Democrats, I feel your pain

Posted: Aug 18, 2000 12:00 AM
LOS ANGELES -- Eight years ago, Republicans were accusing the Democrats of being all show, no substance. Now the tables have turned and the Democrats are whining that the GOP put on too good a show in Philadelphia. Get this: In an interview with the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein, Bill Clinton complained that the GOP "argument is based far more on atmospherics and the rhetorical positioning of the candidate than on specific positions on the issues." That's the sort of statement your garden-variety Republican was making about the Dems and Bill Clinton eight years ago as Clinton/Gore were tooling across America in a bus to prove they wanted to restore in America "a genuine sense of community." I could gloat at Clinton's remark. I could say that it is sweet to see the shoe on the other foot. Or chuckle that the Dems are getting their just deserts in having showmanship thrown back at them. But the fact is, Democrats, I feel your pain. You are right. Policies, not atmospherics, should be what gets a nominee elected. When Demo consultant Garry South told me, "The Republicans want this to be about personality, who's the best backslapper," I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder and say: "Garry, I know how you feel. I've been there." And even add: It's true, the election should hinge on the issues. It shouldn't be about which guy seems to care the most about ordinary people. It shouldn't fall to one man because he can feel people's pain, or another's because he says he is a "compassionate conservative." Is it Al Gore's fault if he seems more interested in his career than the working families he says he wants to champion? And you know what: It's not right that charm should be a deciding factor. Gov. Gray Davis said something strongly familiar when he warned that the presidency requires "experience," and that a governor, even of a big state like Texas, may not have the depth needed for the job. Now when did we hear that before? Oh, yeah. Republicans, circa 1992, when they were concerned that America would be saddled with the leader of Arkansas, of all places. When actor Billy Baldwin complained that the GOP convention was all "illusion," I knew how he felt. I felt that way in 1992. And I felt that way Monday night when I watched Bill Clinton make a masterful presentation. (An example would be Clinton's assertion that George W. Bush wants to spend "every dime" of the projected $2.2 trillion non-Social Security surplus, when the Bush "tax cut" would cost less than half of that.) Mike McCurry -- formerly with the White House and presently with -- went to the GOP convention this year and is also here in Los Angeles. He noted that Team Bush had managed to keep its more conservative elements in line in Philly. Said McCurry, "They are so desperate to win after eight years that they are willing to limit that sense of controversy." Wait a minute, I thought. Wasn't I saying that sort of thing about Democrats and their ultra left-wing in 1992? It just isn't fair, is it? May I add that Team Gore is no slouch in getting more liberal Democrats to stifle their urges and, say, not protest Al Gore's support of the death penalty? Then there are all these e-mails I've been getting from Democrats referring to Dubya's party years. They are indignant that Republicans aren't indignant over Bush's past. Isn't this hypocrisy? they ask. If there's one thing they can't stomach, it's hypocrisy from Republicans. And if the Repubs complain about Democratic hypocrisy, well you know their problem: They're sore losers.