BUSH’S BRAINS

John Nichols writes: Bush/Cheney ’04, the President’s election campaign, is supposed to be the smartest, smoothest political operation since Reagan/Bush in 1984. But the campaign stumbled when it aired television ads that featured images of the dead being removed from Ground Zero. The Bush team knew it would take hits for branding the President as the 9/11 candidate but planned to dismiss the criticism as partisan carping. Instead, the Bush camp found itself doing damage control after families and friends of the dead said what too many Democrats have been afraid to say: that the President was exploiting tragedy for political gain. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was dispatched to describe the ads as tasteful, but he declined to say whether he would exploit images of the dead for political purposes–as most candidates in 2002 Congressional races avoided doing. The people who dressed Bush in a flight suit to declare the Iraq war “mission accomplished” have provided more evidence that national security issues–supposed to be Bush’s most explosive weapons in this campaign–are more volatile than imagined.

OL’ DOGGETT LEARNS NEW TRICKS

More from John Nichols: When House majority leader Tom DeLay gerrymandered Texas Congressional district lines, he had two goals: tip the partisan balance toward Republicans and get rid of Representative Lloyd Doggett. A DeLay ally suggested the redistricting might not be worth it if Doggett survived. Why the antipathy? Doggett is an old-school Texas liberal populist who opposed the Iraq war and DeLay’s corporation-friendly tax schemes and wants to limit the Patriot Act. Doggett’s as tough as DeLay and, it turns out, a little more politically savvy. After mapmakers sliced Doggett’s Austin district into three parts, he didn’t quit or switch parties. He leaped into a new district that snakes 350 miles south from central Texas to the Mexican border. Doggett studied Spanish, secured the support of the United Farm Workers Union and on March 9 won a tough Democratic primary to chants of “Sí se puede” from his new constituents. “Tom DeLay was determined to pit region against region, race against race, so that we would be distracted,” yelled Doggett. Republican redistricting will likely yield several new GOP reps in November, but it looks like DeLay will still have to deal with Doggett.

PAUL SWEEZY

Paul Sweezy, who died recently at 93, was this country’s best-known Marxist economist. The author and co-author of more than twenty books and 100 articles, he was the founder, with Leo Huberman, of Monthly Review, America’s longest-running socialist publication. During the McCarthy era he was briefly jailed for refusing to name names to New Hampshire legislative inquisitors. Eventually, in a landmark victory for free speech, the US Supreme Court threw out his conviction. Monthly Review at one point shared offices with The Nation, to which Sweezy was a contributor. Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer told us he has much to say to today’s left economic activists: “We badly need to revisit the territory that Sweezy explored so fruitfully–fundamental questions about the organization and scale of production, the nature of ownership, and the responsibility for the investment decisions that are presently made by a handful of self-interested moguls that nonetheless affect us all.”

MARC MIRINGOFF

When Marc Miringoff died recently at 58, we lost a practical idealist whose work is only beginning to find the audience it deserves. Miringoff’s Big Idea was to measure society according to the well-being of its citizens. His critique of the Index of Economic Indicators led to his Index of Social Health Indicators, which looked at issues ranging from children living in poverty to drunk driving. He compared the United States to Europe (we were not Number One), and compared the fifty states to one another (darkness, deep in the heart of Texas). A constructive progressive, Miringoff helped the Connecticut legislature to peg state funding to his data. He was in it to help people–especially poor people, especially children. He was also funny and kind, an unreconstructed ’60s folkie who would break into a protest song in the middle of a scholarly lecture. He is already missed.