Tuesday :: Apr 29, 2003

Democrats Toss Pies and Look Less Presidential


by Steve

As I indicated last week, I was imploring the Democratic candidates, especially Howard Dean at the time, to follow Reagan’s 11th commandment: thou shall not speak ill of a fellow candidate in the same party. I was worried of course that the media would spend more time covering the mud-slinging amongst the Democrats that they would what the Democrats said about President Bush.

Regrettably, it has only gotten worse since I made that plea, and ABC’s The Note today devoted almost a third of their column to covering the brickbats between the Kerry and Dean campaigns over recent quotes from Dean and the Kerry campaign’s (sometimes) overreaction to those comments. The column notes that there are some that feel Dean has spent a lot of time on the attack, and more ominously, the column seems to postulate that the recent exchanges show that the Dean campaign isn’t up to the supposed level of the Kerry campaign and is losing these exchanges. All this is covered as the typical horse race story that the media specializes in, while failing to cover matters of substance or policy.

As a Kerry supporter who enjoyed his exchanges last week with the Dean supporters who took issue with my “Governor, please pipe down” request, you would think that I am glad that the conventional wisdom crowd inside the beltway is writing such stories in advance of the big debate this Saturday in South Carolina. After all, a Kerry supporter like myself should like to read such stuff puffing up his candidate at the expense of another Democrat. But I am not glad at this turn of events.

First, my Pollyanna hopes for a more civil debate between the Democrats and focused fire against Bush are apparently for naught. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, and with the media rooting the Dean/Kerry fight onward like drunks betting on a cockfight, there is little hope that either candidate will see any good reason to rein it in from this point on. And this will not only misdirect energy away from attacks against the real opponent in this race (Bush), but it will allow other Democrats to stay out of it and above the fray while Dean and Kerry engage in a fight to the finish.

Second, another problem I have with this girly pillow-fight between Dean and Kerry is that it represents nothing except “inside baseball” so to speak. This is the kind of pie-throwing that the press loves to cover that means so little to most voters. These fights between Dean and Kerry right now are a pathetic substitute for the one thing any of these guys need to do right now to emerge as an alternative to Bush: outline a credible national security and foreign policy approach.

Oh sure, it may be fun for the Kerry campaign to sling mud at Dean and vice-versa. But have either of these guys laid out a “Kerry Doctrine” or “Dean Doctrine” of how they would approach the world, our allies, the current threats facing this country, and how they would be different from Bush? Have any of them given the voters any reason to feel comfortable with them in the White House handling the world? Have any of them laid out a vision for the world and our role in it that plays to the weaknesses of Bush’s Pax Americana? Have any of these candidates sold voters on how he/she “gets” what happened to us on 9/11 and how they would simultaneously keep us as safe from threats as possible while exposing the GOP’s manipulation of a climate of fear? Have any of them said that they accept the world as Bush has manipulated it and told us how they would proceed from here, instead of refighting the Iraq war and how we got here?

Until any of these guys do these things, none of them will emerge from the pack as a credible opponent to Bush. None of them will make voters think of them as presidential. And most importantly, until they do these things, none of them will be able to talk about domestic issues and score points against Bush on his true weaknesses.

So guys, would one of you please show me why you are presidential material in the world that George W. Bush has delivered us into? We don’t have to agree with, or like what Bush has done with the world. But one of these guys had better stop throwing pies and start telling us how they would lead from this point on while acknowledging that the world has changed and they are prepared to lead it better than Bush has done. If they don’t, voters beyond our base aren’t going to care about whose health plan is better, or who gets the best treatment in the press.

Let’s hear a comprehensive foreign policy and vision for how a post 9/11 America fits into this New World. Let’s hear a “doctrine.”

In other words, let’s hear from a legitimate contender.

Steve :: 9:59 PM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!