platform, stood their ground, and were willing to accept losses--both of elections and disaffected moderate-to-liberal party members. They put their vision out there, took it to the voters, and made their case.

I see the Democrats mounting a comeback. Yes, the primary process is getting messy. But there are some signs of late that a coherent platform is being born. Unwilling to accept the conventional wisdom that 'Hillary Clinton couldn't enact universal health care, so we can't either,' candidates Dean, Gephardt, and Kerry have all made it a centerpiece of their respective campaigns. The party, for its part has put forth the Comprehensive Economic Stimulus Plan in the Senate, taking on the critics who say the party's lacking for ideas. Democrats across the ideological spectrum are unafraid to attack Bush's war policies, attacking from the left on a brash foreign policy, and attacking from the right, charging the administration of dropping the ball on the terror war. It's not pretty, but it's gritty and real and people should have no trouble understanding where the party stands.

* * *

And now onto my final point: the DLC has got to go. Many of you have heard by now about the Democratic Leadership Council's attempted coup of Howard Dean. If you haven't, The Washington Post has a great piece I recommend you check out.

A memo written by DLC chair Al From was read to a conference of centrist Democratic lawmakers, warning them against supporting Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Taking some very personal shots at Dean's demeanor, the DLC memo explained "that President Bush can be beaten next year, but Dean is not the man to do it."

The Dean campaign is not holding fire, however. On the official campaign blog, Matthew Gross writes, "Karl Rove himself couldn’t have written a memo better designed to fracture the Democratic Party."

And in AP coverage of the event, someone else weighed in on the subject:

If the current crop of candidates is judged on what they accomplished before running for president, the field is strong, Clinton said. And some of those accomplishments contradict the image candidates have earned in the presidential race, he said.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is described as very liberal by many following the presidential race, Clinton said, "but look at what he did as governor of Vermont."

Clinton described Dean's accomplishments with health care in his home state and his proposal to promote a national health care plan with a modest price tag as "New Democrat" positions.

Clinton made these comments to the AP's Will Lester just after stepping out of the very DLC meeting in which the memo was read. A hearty rebuttal from the former president, I'd say.

So cheer up kids. Things aren't looking great, but they aren't looking as horrible as the GOP--or the DLC--would like us to believe.

posted by Scott | 5/15/2003 | |

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Team W shoots itself in the foot... maybe

Readers of DemWatch know that Bush was never serious about supporting an extension on the current assault weapons ban. Many beltway GOPers knew it too. But the gun lobby seemed to miss the memo. As did many soccer moms who find the ban to be crucial to their children's safety.

So it's up to the Democrats to hammer home the issue in 2004 that when Team W says "jump," House Republicans ask "how high?" Why? Because those same House GOPers just killed the very ban that Bush claimed to support.

I see two scenarios here. One: The NRA gets the joke and backs Bush whole-heartedly in 2004. Meanwhile, the soccer moms blame the House, but not the president. Team W is immune. Two: The NRA--an organization with a very long memory--never truly forgives Bush for his support of the ban and therefore doesn't really support him in 2004. The Democrats make their case and the soccer moms see what kind of inside baseball is really being played between the president and the gun lobby. Team W is massively hurt.

Here's hoping for option two.

posted by Scott | 5/14/2003 | |

Kerry's health plan, according to USA Today

Man, I love USA Today. Okay, not usually. I think it tends to be boring and thin. But in today's edition, they included a handy-dandy guide to John Kerry's proposal for universal health care. Can't argue with that!

* Have the federal government take over states' Medicaid costs for poor and disabled children. In exchange, states would cover the overwhelming majority of uninsured children and their low-income parents.

* Require states to offer coverage to poor adults without children, when the economy improves.

* Allow businesses and individuals access to the health insurance program that covers the president and members of Congress. Tax credits would be available, based on income, to make it more affordable.

* Create a system that helps businesses manage the catastrophic costs of a few individuals through a new insurance pool. In exchange, the savings would be passed on to workers through lowered premiums.

* Make it easier for cheaper, generic drugs to get to market. Require more public disclosure in pharmaceutical purchases.

* Require medical malpractice lawsuits to be reviewed by state panels, to block frivolous lawsuits; bar punitive damages except in the most egregious cases.

* Encourage technological innovation to reduce medical errors.

See? Doesn't that make my job easier?

posted by Scott | 5/14/2003 | |

Edwards targeted by Team W & insurance industry cronies

Proving once again that Rove & Co. find John Edwards to be a significant threat, an insurance industry front group Americans for Job Security previewed on Tuesday two billboard ads aimed at Iowa and New Hampshire and a television spot aimed at North Carolina. The ads all paint Edwards as being in the pocket of the trial lawyers' lobby. To cap it off, next month, another right wing front--The American Tort Reform Association--will go live with a new anti-Edwards website.

For its part, the Edwards campaign says they welcome the attacks:

Calling the group "a front for the insurance industry with White House ties," spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said Edwards is being targeted because he "has stood in the way of Republicans passing the insurance industry's wish list ... Frankly, we are flattered by their assessment that Senator Edwards is the Democrat to attack in Iowa and New Hampshire."

Well deflected, Ms. Palmieri.

posted by Scott | 5/14/2003 | |

The Hawk gets the Hook

A popular game among my liberal friends is trying to figure out just how bad Lieberman is going to do in the primaries. Specifically, whether or not he's going to get less votes than Sharpton. I'll leave my answer to that one out of this, but the Democratic patrons of NYC's Coda nightclub made their views well known Tuesday night.

The Connecticut senator trumpeted his vote to give President Bush the authority to strike Baghdad in a speech Tuesday night to young Democratic voters and was interrupted by hissing.


Joe did attempt a comeback by criticizing the Team W's handling of post-war Iraq, but it seemed to be too little, too late for the Coda crowd. "We're in danger of having won the war, losing the peace so badly that the achievement that our military made in the war will be squandered."

posted by Scott | 5/14/2003 | |

Right Wing media bias in action

Cable provider Cox Communications claims that criticizing Team W in paid television spots is "too controversial" and will not be allowed on their programming. is sponsoring the spots, which the Arizona Republic describes thusly:

The ad is a re-enactment of 50 parents lining up a month ago in Eugene, Ore., to sell blood plasma to help pay a teacher's salary.

"George Bush's tax cuts for the rich" are to blame for shortfalls in education funding, the commercial contends. Further cuts sought by Bush to create jobs and boost the economy are being debated in the U.S. Senate.

One wonders what's going to happen in the 2004 presidential campaign when the Democratic candidate wants to run a negative ad against Bush...

* * *

In other oddball conservative bias news, check out Lawrence Messina's AP story on West Virginia Governor--and Democrat--Bob Wise's marital infidelities. At the end of the story, Messina includes an addendum listing more "governors with personal troubles in the past several years." Each one gets his own a bullet-point, except for Republican Kirk Fordice, who is mentioned under the heading of his Democratic successor.

Mind you, only one of these Democratic governors cheated on their wives. That is not the impression one gets from their inclusion under a 'Not Faithful' headline. (Note: No mention was made of Republicans Bob Barr, Henry Hyde, Tim Hutchinson, or Newt Gingrich.)

posted by Scott | 5/14/2003 | |

Oliphant: Kerry's health plan's got 'legs'

In his Boston Globe column today, Thomas Oliphant extolls the virtues of the John Kerry's health care package, to be announced tomorrow. According to Oliphant, Kerry aims to allow all Americans access to the health care plan for federal employees, allowing him to lay claim to Ted Kennedy's now quarter-century-old demand:

If this plan is good enough for the president of the United States, if it is good enough for every one of his Cabinet, if it is good enough for every single member of Congress, then it is good enough for every other American.

Oliphant is of the belief that this message will make Kerry's plan electorally successful. I have a slightly different read, though. Team W--and even other Democrats--are going to slag this plan as a rehash of Bill Bradley's campaign 2000 proposal. I found two attacks on Bradley's proposal to illustrate my point. The Republican critics will likely parrot the line from the libertarian Cato Institute. The Democrats will attack from the left, as The Progressive did in 1999.

Keep in mind that both of these critiques are specific to Bradley's plan--not Kerry's. There will undoubtedly be differences, but as we all know, many critics are loathe to come up with new reasons that new ideas won't work. They'd rather just recycle the old reasons.

When Kerry introduces his plan, he must be careful, doing everything he can to differentiate his plan not only from Gephardt's and Dean's, but also from Bradley's.

posted by Scott | 5/14/2003 | |

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Howard Dean's grand unveiling

In a much anticipated speech, Howard Dean today laid out his proposal for universal health care. Costing a paltry -- by today's budget standards -- $88 billion per year, Dean should be able to effectively paint Gephardt's plan as one of those "big-spending Democratic ideas of the past" Joe Lieberman loves to bash as part of his mad dash toward the center.

Rather than blabbing on about it, I'll direct you all over to the New Republic's brilliant summary of the plan.

posted by Scott | 5/13/2003 | |

Gephardt seals the deal

The House Democratic leadership will be officially endorsing the candidacy of Dick Gephardt tomorrow according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This ends months of speculation about Nancy Pelosi's endorsement as Gephart's House successor. The question was never really, "will she or won't she?" but more, "what is she waiting for?"

As in 1988, the endorsements of Pelosi and minority whip Steny Hoyer will be used to show that Gephardt has broad-based national support outside of his rust belt union Democrat base. The Post-Dispatch points out that Pelosi and Hoyer may not wind up being Gephardt's most important primary endorsements:

In terms of retail politics, Gephardt's most important endorsements may be from lawmakers such as Reps. John Spratt, D-S.C., and Ed Pastor, D-Ariz.; both of their home states will hold primary contests on Feb. 3.

posted by Scott | 5/13/2003 | |

Monday, May 12, 2003

Welsey Clark travels to New Hampshire, pols caught completely off guard

While The Note had no idea what Clark was up to today, at least they knew where he was:

Today, with the president doing tax hits in New Mexico (swing state) and Nebraska (home of a swing Democratic senate vote), Wes Clark speaks to the Manchester Rotary Club about his "Vision of America."
He later has an open-press meeting with friends at the Merrimack Restaurant. We have no clue at this writing what is up with this, and Wolf chose not to ask him.

The AP tried to squeeze something resembling a story out of Clark's NH visit, but came up... well... more than a little short.

The former NATO commander fit in a few laps at the YMCA pool Monday afternoon. Earlier, Clark told Manchester Rotary Club members he is in the state on business and to get the American public thinking about the long-term ramifications of the war with Iraq.

Nothing earth shattering contained therein, but this trip to New Hampshire was clearly not just a trip to New Hampshire.

posted by Scott | 5/12/2003 | |

The liberal New Republic endorses the Democrat Joe Lieberman

Some of you will get the title reference. For those of you who don't, click here to read an older DemWatch posting which makes this Wall Street Journal op-ed piece a pretty funny read.

Peter Beinart has unsurprisingly come out in support of Joe Lieberman for the 2004 Democratic nomination. Beinart believes that only a hawkish centrist like Joe can grab the White House from Bush and -- wouldn't you know -- he's laid out a winning Lieberman gameplan. It's a gameplan Beinart would like to think makes Lieberman look more like a McCain maverick, but in reality will probably make him look more like George W. Bush.

The Beinart plan involves Lieberman sticking with his hyper-religious message and continuing to harp on the 2000 election -- two things he is (smartly) already doing -- to appeal to African American voters who may otherwise be turned off by his centrist/conservative positions. Beinart insightfully sums it up:

At first glance, Mr. Lieberman's strategy seems schizophrenic: blacks and moderate, southern whites are generally considered the Democratic Party's ideological polar opposites. But a look at past Democratic primaries suggests that they often vote in harmony, joining together to support Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton and Al Gore and opposing high-minded reformers like Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas and Bill Bradley, who captured the hearts of upper-income white liberals.

The second part of the plan involves Lieberman doubling his efforts in support of vouchers. The theory here is that the Democrats need someone who is going to rile up some of their strong interest group support like McCain did with corporate interests and the religious right. In this case, the teachers' unions would be Lieberman's target.

The problem here is that Beinart agrees to buy into the right wing canard that the teachers' unions are a big bad threat to American children. They're not! These are public school teachers, underpaid and underappreciated. NEA isn't Enron! Dare I say it, the Democratic Party doesn't go along with the unions because of their money -- they go along because of a shared ideology and committment to strong public education. It's that simple. Can anyone seriously even imagine the teachers jumping ship for the let's-gut-the-Department-of-Education GOP just because they'd take their money? Of course not.

The third and final suggestion is a new middle-class tax cut to steal from Bush the tax cutter crown. Again, Beinart proves that he's been drinking the Team W Kool Aid. Even worse is the fact that he does not claim that such a cut will have any effect as economic stimulus. It's pure politics following the logic that, if the GOP is offering a tax cut to get votes, then the Democrats ought to offer a better one.

Nothing Beinart suggests shows the kind of grand "big idea" leadership that the party so desperately needs. All that is represented in non-plans like this are stop gaps -- Band-Aids slapped hastily on Democrats' electoral wounds. He sees this kind of Lieberman campaign as "a magnet for Democrats disaffected from the party establishment, a kind of ideological mirror image of the insurgency Mr. Dean has created on the left." There's a problem with this, however. Those 'Democrats' became Republicans years ago. And again, I must bring it all back home to Harry Truman:

If you give the people a choice between a Republican and a Republican, they'll choose the Republican every time.

posted by Scott | 5/12/2003 | |

We can rebuild it. We have the know-how.
We have the capability to remake America's finest political party.
The Democrats will be that party. Better than it was before.
Smarter . . . sexier . . . more successful.

Anonym... uh, wait... Joe Klein has prescribed a cure for the Democrats' blue state blues in the latest issue of Time Magazine. The answer? Recapture the Flag, Lose the Frown, and Kill the Consultants.

Many of you are probably wondering where you've heard all of this before. Well, DemWatch for one. And in a New Republic cover story which asked, "are consultants killing the Democratic party?"

So far, very few people have put it all together so succinctly, however. Therefore, I applaud Klein for his willingness to air his profession's dirty laundry -- once again -- for the greater good, especially when such an act involves blasting a perceived powerhouse like Bob Shrum in the process. I strongly suggest checking out the Time piece and leave you with Klein's closer to pique your interest:

If the world stays quiet and the economy picks up, the Democrats may face an unbeatable incumbent in 2004, no matter how hard they try. All the more reason to act as Democrats haven't in quite a while: Speak your minds, dream a little, tell people some truths they don't want to hear. Get angry. Be funny. But, above all, provide a real alternative. The Republicans offer smaller government. The Democrats, at their best, offer serious government. A direct clash on those principles would be an argument worth having, and one the country badly needs.

posted by Scott | 5/12/2003 | |
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