A twin blessing for a party in dire need
By Michael M. Bates
Things aren't going well for the Republicans. They control the White House and Congress, yet still appear adrift much of the time. Their longtime reputation as the party of fiscal restraint is in serious jeopardy. President Bush's approval ratings are headed in the wrong direction. His Social Security offensive is on the defensive. Presidential nominees are held up in the Senate.
A grim scenario indeed for the GOP. They'd be in even more serious trouble if it weren't for a couple of Democratic leaders who seemingly never weary of demonstrating they're at least one enchilada short of a combination plate.
From the East we have Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean. Gov. Dean was well on his way to locking up his party's presidential nomination when a funny thing happened. People started paying attention to him.
The blemishes, always there, gradually became more visible. He said he'd voted against a Congressional resolution on Iraq. One slight problem with that assertion: He'd never been a member of Congress.
Howlin' Howard pretty much self-detonated in his "I Have a Scream" speech. Primal therapy may have a place, but it's not in front of a national audience. So it was that Dean lost the nomination to a man who only months before trailed Al Sharpton among Democratic voters.
There was one area in which the former Vermont governor clearly outpaced his primary rivals. Dr. Dean successfully raised enormous amounts of money, the mother's milk of politics.
This talent and Dean's demand for a Democratic return to unadulterated liberalism made him the obvious choice for chairman of his party. Tossing red meat to true believers is a job requirement he can execute with gusto.
For Howard Dean, simply charging that Republicans are wrong on most issues is a woefully inadequate approach. No, he must constantly question their motives and character. They're "corrupt." They're "brain dead." In his mind, "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."
"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for," says Dean. And you suspect he had to dial down his emotional thermometer just to reach the hate level.
Recently at the Massachusetts state convention, he said House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tx) ought to go back to Texas to serve his jail sentence. This is rather a stretch since Mr. DeLay hasn't even been indicted for anything, let along convicted.
Hypocritically, in the same speech Dean also declared: "It is incredibly important that we stick solely to issues and not get into personalities." Thanks for leading the way, Howie.
From the West we have Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Evidently an enthusiastic aficionado of the Howard Dean School of Advanced Civility, Reid has called Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan a political hack. This makes me wonder what Harry thinks of Bill Clinton, who as president reappointed Mr. Greenspan to his post.
The senator alleged that Clarence Thomas is an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. This was so far over the top that it won him a reprimand from the slightly-to-the-left-of-Kim Jung Il Congressional Black Caucus.
Senator Reid has suggested President Bush isn't honest and recently called him "a loser." This was after he accused the White House and Republicans of being drunk with power.
Earlier this month Reid took to the Senate floor to decry a Bush judicial appointment. All any senator had to do to know there was a problem with the nominee, charged the Silver State's gift to the Republic, was look at his confidential FBI file.
The problem with that is Reid is neither on the Judiciary Committee nor from the nominee's home state. Consequently, he himself does not have access to the confidential FBI file. This didn't constrain him from deceitfully smearing a judge with "information" he's never seen.
It's not going to take long for Americans -- even those in the blue states -- to understand that the dynamic duo of Dean and Reid really do represent what the Democratic Party is all about. I hope they get more air time than Jesse Jackson.
Strident rhetoric, innuendo and constant personal attacks may appeal to the ideologues, but they won't attract many undecided voters.
Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Michael Deaver combined couldn't have helped the GOP as much as this pair. All they need is a couple of lampshades.
Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This story appeared in the May 19, 2005 Oak Lawn (IL) Reporter.
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