Monday, March 13, 2006


A Message to Team Titanic: Weisberg Ahead!

Better late than never: I want to call your attention to this pinpoint assessment of the Democratic Party's abysmal national leadership team that Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg wrote last week.

Instead of viewing the trio of Dean, Reid, and Pelosi -- the "Three Stooges" as he calls them -- through the narrow prism of ideology, Weisberg breaks down their individual and collective failures in terms of their ability (or lack thereof) to address the party's huge political and policy deficits and the awful image they project. Here are the money shots from his piece:

Since assuming their positions, the three of them have shown themselves to be somewhere between useless and disastrous as party leaders. Individually, they lack substance and policy smarts (Pelosi); coherence and force (Reid); and steadiness and mainstream appeal (Dean). Collectively, they convey an image of liberal elitism, disarray, and crabbiness. . .

But more important than what the three stooges do wrong is what they can't seem to do at all, namely articulate a positive agenda for reform and change. Voters have grown disenchanted with Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq and the country's finances, and with the evangelical tilt of many of his policies. But there remains a baseline mistrust of Democrats on security, the economy, and values issues. For a sweep big enough to recover both houses of Congress, the party will almost certainly need an affirmative message as well as a negative one. Democrats need to demonstrate they won't just cut and run from Iraq, that they see security as more than a civil liberties issue, and that their alternative to tax cuts isn't just more spending on flawed social programs and unchallenged growth in entitlements.

Thus far, Pelosi, Reid, and Dean have been literally unable to develop such a national message for the party's congressional candidates. Not just a good message—any message. Their "legislative manifesto," originally promised for November, has been delayed more often than a flight on Jet Blue. When it eventually arrives, expect something benign and insipid. In 1994, Gingrich had the Contract With America. In 2006, Democrats will have another glass of merlot.

I could never understand how these three were entrusted with the Party's future after the Kerry debacle. But as I have noted before, the far greater mystery is how they have been allowed to remain in power this long. Where is Trump when you need him?

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