At least there's no Bush eulogy
On why they had to die.
It's better that they're laid to rest
Without another lie.
CLARIFICATION: In last week's editorial "Dean With a Small 'd,'" we mentioned Dick
Gephardt's refusal to sign a campaign-reform pledge. The pledge, which
strengthens public financing for future elections, is not binding for
the upcoming primaries. Gephardt claims it should be. (11-19-03)
Last week, Governor Howard Dean was the front-runner everyone wanted to attack. And he gave his opponents some good reasons. After all, his statement that he wanted to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" was wrong and stupid. Wrong because the confederate flag is a loathsome symbol, which reopens old wounds and perpetuates old hatreds. And stupid because his statement caricatured the South's white working class.
But Dean was also right politically. As he said in reply to the Reverend Al Sharpton's attack on him, the Democratic Party isn't "going to win in this country anymore as Democrats if we don't have a big tent." It is high time for the Dems to engage in a serious discussion about how to win back working-class white voters in the South. As leading civil rights attorney Connie Rice wrote, in a nuanced defense of Dean, "Without a vision big enough to embrace southern white men--angry or not--this country cannot be diverted from its current path toward corporation-focused, downwardly mobile plutocracy and turned back toward people-focused, upwardly mobile democracy...We need to get beyond fighting over Confederate symbols and get to the critical re-founding of this country for its people."
As our Washington correspondent John Nichols recently reported, polls show that rural Americans are even more concerned than urban voters about access to healthcare, education and job loss under Bush. And with the massive job loss in the South, the Dems need to pump up the populist economic volume to counter the cynical and divisive tactics of the Southern Republican right. The bottom-line should be clear: A populist Democratic nominee fighting the next election on behalf of jobs, family farms, healthcare and education could give George "Herbert Hoover" Bush a real race in a region that the GOP now takes for granted. If the Administration's economic policies continue to destroy the industrial base of the region, the South need not be solid for Bush in 2004.
We know there are rifts inside the Bush Administration, but what about the growing rift between Presidents 41 and 43? Even before the Iraq war, the schism between father and son wasn't hard to conceal. The former President (via associates like Brent Scowcroft) clearly disapproved of W's repudiation of traditional conservative internationalism in favor of adventurist neo-con extremism. (Remember Scowcroft's oped of August 2002 in which he argued that preemptive war against Iraq was an unwarranted and divisive distraction from the fight against global terrorism?)
Has Papa Bush decided it's time to inflict a little public humiliation on his son for disregarding wise paternal advice? How else to interpret his decision to give the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service to Senator Edward Kennedy--one of his son's most ferocious critics and the same man who denounced the Iraq invasion as a "fraud" that had been "made up in Texas" for political gain? As The Guardian quipped, "The message could only have been clearer if Bush the elder had presented the award to Saddam Hussein himself."
According to sources, Senator Kennedy's speech at the November 7th ceremony, will adroitly praise the father's internationalism--in pointed contrast to the son's unilateralism. But the speech I'd love to hear is President Bush's parental address to his wayward son--laying out what he and his presidential team believe about George W's neocon extremists.