Friday, January 12, 2007


Democrats Changing Their Tuna?

For those of us hoping that the discipline the Democrats showed in the fall campaign would carry over to their governing in Congress, and that there would be fewer botched jokes and less precision self-foot-shooting in the majority, today was not an encouraging news day.

First, there was this story in the Washington Times suggesting that the Nancy Pelosi carved out a special exemption from the minimum wage bill for San Francisco-based Starkist Tuna.

There may be a legitimate explanation for this fishy provision, but it's certainly not articulated in the Washington Times article, which indicates at a minimum that the Speaker's team is not yet ready for primetime pushback.

Pelosi has to know that the Republicans will be jumping on any hint of Democratic hypocrisy after her team so effectively savaged the Republican culture of corruption in the run-up to the election -- and that a "Sorry Charlie" defense is just not going to cut it. We need to be cleaner than Caesar's wife -- and smarter than Carville's.

Second, there was this cover story in the New York Post whacking Senator Barbara Boxer for implying during yesterday's Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Condi Rice could not understand the sacrifice's the families of American troops are making because she is not married and has no children.

I appreciate Senator Boxer's passion and anger about the Administration's botched handling of the war, and Rice deserves to be held to account for her role in it. But it just undermines our credibility as substantive critics -- and the larger goal of accountability -- when it seems like we are crossing the line into personal cheap shots. We look petty and political, and, moreover, it distracts attention away from the policy questions that should be rightly pushed, while building sympathy for the target of our scrutiny.

It's this kind of overreaching that saved Bill Clinton's presidency, and, more recently and relevant to Democrats, weakened the case against Sam Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. For those who don't recall, whatever substantive questions/criticisms the Democrats raised about Alito's jurisprudence and ideology in the confirmation hearings were largely obscured by their baseless insinuations that the nominee held racist views. That left casual viewers to believe the Democrats on the Judiciary committee were more interested in conducting a political inquisition instead of a policy inquiry -- and turned Alito into the victim.

Now, Alito probably was going to get confirmed anyway. But Democrats certainly didn't help themselves -- or the public interest -- by veering into vendetta territory. That lesson seems lost on Barbara Boxer. Let's hope it's not lost on Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi, who would be well-served to send a signal that they don't condone the implication of Boxer's remarks, whether they were intended or not.

I'd say there are miles between Pelosi's carve-out, which is atrocious, and Boxer's suggestion that motherhood breeds temperance. One is a legitimate ethics issue, the other bluenosed tsking over lost civility.

Do lower the pinky finger when pointing a little. It is precisely "overreaching" to bring the two examples together into any kind of relationship. It's like the Post is hoisting you by the gills. Take the time to discriminate between the whale and the chum, sir.
Mr. Gerstein, to be fair, you should read the Washington Post article on the American Samoas thing. Real Democrats don't read or link to the Washington Times, which as everybody knows is a Republican rag. The Post article actually contained some context.

Same thing goes for the Boxer comments. Why are you quoting the New York Post? If anything, quote the New York Times, which is actually a respected media outlet, and not another right-wing rag little better than a supermarket tabloid. If you were really a Democrat, you wouldn't be citing these publications to back up your arguments.

But oh wait, I forgot, you're a LieberDem.
Funny how one person claiming to be a Democrat could be so obsessed with criticizing the Democratic Party in these times. It defies all logic. That's why Lieberman got primaried. Not because he is a centrist. Plenty of other pro-war dems were left alone. Lieberman got challenged because he never failed to go on Faux News and give the cover of "bipartisanship" to all of Bush's failed policies and because he is always there to stab his fellow Democrats in the back. That simple, my friend. I found my way to this blog for the first time today. You should reregister as a CfL, 'cause you sure as hell ain't a Democrat
The blogosphere is my turf, Daniel. I rule this world with a pure heart and an iron fist and when I am done with people like you -- traitors of the first order -- I will have returned the Democratic Party to its progressive glory and rightful dominance. We will be victorious in our struggle and you will be left doing PR for some third rate boutique on the upper east side. Yes, Daniel, this is my world you are stuck in and as long as you continue to post your Dangerous Thoughts, I will continue to shre my firm belief with your readers whenever I feel like it that you remain the Dumbest Person in Politics. And you know what, I feel like it right now -- you are the Dumbest Person in Politics and you should remember that each and every day you lay your thick neck down on your sanctimonious pillow. DS
There are real concerns about the Pelosi story, but the New York Post article reads to me like nothing more than a hit piece by a a pretty conservative rag. Boxer's full comments, as quoted in the article, included this:

Who pays the price?... I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young . . . So who pays the price? Not me, not you."

Considering that Boxer lumped herself in the same boat, I don't see how her comments can possibly be construed as a crass personal attack. Her point is legitimate: the people making these decisions, Senator Boxer and Secretary Rice included, can not fully appreciate the sacrafices they are asking of American families who do have a member serving in Iraq.
A few responses are in order....

First to maxwell, you make a fair point, the two issues I mentioned are not morally equivalent. But I was not implying that they were. I was simply drawing attention to each of them as mistakes that the new Democratic leadership can ill afford to make, given our various reputational vulnerabilities, how good the Republicans have been at exploiting them, and how tenuous our hold on the public trust is at this moment.

To ajpucket, I would respectfully suggest that it is not only appropriate but necessary for Democrats to consume news and commentary from sources outside our comfort zone, if for not other reason than to know what our critics /opponents are saying and hearing. It's just plain self-defeating to not watch Fox News, especially given that it is by far THE most highly-watched cable news network in the country.

To ryan anderson, I would say I agree with your basic point, and I acknowledged that in my original post. I don't think Boxer intended to attack Rice for not having kids. But by wading into that minefield, and being sloppy in her articulation, Boxer opened herself and the party for this kind of deflective counter attack. Even worse, by not quickly apologizing and making clear that was not her implication, she kept the club in the Republicans hand and allowed the story to drag on.
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