Please don't doubt for a second that there's a calculated method to Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe's madness in ruthlessly attacking President Bush at his party's summer meeting in Las Vegas. He's sending up trial balloons.
The Democratic Party is testing out various claims, from the ridiculous to the outrageous, to see what may fly in the 2002 and 2004 campaigns. The party can't credibly claim that McAuliffe is a maverick out there on his own. He admitted he had vetted the speech with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and, you guessed it: former President Bill Clinton. And as far as I know, not one Democratic heavyweight has done the honorable thing and denounced McAuliffe for his remarks. The Democrats will stoop as low as they have to -- and as they believe they can get away with -- to unseat congressional Republicans and recapture the White House.
McAuliffe said that Bush had mismanaged the economy, tilted the White House to help corporate interests and cynically made 9/11 the cornerstone of the Republican 2002 election strategy.
Cynical? There is nothing cynical, much less wrong with Republicans campaigning on Bush's adroit handling of the war on terrorism. It would be foolish and irresponsible for them not to. The Republicans, by touting Bush's war performance, aren't politicizing the war. But Democrats, by seeking to stall the inevitable military campaign against Iraq are -- and that's inexcusable.
I'll tell you what
is cynical. The Democrats have been lying in wait since shortly after Sept. 11 to rake Bush over the coals on every conceivable issue, including his prosecution of the war, whenever the political landscape would permit it. As time has passed they've grown increasingly emboldened to oppose him outright, while pretending all this time to have supported him.
But even now they're being careful in how they frame their assaults on Bush's war effort. Instead of saying he blew it in Afghanistan by not killing Osama bin Laden -- though a few, such as Senator Kerry are saying that -- they are trying to commingle domestic and foreign policy issues, in order to taint Mr. Bush's war record with our economic problems.
McAuliffe, referring to the supposed bipartisan unity following Sept. 11, said that Bush had wasted "an extraordinary opportunity" to take the nation through difficult times. "George Bush squandered our trust, he ignored the mandate, and he wasted the opportunity."
This is quite clever, but abundantly disingenuous. McAuliffe is saying that Bush has blown it as a war leader because he could have used his political capital as a war president to remedy our economic woes. Nonsense. The Democrats opposed Bush's domestic agenda every step of the way. And they fought most vigorously against the proposals that had the best chance of stimulating economic growth: tax cuts.
But attacking Bush on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts was still not enough for McAuliffe since he knows that Bush's popularity is mostly based on the public's enormous trust in his integrity and confidence in his leadership. So to diminish the people's faith in Bush's character would be an even greater coup. That's why McAuliffe stuck the knife in further. Bush's "own past," said McAuliffe, "leaves him unable to lead on this issue (corporate reform). How can he restore confidence to Wall Street when he has engaged in the same practices he condemns today?" It just doesn't matter to this white-collar thug and rhetorical hitman that nothing he said about Bush is true.
There's more. Next, McAuliffe had the effrontery to chide the Bush administration for being "adrift, with polling numbers as their only compass and high approval ratings as their only destination." Coming from one of Bill Clinton's closest confidantes, this statement's chutzpah speaks for itself.
McAuliffe's hysterical invective shows how desperate the national Democratic Party is in the face of Bush's continued popularity, despite the cratering stock market and with a war on Iraq about to begin.
Being bankrupt of constructive ideas themselves on the economy (these are the people who even oppose tax cuts during a recession) and more so on foreign policy, their only strategy to regain power is to escalate their signature politics of personal destruction. So, they'll continue with these trial balloons of slander against Bush, Cheney and evil corporate Republicans in general until something works and they are restored to power. But this time, it's not going to work.