With economic growth and name recognition of the average Democratic presidential candidate both running at about 7 percent, the Democrats are in trouble. Unable to rouse more than the Saddam-supporting left with their kooky foreign-policy ideas, the Democrats had been counting on a lousy economy.
It turns out that, given a choice between "shock and awe" and "run and hide," the American people prefer the former. Now that the Bush tax cuts have already started to kick in and boost the economy, it was beginning to look as if the Treason Lobby would have nothing to run on.
But the Democrats have discovered a surprise campaign issue: It turns out that several of them have had a death in the family. Not only that, but many Democrats have cracker-barrel humble origins stories and a Jew or lesbian in the family. Dick Gephardt's campaign platform is that his father was a milkman, his son almost died and his daughter is a lesbian. Vote for me!
So don't say the Democrats aren't the party of ideas. As they keep reminding us, their ideas are just too darn complex to fit on a bumper sticker. Consequently, the Democrats can't tell us their ideas until after the election. Instead, their version of a political campaign is to stage a "Queen for a Day" extravaganza – which has special resonance in the case of the Democrats.
Al Gore famously inaugurated the family tragedy routine at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, where his idea of an inspiring political speech was to recount the story of his son being hit by a car. At the 1996 convention, Gore told a tear-jerker about his sister's long, painful death from lung cancer. It got to the point that Gore's family members had to fear any more runs for higher office.
In the current campaign, Gephardt has taken to spinning out a long, pitiful tale of his son's near-death three decades ago. If a lingering family medical tragedy is the main qualification for becoming a Democratic presidential candidate, what's Michael Schiavo waiting for?
At dozens of campaign stops, Mrs. Gephardt weeps anew as her husband tells the same gut-wrenching story over and over again. The relevance of his son's illness to Gephardt's run for the presidency is this: It inspired Gephardt's call for national health insurance. With his wife softly weeping in the background, he intones, "I get it."
At least when Gephardt exploits a family tragedy, he doesn't expect praise for not exploiting a family tragedy. John Edwards injects his son's fatal car accident into his campaign by demanding that everyone notice how he refuses to inject his son's fatal car accident into his campaign.
Edwards has talked about his son's death in a 1996 car accident on "Good Morning America," in dozens of profiles and in his new book. ("It was and is the most important fact of my life.") His 1998 Senate campaign ads featured film footage of Edwards at a learning lab he founded in honor of his son, titled "The Wade Edwards Learning Lab." He wears his son's Outward Bound pin on his suit lapel. He was going to wear it on his sleeve, until someone suggested that might be a little too "on the nose."
If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those "Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident" bumper stickers? Edwards is like a politician who keeps announcing that he will not use his opponent's criminal record for partisan political advantage. I absolutely refuse to mention the name of my dearly beloved and recently departed son killed horribly in a car accident, which affected me deeply, to score cheap political points.
I wouldn't want John Edwards to be president, but I think even Karl Rove would be willing to stipulate that the death of a son is a terrible thing.
Howard Dean talks about his brother Charlie's murder at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. Bizarrely, after working on the failed George McGovern campaign, Charlie Dean went to Indochina in 1974 to witness the ravages of the war he had opposed. Not long after he arrived, the apparently ungrateful communists captured and killed him. Hey fellas! I'm on your s-- CLUNK!
Howard Dean wears his brother's battered 1960s belt every day. (By contrast, Ted Kennedy honors the memory of his deceased family members with several belts every day.) Dean told Dan Rather about his brother's death at some length on CBS News: "It gave me a sense that you ought to live for the moment with people; that you really – you really need to tell people you love them if you love them. It was certainly the most awful thing that ever happened to our family. It was terrible for my parents; it was even worse for them than it was for us."
Dammit, if a man wants to be my president, I have a right to know where he stands on the issue of when to tell the people you love that you love them! Couldn't the Democratic Party go back to plagiarizing British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock like Sen. Joe Biden, rather than plagiarizing "Lifetime: TV for Women"? Do any men at all vote for the Democrats anymore?
Carol Moseley Braun's personal tragedy is that she's being forced to run for president even though it turns out the Democrats won't need her to split the black vote anyway. Please, can I drop out now? Al Sharpton is only polling at 2 percent. I hate this!
Sharpton is the counterpoint to his sob sisters in the Democratic Party. Sharpton libeled innocent men in the Tawana Brawley case. He inflamed angry mobs in Brooklyn's Crown Heights, leading to the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum. He incited an anti-Semitic pogrom against a Jewish-owned clothing store in Harlem, Freddy's, ending in a blaze of bullets and fire that left several employees dead. So while the other Democrats talk about their personal tragedies, Sharpton goes around creating personal tragedies.
In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats' other big idea – too nuanced for a bumper sticker – is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There's Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew – along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.
Clark said that when he discovered he was half-Jewish, he remembered growing up in Arkansas and feeling "a certain kinship" with Jewish families in the dry-goods business. (I, too, have always felt a certain kinship with Calvin Trillin.)
The Democrats' urge to assert a Jewish heritage is designed to disguise the fact that the Democrats would allow the state of Israel to perish as Palestinian suicide bombers slaughter Jewish women and children. Their humble-origins claptrap is designed to disguise the fact that liberals think ordinary people are racist scum. Their perverse desire to discuss the deaths and near-deaths of their children is designed to disguise the fact that they support the killing of more than a million unborn children every year. (Oh, by the way, what did their milkman and millworker fathers think about abortion?)
If the Democrats start extolling you – get a gun.
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