The administration has reiterated over and over again that this "war on terror" entails sacrifices, but its actions have clearly shown that its political and corporate backers will shoulder none of that burden. . . . [T]he Democratic Party's challenge is to take each of these gross abuses and build upon the last one -- the same way the GOP hammered home the "Gore is liar" theme. None of these incidents by themselves will expose the GOP for the facilitator of corporate corruption that it is, but with deft handling Democrats can help make the case.
Much as I hate to part company, I see things differently. The Democrats' real challenge is to keep the party from forever getting sidetracked by the White House outrage of the day™.
Think about it: the Bush administration is always pulling these ridiculous stunts. Last week it was forests. Now it's bonuses. If it's Tuesday, it must be Kissinger. [Or maybe Poindexter].
Do the Democrats have the energy and focus to effectively nail the White House on each and every one of those issues? Ummm, no. The party couldn't even manage enough moxie to keep from making turnovers on both homeland security and a Sept. 11th commission this year — even though Democrats owned those issues for most of the year.
So forget the details. Whatever time we spend chasing around for the killer issue -- the one we can use to rouse the rebellion against Bush -- amounts to that much less time we've spent painting a big picture that shows just what, exactly, we would do better. Which allows Bush to depict Democrats as carpers with no productive ideas of their own. [Sound familiar?]
Besides, Bush picks his issues well. There's hardly any profit in taking him on about paying bonuses to the connected while stiffing the civil service rabble. It's great for the Democrats to have federal workers in their corner, but do the people in Congress who wrote a joint letter to the president really think they can stir up an outcry over the minutiae of federal compensation?
As long as we're always complaining about Bush, we're debating on his terms. Let's make him debate on ours.
A Post Before Bedtime Just got back from trading litigation war stories with an old law school friend over at Manuel's Tavern and the Ponce de Leon Krispy Kreme. It was an interesting conversation. Some of my feelings about the time I spent in private practice are still unresolved, but whenever I catch up with friends who stayed in the trenches, I feel like I made the right decision. It's not like I miss the job, after all -- just the money. =,
Of course, if all my friends keep quitting the firms they work for, who's going to pay the bill when we go out for drinks? Me?! Jeez o' pete . . .
Here's a funny anecdote: before the rest of the night's shenanigans, I stopped at Emory hospital to see a friend who broke her ankle over the weekend while rollerblading. [Get better soon, Emmy.] The thing is, she's a nurse. At Emory Hospital. So guess what floor they checked her in on? Hers.
The staff's been giving her a good natured ribbing ever since she got in — understandable, considering that she left her shift a nurse short. On the other hand, she's been having a grand ol' time pushing that red button.
Overinterpretation Some Republicans are getting a little ahead of themselves in reading the results of the election as some sort of all-encompassing mandate. Some in Congress see it as a license to rush forward and privatize Social Security. Georgia's Michael Bowers goes a step further: he calls the GOP upset "a vote against the entire way that things have been done . . . for the past 130 years."
As for Social Security: yes, I suppose we could call the result a mandate for privatization . . . if the GOP hadn't run screaming away from the concept every time it was brought up. The party bent itself into rhetorical pretzels insisting, often all at once:
that privatization could undermine Social Security — and voters should blame Democrats for the whole cockamamie scheme.
Now, politics is politics. It's understandable that Republicans couldn't bring themselves to utter a syllable in defense of privatization in mid-campaign; if they had, the voters would have clobbered them. Still, after running for the hills when privatization came under attack — and then disowning the concept — it takes chutzpah for Republicans to say that the public was with the party on privatization all along. Even the Republicans weren't with the Republicans.
But don't count on that stopping the privatization caucus from having a wicked good time. As Reagan once said: "[f]acts are stupid things."
He Must Be Joking Has anyone else had it up to here with Ari Fleischer? He couldn't manage to let President Clinton say a few words about White House antiterrorism efforts yesterday without rushing to make this response:
There is a longstanding tradition of presidents, after they leave office, honoring the dignity of the office by not attacking their successors in this manner.
Well, as memory serves, there's also a longstanding tradition of presidents dealing with problems without dubiously blaming their predecessors — but Ari once did a two-step all over that one. Why the sudden concern about the dignity of the office now?
If the White House wants the benefit of common courtesy, it might try extending some every once in a while. Just a thought.
Whose Government? The president made a comment the other day that made my blood boil (I know, that's rare):
Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans.
My government? Wait a minute — did I fall asleep and wake up in Britain?
To anyone who hails from the U.K. — where the chief executive comes from the legislature, and the legislature runs the courts — the statement "my government" might make rudimentary sense. But in the states, where — as the president may remember from civics class — the Constitution splits the government into three independent branches, the government no more belongs to George Bush than to William Rehnquist. (In fact, given the circumstances that led the president to the White House, one could argue that Bush has a lesser claim than Rehnquist.)
The Rebel Flag Ruse Rural Georgia voters who thought electing Sonny Perdue was tantamount to returning the Confederate battle emblem to the state flag may want to keep their champagne corked. The Republican Party, it seems, forgot to give people the full story.
Before Perdue can hold a referendum on the flag, you see, he has to tend to a detail: the state constitution. Nowhere in its language, it seems, can anyone find language allowing voters to have their say on laws by way of a statewide referendum. In fact, it turns out that a former state attorney general — in a letter to the governor published in 1993* — dismissed the idea wholesale, writing that "a statewide referendum would be an abdication of the exclusive authority of the General Assembly to enact laws."
Who wrote that letter? Michael Bowers, a Democrat-turned-Republican who occasionally advised the Perdue campaign. Unless he was suffering from amnesia, Bowers had to know Perdue's call for a flag referendum was an empty promise. Either he didn't mention that to Perdue — which makes the governor-elect look negligent for failing to run a basic question like that past an attorney — or Perdue knew he couldn't deliver on the promise but kept making it, which makes him look shameless.
To put the flag question on the ballot, Perdue would need to convince two-thirds of each house of the legislature to amend Georgia's constitution. He can try that — but the state House of Representatives is still Democratic, and in the Senate, the GOP only holds a majority of four seats. That's hardly a recipe for a landslide.
If Democrats are smart, though — well, unprincipled and smart — they would give Perdue his vote. While keeping the flag issue bottled up at the state capitol gives Republicans a chance to blame rural white Democrats for thwarting the will of the people, putting the flag to a vote forces suburban Atlanta-area Republicans to sell their Connecticut and Illinois-bred constituents on the importance of their "Confederate heritage." Good luck.
Democrats have played defense on the Confederate flag for long enough. It'd be nice to watch the Republicans sweat over it for once.
What Have I Done?! I've spent so much time away from the keyboard that poor, decrepit Tim Jarrett actually felt compelled to blog about politics. [Happy birthday, Tim!] We can't have that — I mean, that's a little like RuPaul blogging about birdwatching.* So let me get back to holding up my end of the division of labor, before John Ashcroft gives him an aneurysm.