Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

Just one simple observation, followed by one simple question, about the State of the Union:

The observation is: When Republicans are down in the polls, and want to appeal to the American people, they start talking like Democrats, pretending to care about things like universal health coverage, education, alternative energy, and even (this made me gag) people's right to make health care decisions privately, consulting with their doctors and without the government interfering (Roe v. Wade? Terri Schiavo?). The best example of this was Colin Powell's speech at the 2000 Republican Convention, which could have been delivered to a standing ovation at the Democratic Convention without changing a word -- and none of which had anything to do with the actual Republican platform.

The question is: Why haven't more Democrats realized the same thing: that talking like a Democrat APPEALS to We the People, and talking like a Republican (supporting the war, introducing flag burning amendments) merely adopts the Republicans' weak points? (Note: Virginia's Webb was on the right side of this equation in his response last night, calling Bush to task for everything from the war to the economy and demanding that he lead or be led.)


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lanny Davis in the WaPo: Yet Another Lousy Idea

Here's yet another idea from a former Bill Clintonite that, like welfare reform and free trade, looks appealingly moderate on its face, but would be disastrous in reality: Lanny Davis' suggestion that whoever wins the Presidency in 2008 appoint an opposite-party Vice-President, preferably the losing nominee of the other party (and, to top it off, appoint a 50-50 bipartisan cabinet).

What a fascinating idea! What ingenuity! What great election strategy! What typically impractical Dem-centrist garbage!

There are at least seven reasons why this is a God-awful idea:

1. Unless Hillary wins the nomination (which admittedly is a real if unfortunate possibility that would make the race more of a toss-up), the Dems have the better chance of winning the Presidency in 2008 than the Republicans do. I base that prediction on the example of the 2006 midterms, public dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, and increasing public awareness of and sympathy for Democratic core issues like health care, climate change and "Main Street" (as opposed to Wall Street) economics. So what Davis is suggesting is for our party, once again, to reach across the aisle and hand the opposition a big, unearned gift when there's not a snowball's chance in hell any Republican would do the same. We need to stop giving freebies (or even lip service) to the Republicans and start acting like a party again -- i.e., to start acting just a little bit partisan, to take our victories and run with them to advance OUR agenda, which the country so desperately needs. (Nancy Pelosi's "hundred hour" strategy, which forcibly blocked Republicans from adding "poison pills" to important Democratic legislative initiatives, was a great example of this kind of muscular Democratic politics that the entire party would do well to emulate.)

2. I said above that a Republican President-elect wouldn't ever name a Democratic Vice-President. Actually, that's only technically true. A Republican President-elect might well select as Vice President an independent who nevertheless is deeply associated in the public mind with the Democratic Party: Joe Lieberman, whom Davis praises in his piece. McCain-Lieberman: now that's a scary, albeit possibly winning, proposition. Lieberman is an aberration, a Republican in Democrats' clothing; his run as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination to a better man was not an act of courage but one of egotism and partisan disloyalty. We should not open the door to a Lieberman Vice-Presidency that could lead to a serious Lieberman shot at the Presidency in 8 years (or sooner if the Republican President croaked).

3. Presidents frequently die or resign. Nine, count 'em, nine Vice Presidents have become President through the death or resignation of the President. That's 9/43, or 21% of ALL U.S. PRESIDENTS. More than one in five. Do Democrats believe so little in their own ideas that they're willing to take a 1:5 chance of those ideas being jettisoned by a Vice President who believes in none of them?

4. Underscoring point 3, above: Davis points to Abraham Lincoln's selection of Andrew Johnson, a highly partisan Southern Democrat, as his Vice-Presidential running mate in the 1864 election. He notes in passing that this experiment was "tragically cut short when he was assassinated six weeks after his 1865 inauguration." What he doesn't point out is that Johnson failed miserably at overseeing Lincoln's plan for Southern Reconstruction, especially when it came to civil rights: under him, Black Freedmen were denied many civil rights, and he vetoed implementation of a government agency to help the Freedmen or to grant them civil rights. He also lobbied vigorously against passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and succeeded in delaying its enactment.

By doing so, Johnson betrayed Lincoln's legacy, handed the next Presidency to the Radical Republicans (forebears of today's Republican Party), and set the stage for a century of discrimination, disempowerment and betrayal of African-Americans and, indirectly, prolonged the North-South divide that was profitably manipulated by Nixon's "Southern Strategy," kept the Vietnam War going longer than it should have, was copied (successfully) by Reagan (who launched modern neoconservatism and made the Bush II Presidency and the Iraq War possible), and still informs the red state-blue state political map today. That's a lot of blame to heap on one man's head, but it's true -- yet the man I really blame isn't Johnson, who in many ways WAS a moderate (for his times), but Lincoln, for abandoning his party in favor of a speculative "Unity" government that proved disastrous in ways that haunt us even today. Let's not make the same mistake.

5. The Senate is only narrowly in Democratic hands right now. One Democratic senator is still hospitalized and may not be able to return; if he resigns, he will be replaced by a Republican appointed by the Republican governor of his state. And while Joe Lieberman is, for now, caucusing with the Democrats, he won't continue doing so if his best interests -- for instance, if a shot at the Vice Presidency is dangled before him -- make it more advantageous for him to switch caucuses. If he does so, we lose the Senate, committee chairmanships, control of the agenda, and possibly the ability to reject poor Republican judicial nominees (remember, 7/9 of the Supreme Court was appointed by Republican Presidents, and Justice Stevens is getting very, very old). And, of course, if the Senate deadlocks, the Vice President casts the deciding vote. Do we really want to give a Republican that power?

6. Davis pretends that bipartisan cooperation is the only way to find a solution to the Iraq quagmire or to enacting sensible budgets. Bushwah. A Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President and Vice President can enact any legislation they want; the Republicans' only tool to stop them will be the filibuster, a maneuver they've so thoroughly discredited that many Republicans would consistently vote to override filibusters even by their own party. In other words, if we ignore Davis' advice, we can resolve Iraq and balance the budget again on our own terms. The only reason for seeking Republican advice or cooperation on these issues are (a) because we don't believe our ideas are as good as theirs, and need their advice, or (b) because we can't control our own Vichys and Blue Dogs, and need crossover Republicans to consistently pass legislation. I don't think either proposition is true, and even if they are, they're problems that we need to resolve ourselves, within our own party.

7. Sitting Vice Presidents have an automatic boost if they wish to later run for the Presidency. Why would either party's President want to confer that advantage on a member of the opposing party? Better to give that name recognition to one of our own.

If the past six years have proved anything, it's the depth of Republican ineptitude, especially on Iraq and the budget. Put shortly: we don't need them. By and large, today's Democrats have better ethics, ideas and sense of responsibility than today's Republicans. Our nation needs us, and needs us undiluted by the bad ideas of a party that's rightly on the decline. Let's not sell America short: if we can win the Presidency in 2008, let's govern with vigor and a sense that our ideas are right, not immediately compromise them with harmful and ultimately illusory nods towards "bipartisanship."

UPDATE, 2:03 PM PACIFIC: The Kenosha Kid over at Atrios' pad had a nice comment explaining Lanny-boy's connection to Bush (and showing what little wipes many of the Clintonites are). Not sure what his source is, but I like the info From U.S.

Everything you need to know about Lanny Davis!

"Three letters explain how former Clinton attack dog Lanny Davis scored an Air Force One ride to Washington after President Bush's recent Yale University commencement speech: DKE (Delta Kappa Epsilon), the fraternity Davis and Bush joined as Yale undergrads. The duo chatted for a long time on the ride home, mostly about the old days, like the time Bush hazed DKE recruit Davis. The lawyer tells us that he faced the normal five-hour hazing, ending with him standing beside a DKE brand shoved in a vat of hot coals. At this point, Bush and the others blindfolded Davis and asked him to lift his shirt. He did. Then Davis felt it: the hot sizzle of skin. But it was only a cigarette. "They really psyched me out," he says."