Monday :: Mar 20, 2006

Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees

by pessimist

I don't know how much plainer life can make the opportunity facing the Democrats in order for them to recognize it - and act upon it.

With the majority of people recently polled by Time Magazine describing King George as "incompetent", one has to ask (in a most exasperated tone) Why Doesn't the Democratic Leadership in Congress Start Holding Bush Accountable for Crimes Against the Nation, Instead of Getting Upset with Feingold for Being Outraged? When asked, U.S. voters want Democrats in power!

What is it going to take? Only a few of the Democrats seem to understand the nature of the crisis. Senator Durbin backs up Feingold's motives on censure on television Sunday, and Senator Harkin supports Bush censure.

But that seems to be it. For all the talk about Hillary seeking the 2008 nomination, this would be a perfect time to step out fraont and make a stand, much as Bobby Kennedy did in 1968. But the heat in the kitchen must be too much for her, as she isn't willing to take a step in that direction.

Some leader! I hope this ends the wishful thinking on the part of our wrong-wing friends that she runs!

Timidity runs rampant among the too-loyal Opposition-In-Name-Only. For instance, Senators Leahy and Jeffords support hearings on Feingold censure proposal.

HEARINGS! That is like holding the Viagra in your hands to see if it works before you swallow it!

It doesn't stop there.

With all of the issues the Democrats could be using to establish that King George is bad for America, why did John Kerry decide to pick this one?

Bush failing to meet 2007 fast Internet goals, Kerry chides

There is no debate - nor anyone to debate a sure loser:

Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments

Straw men have made more frequent appearances in recent months, often on national security — once Bush's strong suit with the public but at the center of some of his difficulties today. The president has relied on straw men, too, on the topics of taxes and trade, issues he hopes will work against Democrats in this fall's congressional elections.

Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed "critics," is just as problematic. A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent.

What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."
Said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, "You would expect people to do that as they feel more threatened."

But threatened by whom? The Democrats are only lately successful at threatening themselves! In a must-win district in Illinois, two fairly strong Democratic candidates are facing each other in a race only one can win.

And what of the Senate Minority Leader? Why are we not hearing more from him than this?

Maybe Reid is Starting to Understand Messaging

Senate Democrats have mapped a political battle plan for the March congressional recess that calls on lawmakers to stage press events with active duty military personnel, veterans and emergency responders to bash President Bush on virtually every one of his national security policies. The game plan, devised by the office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is contained in a six-page memo distributed to Democratic senators on Thursday at a closed-door meeting at the Capitol and provided to The Washington Times by a congressional staffer.
In almost every issue in the Reid memo, Democratic lawmakers are called upon to criticize the president for not spending enough federal dollars.

Hey, Reid! Ever hear of something called the deficit??? It's this little item that you guys just made a whole lot bigger!!! And then, to add insult to injury, you guys went and made the whole situation worse! It makes you look really bad, especially in light of the explanation your aide offers:

Jim Manley, Mr. Reid's spokesman, said "It's an effort to paint the White House and the Republican Congress as having a failed effort on national security issues, which is a direct result of their misplaced priorities and mismanagement."

I'm guessing that you don't have a clue, and I'm very disappointed in you and your so-called leadership.

Over at the The Last Chance Democracy Cafe, author Steven C. Day reminds us that history presents examples that entrenched Republicans can be unseated:

Why not Maine?

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith was once thought to be an unbeatable icon in Maine, but in 1972 she was defeated by Democratic Congressman William Hathaway, and that happened back before Maine became dependably Democratic in presidential elections. Now, there were special issues at play with Smith, who was extremely elderly at the time and had become badly out of touch with the state; but it does highlight the indisputable fact that in the right election year, even untouchables can sometimes fall.

According to the latest Survey USA report, in only two states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, is George W. Bush more unpopular than he is in Maine, where he clocks in with a whopping 28 percent favorable rating, against 71 percent unfavorable.  And the fact is, even more than with some of the other so-called moderate GOP senators, Olympia Snowe has been carrying George W. Bush’s water ever since he came into office.

Given how unpopular Bush is in the Vacation State, it’s hard for me to believe that a well financed campaign built around unmasking Snowe as the closest Bush bagwoman she is, wouldn’t have the potential to cut seriously into her considerable popularity, putting the seat into play.

And putting seats into play is the key to the Democrats retaking Congress.

Another thing - you are dealing with people for whom values are very important. You Dems just might want to take a few notes from this post, which I excerpt here:

The Value of Values: An excerpt from the Rockridge Manual for Progressives.
More resources from this project can be found here.

Values come up again and again in political discussion. In fact, we like to believe that all public policy is the realization of our values in the social sphere. Candidates are pressed to identify and talk about their values and are flayed in debate for not voicing them with clarity and conviction...

Values are guiding principles of behavior. Some of these values have to do with comport (integrity, discipline), some with communication (honesty, truthfulness). Still others relate to basic beliefs about people (freedom, equality, worth). Some have to do with comparative treatment of others, with judgment or action in the distribution of resources or punishments (justice, equity).

Despite their centrality in discussions of public policy, and their importance in stirring the sympathy and support of the American electorate, many values are undefined or underspecified, their meanings shifting depending on the speaker and situation. Take 'fair', for example. We’ve been told since childhood that 'life is not fair', but what does that mean? Fair is in the eyes of the apportioner. Conservatives see supportive social policies as an unfair allocation of unearned resources, while for progressives such programs are a critical step to creating a fair society.

One of the most salient differences between the conservative and progressive interpretation of values is that conservatives typically understand values with respect to the individual, while progressives typically see them as fundamentally social.

This crucial insight explains why certain values are more central to one side of the political spectrum than the other. Core conservative values (such as self-discipline, tradition, independence) are guiding principles for individual actions, while central progressive values (like empathy, progress, diversity) are seen as guiding how we structure our communities. This difference originates in a divergence of underlying assumptions about how the world should, and does, work.

The overarching conservative prescription for the state is preservation of the moral order: hence, marriage restrictions, abolishment of the endangered species act, and the “three strikes” law.

The overarching progressive prescription for the state is ensuring the commonwealth for the common good: hence, public education, social security, and transportation infrastructure.

The application of these contested values results in a direct clash in the perceived role of government.

I have just one final piece of evidence to give to the Democrats that this is their time and they had better take advantage of it while they can: the people of this very Red town in a very Blue state have a very clear perception of the role of government - and also that the role isn't being met with performance on the part of Bu$hCo:

Bush Visits My Hometown -- You Got Trouble, My Friends!
Michael Winship, Writers Guild of America Award winner and former writer with Bill Moyers, writes a weekly column for the Messenger Post Newspapers in upstate New York.

Bush knew he'd be on turf not entirely hostile to his message; New York State is the deepest blue but the region is Republican (nonetheless, Canandaigua has an eight-term Democratic mayor, a 2/3 Democratic city council and went for John Kerry in 2004, but by fewer than a hundred votes). Nor are most of the city's elderly getting the worst of the Medicare prescription plan. Ferris Hills is a very high-end senior facility, with apartments ranging from $1569 to $3000 a month. Few, if any, of those "dual eligibles" -- the poorest and sickest covered by both Medicaid and Medicare, the ones who have been the most hammered by Part D -- live there.

One of the local pharmacists, Janet Tenreiro, who was invited to attend but not be on the panel might have told the president, as she said to the Canandaigua paper, "To have a plan that people don't understand or may not need, why should they be forced to sign up [by a set deadline]? When eventually they do need one, they will be faced with a one percent per month penalty on the premium. That's not right."

I wish there had been questions like Janet Tenreiro's. In fact, ANY questions. None were allowed (have there been any at these town halls since that kid in Kansas asked Bush if he'd seen "Brokeback Mountain?").

At the southern end of Canandaigua Lake is the village of Naples, which has an annual Grape Festival. Among the delicacies offered are grape pies, the best of which are said to be made by Jane Gentner. Last year, Congressman Kuhl sent one of her pies to the White House. She received a thank you note from chief of staff Andy Card, who allegedly shared a slice with the president.

The congressman's office wanted a pie for the president's visit. Nothing doing, said Gentner. She and her husband were headed off in their RV for a NASCAR race in Georgia. "I have tickets bought and everything," she explained. "It's not something I can put off."

This is what happens when your popularity hits 36% -- even the NASCAR families desert you.

And as I pointed out recently, country music fans are departing the ranks of Bu$hCo devotees as well.

Lastly, the Democrats have a role-model within their emeritus ranks:

Who would have guessed that Jimmy Carter is great at selling his book?

As a president, Jimmy Carter was famous for being a micromanager, fussing over the day-to-day details of his administration. Three decades later, as a book author, those same qualities have helped him to become a publishing juggernaut. Since leaving office, Mr. Carter has written 18 books. The most recent, "Our Endangered Values," debuted Nov. 20 on the New York Times best-seller list at No. 1. Five of his last six titles have also hit the list. His secret in cracking the famously cutthroat and unpredictable publishing industry: He is a versatile writer and a relentless marketer. He has even figured out the best way to handle book signings, using the shorthand signature "J Carter" -- an economy that saves him several seconds per customer.
All this has enabled him to expand far beyond his liberal base,
striking a chord with readers disappointed in his presidency.

Reaching beyond the allegedly liberal base is what the Democrats need to learn! Carter has found some success in doing so:

Even readers who weren't admirers of his presidency say they find his books to be enjoyable.

In a superficial sense, maybe that's all we need to convey to those who cling to Owwer Leedur even though it's clear he's such an incompetent zero. Try it - you'll like it!

It just might work. What have you got to lose that you haven't already?

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