At a forum in Iowa this past Saturday, organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, most of the Dems angling for their party’s nomination finally challenged Bush on his record in fighting terrorism abroad and protecting Americans at home. Bush’s opponents need to keep asking American citizens if they feel safer now after the invasion of Iraq? I don’t.

Look at the record: Al-Qaeda regrouping, warlords running Afghanistan, Iraq sliding into lawlessness, no sign of those weapons of mass destruction, and the gutting of homeland security funding. Isn’t this what any sane person would call a failed national security policy?

It’s also time to challenge Terry McAuliffe, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, who earlier this year urged that “the war…not be on the ballot in 2004.” But why should Dems cede national security when even Karl Rove has all but admitted that Bush is vulnerable on the issue? It’s also time to take on the corporate wing of the party, the Democratic Leadership Council–or, as Jesse Jackson used to call it, the Democratic Leisure Class.

The DLC’s recent memo, “The Real Soul of the Democratic Party,” purporting to be a strategy for winning in 2004, has received lots of attention for its blast at Howard Dean for being an elitist liberal. (For an intelligent critique of Dean, read Jim Farrell’s recent Nation edit.) This memo is must reading for anyone who’s forgotten the Democratic debacle in the 2002 midterms. If that disaster taught us anything, it is that Bush is a relentless and effective campaigner, and the only way to beat him and his party will be for the Dems to distinguish themselves as a relentless and effective party of opposition.

Message to Al From and his timid DLC: The Republican-lite Democratic Leadership Council’s hard to beat something with nothing. Unless the Dems stand up and lay out a real agenda for the country, with some passion, principles and vision, they can forget about electability.