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Daschle struggles to be relevant

By Charles Bloomer
web posted March 11, 2002

A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll places President Bush's job approval at 81 per cent. Not only is that approval rating among the highest Gallup has recorded for any president since they started doing polls back in 1938, President Bush has set a record by having approval ratings over 80 per cent for over 5 months. Clearly, the American people think the president is doing something right.

In the glare of the president's overwhelming popularity, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is having difficulty developing a strategy to carry the Democrats to victory in November. Since January, it seems that every time Daschle opens his mouth, he has inserted his foot. Nearly every pronouncement by the senator has had to be quickly followed by a retraction.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle

Unable to come up with an agenda that resonates with the American voters, Daschle has taken to criticizing the president's handling of the war on terrorism. In rapid succession, Daschle objected to the president's characterization of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "Axis of Evil", complained that the war was without direction, and would take too long. He also griped that the administration was not giving him enough information about the war, that congress was not being treated as a "co-equal" in the prosecution of the war. Each statement brought about a storm of protest. Attacking a president with a 78 per cent approval rating in foreign affairs turned out to be a bad idea.

Having taken a lot of heat for his anti-war stance, Daschle turned his attention to the existence of the so-called "shadow government". Daschle and other Democrats stated that they had not been informed that the administration had set up a secure facility to ensure the continuation of government functions in the event of a catastrophic attack on Washington, DC. As it turns out, Daschle himself was taken to the secure facility on September 11. The juvenile mentality of the Democrats is best illustrated by the remarks of Democrat Congressman William Delahunt, who said, "What about us?"

So Senator Daschle and his Democrat cohorts falsely accuse the president of not telling them about the secure facility, then whine that they aren't included in the "shadow government". The real issue here is not that the president took sensible measures to ensure the viability of the Executive Branch (of which he is the head). Daschle and other congressional leaders have been made to look irresponsible by not taking similar measures to protect the Legislative Branch. This episode speaks more of bruised egos than it does about a concern for the continuation of government.

Having failed to develop an agenda with traction, Senator Daschle has decided to turn obstructionist. From his leadership position in the senate, Daschle has allowed the Democrats to block President Bush's judicial nominations, refused to consider an intelligent energy policy that would allow drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, and stalled an economic recovery plan that would cut taxes. Instead of being constructive, Daschle and the Democrats have tried to blame the Bush administration and tax cuts for the recession.

Senator Daschle's incoherent actions show that he is struggling to come up with a winning campaign theme for the fall elections. Although Daschle is not up for re-election in November, he knows that a net loss of one seat in the senate will cause his loss of the Majority Leader position. He has tried to attack the president on foreign policy and been blasted for his effort. Even on domestic policy, the president gets relatively high ratings (64 per cent in the same CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll), making it difficult for Daschle and the Democrats to attack on domestic issues - issues that normally favor the Democrats.

Senator Daschle is struggling to be relevant. In light of the president's popularity and approval, Daschle faces an uphill battle.

Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at clbloomer@enterstageright.com. © 2002 Charles Bloomer

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