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Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Giving Slick Willie a Fisking- This article of a Bill Clinton speech to the DLC is too target-rich an environment to pass up.
In a speech here before the Democratic Leadership Council, Clinton described President Bush's economic policies as wrong-headed and out of step with the nation. But he said the party needs to sharpen its teeth, particularly when it comes to defending leaders such as Senate Democratic Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). Republicans had accused Daschle of being soft on terrorism. "They have a destruction machine -- we don't," Clinton told his audience at New York University. "What was done to Tom Daschle was unconscionable," he said, "but our refusal to stand up and defend him was worse."
OK folks, the fifth column has just become a destruction machine. Any candidates for the first liberal to refer to Fox News as the Death Star? The key debate with Daschle was that he was stronger on defending ASCME than he was on defending the homeland. That was something Democrats didn’t want to address for fear of looking like water-boys for the AFL-CIO. If the facts are against you, name-call.
The former president suggested that Democrats must wrest control of the security debate. Americans, he said, are scared and seek the comfort of powerful leaders. "When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have someone strong and wrong than weak and right," Clinton said. "We have a heavy responsibility to cooperate in uniting this country on security issues, and also to come up with better ideas across the board."
How about strong and right versus weak and wrong? You’re implying that Duyba’s wrong and you’re weak; he might be half right.
Clinton's speech was a wide-ranging, postmortem analysis of the Democratic Party's failures in last month's midterm elections, in which the Democrats lost their Senate majority to the Republicans and fell deeper into the minority in the House. He credited the GOP for having "message, money and turnout." Clinton had arrived fresh from a trip to Mexico; and save for the trademark bags under his eyes, he seemed ready for the political jousts. As governor of Arkansas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clinton served as president of the DLC. He labored hard to move a left-leaning Democratic Party to the political center on issues ranging from foreign policy and welfare to the death penalty.
And kept it to the left on abortion, Social Security and the environment.
Earlier today, his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), had suggested that Democrats erred in the past election campaign by straying from the Clinton political path. "If people followed the ideas that he worked on, and a lot of us worked on, for more than 20 years, we would have done a much better job" in the recent elections, she told the local public radio station in New York.
What would the FPOTUS have suggested other than to bad-mouth Republicans as greedy evil incarnate? He probably would have suggested triangulating on Iraq, giving the president support while having “reservations” about unilateral behavior. He’d of suggested going after their tax cuts for the wealthy. However, that’s just about what was done. The triangulation was called-out and the rich-bashing didn’t work, since people remember the refund check of last year showing that tax cuts work for the little guy, too. If the honorable Senator from Nuevo York can come up with something that her Bill would have done differently in Missouri, Minnesota or Georgia, feel free.
The former president's speech was not mournful, however. He peppered his talk with prescriptive advice, from how to finesse the tax and Social Security questions -- split the difference with the more ideological Republican positions, he suggested -- to showing strong support for tough inspections in Iraq. But he added that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not present as immediate a threat as al Qaeda.
Let’s remake Huey Lewis-“It’s hip to triangle.” Of course, he’s talking to the DLC, where meeting the Republicans 15% of the way and call it half is the goal.
"Al Qaeda should be the first priority," he said. "Iraq is important, but the terrorist network is more of a threat."
Iraq’s got (or close to getting) nukes, and we know where Iraq is. Osama’s boys are a lot less likely to have nukes, and hard as heck to track down. Al Qaeda’s a more pervasive but weaker threat than a possible Iraqi nuke; taking out a building or a plane is one thing; taking out a whole city is another.
He lamented that Democrats somehow managed to propose a homeland security agency and, at the same time, to be blamed for the delay in getting the new agency up and running. But he suggested that the focus on a new Washington agency is, politically if not programmatically, somewhat beside the point.
When the other guy’s done something right, tweak the subject.
Democrats, he said, should be talking about computer and credit checks that allow intelligence agencies to flag terrorists such as Mohamed Atta, who had changed his address 10 times in less than two years, or another man who had acquired 30 credit cards and $250,000 worth of debt. "They're either really rich or up to no good, and it shouldn't be that hard to figure out which," Clinton said. "You can organize all the agencies you want," he added, "but intelligence must be more accountable."
Two words-Big Brother. Would the Democrats actually proposed such a huge database pre-9/11 without the ACLU crawling over their kiester? Sounds good, but having such financial data in a central database, let alone requiring all address changes to be centrally registered (sounds like the USSR) is a lot of power in one place.
These are the sort of tangible, ground-level and non-ideological proposals that formed the bread-and-butter of Clinton's two campaigns for the White House. And DLC members in attendance today frankly pined for the days when Clinton held the national stage.
OK, who gave you that press release? That doesn’t remind me of the 1992 or 1996 campaigns.
"President Clinton was a wonderful leader and modernized the Democratic Party," said Al From, the council's longtime leader. "I would love not to have had a 22nd Amendment. But we have people who can replace him."
You’d move to have the 22nd amendment removed, Al? I’m all for a third Dubya term.
With an eye on a Clinton-less future, From invited Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley to introduce the former president. He also mentioned a half-dozen new Democratic governors as forming the next generation of party leaders -- he rather pointedly did not mention the more liberal Democratic leadership in the Senate and House.
Then how come only the quirky-liberal Howard Dean’s the only governor in the presidential hunt for 2004?
As the former president looked to the future, he counseled Democrats that the strategic task would be difficult. The Republicans "have an increasingly right-wing and bellicose conservative press," he said. "And we have an increasingly docile establishment press."
I don’t think the conservative press has gotten any more right-wing or bellicose, just a bit better at getting their message across. If anything, they’ve gotten less bellicose since the key object of their wrath left office. You can’t quite get you bile flowing quite as well without Slick Willie to cogitate on. Is the establishment press more docile? On balance, yes, but largely due to Dubya’s popularity. The NYT is leaning to the left stronger than before, while the Washington Post seems to have moved a tad towards the center. The liberal tendencies are still there, but seem to be a bit muted.
But he suggested that politics runs in cycles, saying, "I've read the people who say the Democratic Party is dead. I respectfully disagree."
No, it’ll be with us for quite a long while. We need at least two parties for our system to work; I don’t see them becoming so out of touch with the voters such that they will become a non-factor. In twenty years, if they play their cards with amazing stupidity, they could try to mirror the Greens and allow some secular bourgeois party like Minnesota’s Independence Party to fill the political ecology. When they do have a funeral for the Democratic Party, I'll make sure to send some flowers.

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