Dec. 10th, 2003


Dec. 10th, 2003 11:31 am
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There are two kinds of Democrats in George W. Bush's America: those who are on the outside and know it, and those who are on the outside and don't. And the peculiar fascination of the Democratic presidential campaign is to watch the interplay between these two groups.

It is the Bush White House and the Republican Congress that set up this dynamic. By winning office with a negative 540,000-vote margin and then proceeding to govern in the most relentlessly partisan fashion from the right, the president has made unmistakably clear that the concerns of Democrats are of no interest to him. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the Republican leadership relies solely on Republican votes to get its measures passed, going so far as to exclude mainstream Democrats from conference committees. When America's new laws are to be negotiated, Republicans talk only to themselves.

Disastrously, it's been the Democrats in Congress who've been the slowest to pick up on their new marginality. Some of the Democrats who voted to authorize the Iraq war in October 2002 did so -- or say they did so -- in hopes of prodding Bush to embrace a more multilateral approach toward Iraq.

Call this the Tony Blair Fallacy -- both the prime minister and our own legislators failed to realize that Bush wanted only their permission, not their advice. And this year it was Ted Kennedy -- long the wisest liberal head on the Hill -- who calculated that the Medicare bill would grow more palatable the longer it was deliberated. In any previous Congress, that could well have been the case. In this Congress, however, no Democrats are allowed into the deliberations that matter.

Today the Democrats finally have a legislative leader -- San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi, who heads the party in the House -- who understands that dealmaking with the likes of Tom DeLay is a chimera, and that the business of the Democrats is to oppose. The overwhelming vote of House Democrats against the Medicare bill is testimony to her success. Her tenure casts a cold light on that of her predecessor, Dick Gephardt, who, in his eight years as minority leader, never assembled a united opposition to the malignant follies of Gingrich and DeLay.

While the nation's Democratic leaders were unable to understand just how marginal they'd become, however, millions of rank-and-file Democrats and just plain disgruntled Bush-haters intuitively grasped what was going on. Bush was bent on repealing the New Deal and replacing the internationalist order that the United States had erected after World War II with a more nationalist vision of his own. If you weren't with him, you were against him. And he was against you...
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Schwarzenegger transition team member and Fox News Political Analyst Susan Estrich explains to Al Gore about loyalty. Specifically, she's disturbed by his lack of loyalty to Joe Lieberman (notwithstanding the fact that of the two Gore at least waited until after the recount issue was settled before withdrawing his support for his partner's bid for president).
ESTRICH: Well, I was really, very disappointed by Al Gore's decision. I think, first of all, Joseph Lieberman deserved better. Gore himself was, at various points, very troubled by questions of loyalty, of Bill Clinton. And you know, you have to ask yourself why didn't he wait two months? I mean all he had to do, as a leader of the Democratic Party, as Joseph Lieberman's former running mate, was to wait two months, give voters a chance to vote.

Dean is the front-runner. I think all the smart money says that he'll probably win Iowa, almost certainly win New Hampshire. And at that point, Brit, as a leader, Gore could have stood up at a critical point in the process and said now it is time to come together.

But to jump out ahead of everybody else, step on his former running mate, kick Dick Gephardt, who carried the Clinton-Gore agenda for years in the House, put his ambitions aside in 2000 to endorse Al Gore, just seemed to me not the right move for Al Gore or for the party, for that matter.

HUME: But if he had waited, would his endorsement meant as much to a nominee or to a candidate in a person of Dean whose candidacy would be much further advanced by two months from now, say?

ESTRICH: Well, meant as much in what respect, I mean...

HUME: Well, adding to momentum.

ESTRICH: I guess it -- I guess the answer would be no. Would it have meant something different, all right? You know, what is Gore bringing today? It increases his sense of inevitability. Sure, if you're Joe Trippe, the campaign manager, you love the greater sense of inevitability. It will make it very tough for the other guys to raise money. So yes, it helps in that way.

On the other hand, I can make the case if you are trying to be a party leader, that what leaders do is stay neutral until the voters get a chance to actually vote and then pull the party together at that critical moment. And you know, if you look at it from Al Gore's perspective, I mean here he is, the former vice president. He hardly wants an ambassadorship, a cabinet job. I mean what is he looking for, kingmaker credit?

I'm seeing here that Ms. Estrich has a little trouble putting herself in the mindset of someone who might be interested in the Democrats winning the election.

You may have noticed that in the last race as well.


Dec. 10th, 2003 05:03 pm
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I guess we have to cut costs somewhere to be able to afford to pay Halliburton's rakeoff.
Plans to deploy the first battalion of Iraq's new army are in doubt because a third of the soldiers trained by the U.S.-led occupation authority have quit, defense officials said Wednesday.

Touted as a key to Iraq's future, the 700-man battalion lost some 250 men over recent weeks as they were preparing to begin operations this month, Pentagon officials said.

''We are aware that a third ... has apparently resigned and we are looking into that in order to ensure that we can recruit and retain high-quality people for a new Iraqi army,'' said Lt. Col. James Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman.

The battalion was highly celebrated when the newly retrained soldiers, marching to the beat of a U.S. Army band, completed a nine-week basic training course in early October. The graduates, including 65 officers, were to be the core ''of an army that will defend its country and not oppress it,'' Iraq's American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, said at the ceremony.

It was uncertain exactly why a third abandoned their new jobs, though some had complained that the starting salary $60 a month for privates was too low, officials said. The Chicago Tribune, which first reported the resignations, quoted officials in Baghdad as saying soldiers were angry after comparing their pay with the salaries of other forces. Iraqi police are paid $60 a month and the Civil Defense Corps $50, officials have said.

Others may have feared threats from insurgents who have targeted Iraqis cooperating with occupation authorities, one Defense Department official said...

Of course, we're paying our soldiers more than that, and as long as there's no Iraqi force our soldiers can't leave, and they'll die, and it's not our money to begin with, but you really do have to save money somewhere, right?



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