Monthly Archives: August 2006

Dueling Protests

“Fraid I’ll have to miss this as vacation starts in the morning. I’ll be on the beach by the time it winds up.

A big protest is planned later today. I guess it’s in support of the Lebanese, or Arabs in general, or perhaps all Muslims, or, as I’m sure Dick Cheney would say, people who hate America. But Misha Galperin, executive vice president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, is not happy about its timing.

[His] group is not planning a counter-protest tomorrow, and Galperin said he believes the event was purposely scheduled on the Jewish Sabbath to thwart any response on its part.

Oh, I see. Were they supposed to hold it on Friday, so Muslims coulndn’t attend? Or perhaps on Sunday when Christians would be in church? Or maybe during the week, when no one could attend?

I swear, you couldn’t make thius stuff up.

On that note, I’m outta here.

Ignore the Bait

Charles Krauthammer’s piece in today’s Washington Post nicely sums up the arguements to be made against Democrats in the wake of Ned Lamont’s victory. It is the perfect bait: We are “anti-war.” He uses the term or “anti-Vietnam War” nine times in the short piece. The arguments, as neat as they are, are easily refuted. But I won’t go there. And neither should any Democrat. The last thing we need to be is defensive. Rather, it’s time to tell our own story, have confidence in it, and retell it as often as possible. That’s a little tougher challenge that refuting Mr. Krauthammer, but with much greater returns. And after all, when our opponents only narrative is “stay the course,” they’ve got both hands tied behind their backs.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s short post about the AP story outlining how both parties used yesterday’s terrorist scare to score political points, at least Lamont’s victory seems to have stiffen a few blue spines. That’s a good first step.

There’s a pretty good post at a blog I wasn’t aware of until yesterday. It lays out the Iraq challenge for Dems pretty well.

One, people are troubled by the war and that anxiety leads them to oppose the war in general…essentially they want to remove the anxiety and the easiest way is to oppose, or in other words, end the troubled war effort. Two, despite opposition to the war, a majority of people realize it is impractical to withdraw immediately, or in other words, while they don’t like the war, they realize it may have to continue for some period of time. Three, they still hold to the notion of winning the war regardless of their opposition and their desire to end the conflict.

… In the interest of achieving Democratic control of the House or the Senate, I am convinced that the Democratic Party and Ned Lamont must take the lead in proposing alternate and specific plans for a successful exit from Iraq. Should we allow Republicans to frame the topic, I fear Democrats may suffer the same fate that we encountered in 2004 when Rove and the RNC were able to portray the Democratic position as one inclined to concede defeat in Iraq and therefore a weakened position on national security and the war on terror…a position I’m convinced the American public is not yet willing to embrace and that I believe has been supported by polling data as well as the Connecticut outcome.

But this approach limits us to telling the public how we’ll fix George Bush’s mess. That’s too narrow a focus.

To negate Krauthammer’s “anti-war” frame, we need to explain how we would strengthen our military and how we would employ it. I have long argued that Iraq may have been the perfect country to invade and Saddam Hussein the perfect maniac to overthrow. But it was the wrong time because Iraqi Muslims weren’t ready for a revolution and certainly didn’t trust the U.S. to be their patron saint. (Besides, we were not done in Afghanistan.) Iraqis may well have accepted our military help, if we first had proven to them our appreciation of the core issues to Muslims throughout the Middle East. That would require our brokering a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and then our strong stance for democracies in those countries where the monarchies and dictators are still “our friends.” We need to make the case of why that approach is not “anti-war” but rather a practical approach that ensures our long-term security and our children’s freedom from fear.

Bush has already done most of the heavy lifting for us. His judgement in foreign affairs is so widely discredited, not by pundits and intellectuals but by Main Street Americans, that they are primed for an alternative. And to those who say that no amount of negotiation or diplomacy will stem the flow of arms from Iran to Syria to Lebanon or Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it should be clear to most that they would not have been so emboldened had the Iraq War proven our incapacity to stop them. The carrot and stick approach won’t work only because we no longer have a stick to wave. It’s proved flaccid.

I believe it’s Tom Friedman whose suggested that we need to go to Iran and Syria and ask, “What will it take?” They have a price. And for the right price, they will be willing to make some concessions that we want.

Whatever we offer, it will not be enough for the Islamic radicals. But right now our foreign policy is causing their number to multiply geometrically on an almost daily basis. Once we address their frustrated followers core issues, that number will shrink, making the employment of our military more effective. Right now, we’re just playing whack a mole and now we’re prohibiting water bottles on planes.

It’s a fundamental precept that in a political argument you never repeat your opponent’s charge. Let’s not say why we’re not anti-war, but what we are. In the three months to election day, we should be able to craft a narrative that resonates with voters. It will be defeatist nor anti-war. It should be a strong statement of our responsibilities in the world and our willingness to fight for them.

UPDATE: Fortunately, Democratic voices are not taking the bait, including Kevin Drum.

Go Dems!

Republicans and Democrats clashed over the war on terror on Thursday within hours of the disclosure of a thwarted terrorist plot in Britain, each side accusing the other of doing too little to deter the threat of attack.

“We must implement the strong recommendations of the independent 9/11 commission to improve airport security screening at checkpoints,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, stressing one of the party’s principal campaign-year promises in its drive to gain control of Congress.

Ohio Republicans said the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Rep. Sherrod Brown (news, bio, voting record), had voted against money “for the very types of programs that helped the British thwart these vicious attacks.”

“I don’t question his patriotism, but the fact is if Sherrod Brown had his way, America would be less safe,” said Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

Brown, who is challenging Republican Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record), mentioned the billions on the Iraq war and said the thwarted attacks “underscore the need to refocus our resources on fighting the war on terror.”

Bless them. The Dems on the offensive, not holding back for fear of politicizing the terror alert, as they surely would have been accused were it not for the GOP using it as well. And the AP gives them pretty much equal billing. What a difference a win makes.

Compromise or Capitulation?

The Washington Post editorial page has endorsed Joe Lieberman’s independent candidacy, saying that his brand of compromise is what today’s politics needs. It’s a similar call we hear from GOP mouthpieces.

Because Mr. Bush has governed too often in a partisan way, many Democratic voters concluded that anyone who reached across the aisle in an effort to cooperate must be a sap. In such an environment, party orthodoxy comes to matter more than accomplishment; any assumption of good faith on the other side becomes a sign of weakness.

… Compromise is not the equivalent of weakness, and Mr. Lieberman is no sap. He is a person of strong views who believes in listening to those who disagree with him and, if possible, finding common ground. The alternative is gridlock. Mr. Lieberman’s brand of centrism and bipartisanship is a needed salve for a divided country, which could use more such lawmakers, not fewer.

Too often? How about “always”? Finding common ground? With this administration and this Congress?

In fact, any Democrat willing to find middle ground with the Bushies usually winds up in no man’s land. This Congress doesn’t even allow Democrats on conference committees, and they have for 12 years exercised the most partisan and often underhanded tactics to achieve a radical agenda.

But the entire reasoning is a canard, and I suspect The Post editors know it, though they may be in denial. Lamont’s victory wasn’t because Lieberman attempted to compromise with Republicans but because he held some fundamental views that are anathema to mainstream Democrats and perhaps Americans in general, such as his support for the Iraq War and warrantless wiretapping and the GOP’s cynical ploy in the Terri Schiavo case.

He lost not because he was willing to compromise but that he was unwilling to fight for the principles of the party that nominated him as vice president.

There is no indication that given, for example, a comprehensive plan to provide universal healthcare in this country that Ned Lamont would be unwilling to compromise on the details. He may also be willing to compromise on the timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, but agreeing to stay the disastrous course isn’t compromise, it’s capitulation.

If anything, Lamont’s victory is a call to Republicans to recognize that Bush won a narrow victory and that they need to begin compromising.

And by his attempt to run as an independent, Lieberman is proving that he is without principle and stands only for his own interests. And now it appear, he will get Republican support for his campaign.

Rep. Chris Shays, the Connecticut Republican whose seat is a target for the Democrats this year, told [David Broder] the morning after the primary that he is supporting Lieberman and thinks he can win a three-way race against Lamont and the weak Republican challenger, Alan Schlesinger. Other prominent Republicans are also poised to back Lieberman and raise money for him.

Last night’ cable show talking heads seemed to think Lieberman’s toughest challenge now will be raising money, as Democrats quietly tell their contributors to support Lamont.

But Lieberman has $2 million leftover and may have reliable sources.

Pro-Israel money will help give Joe Lieberman the ability to run a serious race if he sticks with his vow to make an independent bid to keep his Senate seat, according to political insiders and some pro-Israel donors themselves.

This support, they said, will counterbalance the evaporation of political backing Lieberman will now likely experience from his Democratic Party colleagues with the victory Tuesday of his primary opponent in Connecticut, Ned Lamont.

“I think the pro-Israel political action committees, and even more so, pro-Israel individuals will give their money to Lieberman,” said Steven Rabinowitz, a Democratic campaign consultant specializing in the Jewish community who is backing Lieberman’s independent bid. “They’ll raise a lot of money, which will enable him to run an independent campaign. If he gets out, it won’t be because he can’t raise the money.”

Jack Bendheim, a pro-Israel activist who supported Lieberman financially in the primary agreed, saying, “I think he’ll have the resources he needs.”

No question that Lieberman is a staunch Israel supporter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jewish donors will forsake the Democratic nominee.

During the primary campaign, Lamont attacked Lieberman relentlessly for his unstinting support of the war in Iraq. But Lamont also voiced his support for Israel, and for its controversial military campaign in Lebanon against Hezbollah in particular.

Still, some noted with concern Lamont’s decision to give his late-night victory speech Tuesday flanked by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Jesse Jackson, who are viewed in some sectors of the community as unfriendly to Israel.

“I think that was a poignant picture that tingled down everyone’s spine,” said David Baram, president of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut. “Seeing that array of supporters, for some of us who know how these individuals see Israel, it’s of grave concern to us.”

Baram, a former mayor of Bloomfield, Conn., and chairman of the town’s Democratic Party committee, also voiced concern about Lamont’s call in his victory speech for greater “respect” for the views of U.S. allies in shaping American foreign policy “as opposed to exercising American leadership.” Given the international community’s “belligerence” towards Israel, this was worrying, he said.

Rabinowitz termed Lamont’s victory pose with Sharpton, Jackson and Waters “unfortunate” but said, “They’re hardly the defining backers in his race.”

Mark Silk, executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., said the effect on Connecticut Jewish voters would be minimal. “I can imagine some Jewish voters twitched a bit to see the Lamont campaign with Jesse and Sharpton. But Connecticut voters are pretty sophisticated. They understand an endorsement doesn’t matter that much,” said Silk.

Even Baram admitted a significant portion of the Jewish community — particularly younger voters — appeared to have opted for Lamont, in no small part on the strength of his stand against the Bush administration on the war in Iraq.

The next poll on the three-way race and the Clintons’ next move thereafter may be key.

Lamont was impressive last night on “Hardball.” He comes across as articulate, principled and dedicated to change, much like many Republicans who came into office in 1994. And I suspect, he’ll compromise with them as well as they compromise with him. Which is how it should be.


Another frustrated Bush administration Secretary of State?

As Ms. Rice has struggled with the Middle East crisis over the last four weeks, she has found herself trying to be not only a peacemaker abroad but also a mediator among contending parties at home.

Washington’s resistance to an immediate cease-fire and its staunch support of Israel have made it more difficult for Ms. Rice to work with other nations, including some American allies, as they search for a formula that will end the violence and produce a durable cease-fire.

Get Human

Ever get frustrated when you can’t get a human when calling a company for customer service?

Here’s how!

De-constructing Lamont-Lieberman

“All Things Considered” just had E.J. Dionne and David Brooks, their regular commentators, discussing the Connecticut primary. Dionne says Lieberman’s Sunday speech about his position on the Iraq War, given a month earlier, might have won him the election. I agree.

He also said the GOP charge that the election proves there’s no room for moderates in the Democratic Party is absurd, unless you also agree that the defeat of the GOP incumbent Congressman Joe Schwarz in Michigan means there’s no room for moderates in the Republican Party.

Finally, he points out that calling someone a “moderate” who supports the radical notion of a pre-emptive war in Iraq is also ironic, and I would say, at best.

(The conversation will be available on NPR’s web site around 7:30 p.m.)

Minority Districts

Last month I wrote about a Democratic, white, congressional candidate who was being criticized because he was competing in an historically black Brooklyn district. (The 11th district primary in New York is Sept. 12.) I raised the point about whether blacks office holders in Virginia’s General Assembly might agree to some redistricting that would make their seats less safe (but by no means make them underdogs) in exchange for making other seats that are now reliably Republican more competitive for Democrats.

In the current issue of Democratic Strategist, that topic is covered, with similar questions being asked.

Regardless of their race or the racial composition of their districts, far too many Democrats in the U.S. House are representing too-safe districts, a reality which prevents the party from maximizing its House seat share. The “unholy alliance” forged between Republicans and minority Democrats led to the election of more CBC and CHC members to Congress, but also more Republicans. As well, many white Democrats enjoy unusual electoral security. A new alliance between white and minority Democrats must be forged, with the goal of redrawing the 2012 maps to enable Democrats to recapture-or, if already recaptured, retain-a House majority.

…[I]n Georgia, for example, where the congressional delegation in 1990 had eight white Democrats, one black Democrat, and one Newt Gingrich, after redistricting, there were three black Democrats and eight Newt Gingrich clones. Since the white Dems had to pay close attention to their black constituents prior to redistricting, while the Gingrichites did not afterwards, are African-Americans better represented under this arrangement? Maybe, maybe not — it depends how important you think it is to have a person of the same race representing you in Washington, as opposed to someone who needs to pay attention to you.

…Rep. John Lewis, who holds that one Atlanta seat that has been African-American since Andrew Young won it in 1972, has been a leader in making the point that if Congress is led by a majority that is hostile to African-Americans, it really doesn’t matter if they have a handful more members of the minority caucus.

This is a discussion that needs to happen in Virginia. I don’t know that there are black districts that can be safely gerrymandered to protect both the incumbent and add a competitive district for another Democrat. But it’s worth a look. With the inordinate power the House Black Caucus seems to hold over the leadership, it will be a challenge to even bring up the question.

After a trip to the woodshed, I’ve learned that black members of the Virginia General Assembly have opposed “packed” minority districts as a dilution of minority voting rights. From a brief supporting a challenge to the state’s 2001 redistricting plan, the implication drawn (see comments) is that they (today, all are Democrats) would welcome redistricting that would dilute the number of black voters in their districts. If that implication is correct, it bodes well for the next redistricting, assuming Democrats have greater input into the process than they had in the last one and that redrawn districts would increase the chances of more Democrats being elected.