Saturday, May 31, 2003

More news from Lake Placid: Kerry ready to take on the DLC?

At the same upstate New York Democratic cattle call where Howard Dean endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, John Kerry took on Democratic rivals to his right.

"Never again can the Democratic Party fail to stand up and turn away from its accomplishments of the last 60 years. ... The one thing this country doesn't need is a second Republican Party," the Massachusetts Democrat, a presidential candidate, told a Lake Placid forum on rural issues.

Sounds awfully similar to the charges coming from Gephardt and Dean that the Democrats cannot win as "Bush-lite," doesn't it? Those charges have garnered those candidates--both highly praised by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council--the ire of that organization. If it's not clear to the Democratic voters, it's clear to the DLC that such criticism is aimed at them.

So will the DLC take on John Kerry from the right? And how will Kerry weather the storm?

My bet is that this was actually a calculated move on the part of the Kerry campaign to wrestle some liberal support away from Howard Dean, who for the most part has been running to Kerry's right. The two men are running neck-and-neck in the polls, most notably a recent poll of San Francisco Democrats which has Kerry, Dean, and Lieberman sharing top honors. His slight left turn may be paying off, as Kerry has taken the lead over Dean in the race for the all-important New Hampshire primary.

posted by Scott | 5/31/2003 | |

A Clinton endorsement for Dean?

Not quite. Try a Clinton endorsement from Dean. At the New York State Democratic Rural Conference in Lake Placid, Howard Dean lavished praise on that state's Senator Clinton.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean said the former first lady "would be a great candidate" and "a great president."

So if Hillary decides to jump in the race as all of the GOP sputtering heads have been telling us, does that mean Dean would drop out and endorse the former first lady? Or perhaps he's calling shotgun on a veep nomination should Mrs. Clinton be the presidential nominee.

Incidentally, there's no word from the Dean camp as to whether or not the good doctor endorses Bill Clinton as the next mayor of New York City.

posted by Scott | 5/31/2003 | |

Thursday, May 29, 2003

The cancer is spreading

Also from The New York Times this morning comes the news that the Department of the Interior has run out of money for the Fish and Wildlife Service program which implements the Endangered Species Act. So within weeks, land which would have been designated as protected will remain unprotected.

But hey, at least we've all got an extra dollar in our paychecks.

Anyone who believes that this tax cut is not about defunding government programs the arch conservatives hate is... well... probably going to vote for Bush in 2004.

posted by Scott | 5/29/2003 | |

Surprise! GOP tax cut doesn't help working families!

In a bizarre development, The New York Times is reporting that a number of child advocacy groups have discovered that the $400-per-child increase to the child tax credit included in the latest round of tax cuts does not apply for families whose income is in the $10,500 to $26,625 range. All 11.9 million children who will not benefit from the tax credit increase belong to minimum wage families.

House Republicans are attempting to blame the situation on the Senate, which they seem to have forgotten is now controlled by their fellow Republicans. George Voinovich is specifically targeted for blame as the Senator who would not vote for a tax cut that broke $350 billion.

Extending the increase 11.9 million children left out would only have cost $3.5 billion--1% of the total. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average tax cut for households earning $1 million or more is $93,500. In January of this year, the conservative National Review wrote that there are only 240,000 families at this income level. So the tax cut for the richest among us cost $22.4 billion. Were the average cut for the richest reduced to a still mind-bending $78,916, the increase in the child tax credit could have been extended to working class kids and still come in under the $350 billion limit.

Forget the Tom DeLay and the Killer D's. The real scandal is the Bush tax cut.

posted by Scott | 5/29/2003 | |

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The real GOP agenda: Death to the Democrats

Just when you think all hope is lost and you can't quite convince your moderate GOP friends that their party has become a corrupt enterprise, completely out of control in their quest for power, along comes Grover Norquist.

"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called Americans for Tax Reform.

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape," Norquist, a onetime adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said, citing an axiom of House conservatives.

The GOP can live with urban liberals such as Waters, Norquist said; it's moderates such as Stenholm who are its prime targets. If the Texas redistricting plan is adopted, Norquist said, "it is exactly the Stenholms of the world who will disappear, ... the moderate Democrats. They will go so that no Texan need grow up thinking that being a Democrat is acceptable behavior."

Who the hell is Grover Norquist? Well, some of you already know. The article quoted above cites him as "a leading Republican strategist," former advisor to Newt Gingrich, and the head of rabid public sector defunders Americans for Tax Reform. But did you also know that Grover Norquist is despised in some Republican circles? It seems that Grover is intent on winning GOP dominance at all costs. Even if those costs include cozying up to terrorists.

President of the American Conservative Union David A. Keene has complained vociferously about Norquist, as cited by the right-leaning Washington Times:

"What I find troubling is not Grover's standing up for the rights of Muslim citizens, since they should have the same rights as rights as any other citizens, but that he used his contacts in the White House to try to silence anybody who doesn't agree with him," said Mr. Keene.

In the same report, terrorism expert Frank Gaffney expresses "concern is that Grover is playing the role of enabler, I assume unwittingly, for the Wahhabist [radical Muslim] agenda and its penetration of our political system — and especially of the Bush White House."

Elsewhere, conservative columnist Mona Charon writes that Norquist "facilitated meetings with the president, Cabinet secretaries and agency heads" on behalf of radical Islamic groups whose leadership has referred to Hamas as "freedom fighters," al Qaeda as a "resistance movement," and expressed support for Hezbollah.

In a March 2001 New York Times article eagerly reposted by Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist bragged of his influence over administration policy. "There isn't an us and them with this administration. They is us. We is them."

Norquist loves telling the story of the time he told a liberal that since communism was defeated, the GOP "can turn all our attention and energy to crushing you." He sneered, "the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons. You don’t. And with the Soviets, it was simply business. With you it’s personal."

Someone once said that "bitterness and divisiveness in Washington poison the mood of the whole country." I tend to agree. Now if only the author of that quote--President Bush himself--would live up to his own promise and give Grover Norquist the boot.

posted by Scott | 5/28/2003 | |

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Biden to make it an even ten?

Delaware Senator Joe Biden, at one point considered a presidential contender, is apparently still considering a run. However, he's made it known that he will not make an announcement until September.

Democratic consultants from Donna Brazile to Mark Mellman are calling into question Biden's timing, implying that its far too late--in terms of both fundraising and winning supporters--for him to run a serious candidacy. Biden's got a surprisingly powerful answer for this charge.

"My reason for not doing it now is: I don't know how you can go out and do all the things you need to do to run for president and still try to shape -- or in some cases impede -- the president's agenda," Biden said. "Here we are talking about low-yield nuclear weapons and John Edwards, John Kerry, Bob Graham and Dick Gephardt are all somewhere else. They're not in the debate. I'm not ready to do that."

This is a strong statement, giving Biden the image that he is serious about policy and national defense. Much like Bush's planned late reelection end run, Biden clearly wants to be seen as above the fray of petty politics. While the consultants are dismissing Biden as too much of a latecomer to be effective, this discounts the fact that as the ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, Biden has made numerous talk show appearances and is more recognizable than "official" candidates like Kucinich or even Howard Dean.

posted by Scott | 5/27/2003 | |

Lieberman championing the cause of the Killer Ds

Democrats complain that Joe Lieberman is bland, boring, and even too conservative. However, were many of these Democrats paying attention, they'd notice that Joe Lieberman is an effective and valuable advocate for the party. He brings up Florida without whining and criticizes Bush on Iraq without sounding weak (I'm looking at you Dennis) or conspiratorial (ahem, Mr. Graham). And now he's messing with Texas.

If you read DemWatch, you know about Tom DeLay's involvement in getting Homeland Security to help him track down the Killer Ds who derailed the GOP's quasi-legal redistricting attempt in Texas. So I won't rehash that story yet again.

Just rest assured that you are not alone in your outrage. Joe Lieberman is set to officially challenge the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Transportation to figure out exactly what happened down in Texas.

Lieberman is known by most to have been a passionate critic of Bill Clinton's personal foibles. Therefore, his demands for investigation and action into wrongdoing on the part of the GOP should hold extra credibility among general election voters. And in the primary, his tireless advocacy in defense of the party should not be ignored.

If the Texas story continues to balloon, look for Lieberman's popularity to grow, both among Democrats and general election voters.

posted by Scott | 5/27/2003 | |

Are the Greens ready to fall on their swords?

Some Green Party folks are suggesting to The Washington Post that they may be ready to come in from the cold.

It's times like these that make you wish New York's election laws were in effect all over the country. In New York, different parties can cross-nominate the same candidates. Hence, in the last gubernatorial election, one could vote for Carl McColl on the Democratic line or the Working Families line. All of the votes are pooled for each candidate and parties like Working Families and the Conservatives are guaranteed future ballot access. Imagine, if you will, a scenario in which the Greens could have nominated Al Gore.

This won't happen, of course, and is just a little late-night pipe dream of mine. However, the Greens staying out of 2004 is a very close second.

posted by Scott | 5/27/2003 | |

How is it...

...that The Washington Post wrote an entire article discussing the theoretical importance in 2004 of military service in the resumes of the Democratic candidates and not once mentioned Wesley Clark? I mean, I know he's not officially running, but it seems a bit short-sighted to me.

posted by Scott | 5/27/2003 | |

Scarier read: The New York Times or Stephen King?

I vote for the Times. Personally, I never found King all that frightening. But a resurgence of campus Republicans? An unprecedented right-wing power grab? That's some scary stuff.

But how scary is it, really? For all of the talk about a strong insurgence, the conservative college group profiled by The New York Times Magazine has all of 35 members. (The college is Bucknell, by the way.) And Adam Clymer's article on the GOP quest for single party dominance ends with this fun little bit:

As Wilma Goldstein, a veteran Republican operative whom Mr. Mahe brought into the national committee, said recently: "You almost have to roll over and be dead before you can revive. We had to do new things because we had one foot in the grave."

That sounds a lot more like today's Democrats than the high-flying GOP, doesn't it?

Sure does.

posted by Scott | 5/27/2003 | |

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Is Iran next?

The Washington Post is running a front-page story this morning that has the United States breaking all ties with Iran to pursue a policy which will aggressively promote internal political strife within the Islamic nation.

This news comes hot on the heels of a number of developments which I have been meaning to explore for the past week or so. I didn't want to rush, so I took my time. Now it seems that time has run out.

Josh Marshall has been following the quick but quiet rise of a new group of progressives who are determined to remake the Democratic Party as the party of national defense. He's filed stories at his own site as well as in the pages of The Forward on the topic. (Can a Washington Monthly piece be far behind?)

Oddly, these two groups are a very new think tank called Democrats for National Security and a very old political party, the Social Democrats, USA. But don't think that the effort is some quixotic, slapdash endeavor. In fact, the two seem to be working symbiotically, if not in conjunction, and have already gotten an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal written by former Gore 2000 campaign manager and Democratic Party heavyweight Donna Brazile and former Clinton State Department official Tim Bergreen. Brazile, it should be noted, spoke at the most recent SDUSA conference, while Bergreen is the founder of Democrats for National Security. One would assume that the two groups could also find common cause with the Democratic Leadership Council and Progressive Policy Institute, whose Will Marshall recently espoused the virtues of the "Blair Democrats" in the pages of The Washington Post.

* * *

What's it all got to do with the latest Iran announcement?


It strikes me that this is the first and best shot this new crop of Dems has to flex its muscles and show its teeth. The stated goal of these liberal not-quite-neo-cons is to defend democracy around the world. When it comes to Iran, Team W's game plan has been a mess. First, they're a member of the Axis of Evil. Then, they're a cooperative member of the international community in tracking al Qaeda. Next thing you know, they're trying to build nuclear weapons. But then they agreed to stay out of the Iraq war. They were back to being a sworn enemy when the war ended, supporting anti-American Shia leaders in Iraq. In response, we decided to ally with an anti-ayatollah rebel group based in Iraq, despite the fact that their resume included anti-American terror attacks. Lately, the administration decided that was just too opportunistic and withdrew their support. And now fresh charges are being made that the recent terror attacks in the Middle East were orchestrated by al Qaeda from inside of Iran.

Where it really stands at the moment is anyone's guess, but the Post has Team W pulling away from the reform-minded, democratically elected Khatami government and pursuing a policy of generally acting as a thorn in Iran's side. Sounds a lot like America's long-standing Cuba policy to me.

That policy has failed thus far. Recently, the U.S. has publicly (and halfheartedly) reached out to Cuba's homegrown dissident community, resulting in a mass crackdown.

So this is the alternative vision I fully expect to see from the New Tough Liberals. America should vigorously but stealthily engage the Khatami reformers as well as the younger reformers and academics. They should be promised the utmost support for their overthrow of the ayatollahs. It shouldn't be hard to convince them as the U.S. now has a military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan on either side of Iran. If the ayatollahs prove too hard to defeat, then the democratically elected President Khatami can call for American intervention.

* * *

So does this all sound odd coming from a liberal whose support for the Iraq war was limited to full support for the troops, lukewarm support for the Pentagon brass, and no support for Bush's nonexistent diplomatic efforts? I'm sure it does. However, if the Democratic Party wants to stand up to Bush in 2004, it must prove that it has an alternative vision for military policy as well as foreign policy. We know the foreign policy vision is there. Credible figures like Biden, Kerry, and Clinton seek more diplomacy, more engagement with the world. However, when diplomacy fails--even after a serious effort is made--military options must be made available.

International democracy must be the Holy Grail the Democratic Party seeks. This is clearly not the case with the Republicans. The GOP has proven much too willing to cut hypocritical back-room deals with some tyrants in order to achieve their goals with others. And in this sense, Bush can actually be outed as weak on national defense.

In other words, a Democratic Party with a smart, consistent, and muscular foreign policy will be Dubya's kryptonite.

posted by Scott | 5/25/2003 | |
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