January 08, 2004

Don't Apologize

The extremely thoughtful Decembrist--former Bill Bradley senior aide Mark Schmitt--almost seems to apologize for Bradley's 2000 presidential primary campaign against Al Gore:

The Decembrist: The Bradley Endorsement: One of the problems all along in 2000 was that Bradley and Gore didn't have very sharp differences on issues, even on issues such as trade on which there are very different views within the party. That's part of what made their competition much nastier and petty-seeming than it might have been otherwise. Also, Bradley was really running against the tone, style, and what he saw as the missed opportunities of the Clinton administration, the strategic triangulation, the bite-sized policies, the compromised fundraising, and to a small degree, the personal scandals. Gore wore the legacy of the Clinton administration quite uncomfortably, and I have always believed that that discomfort, together with his general discomfort in public life, brought out some of his viciousness in 2000...

Don't apologize. I have never met anyone, anywhere, anytime, who can make an even half-convincing argument that Al Gore would make a better president than Bill Bradley.

Mark goes on:

Since then, a huge gulf has emerged between Gore and Clinton, which now puts Gore, Bradley, and Dean together on one side of the party, although they got there by very different paths. At the same time, though, I think others of us have become much more appreciative of what Clinton was able to accomplish in the face of an opposition that refused to grant him an ounce of legitimacy, and so that distinction doesn't seem quite as important...

But do hold tight to that last thought. The things wrong with the Clinton administration ("the strategic triangulation, the bite-sized policies, the compromised fundraising, and to a small degree, the personal scandals") were the products of Clinton's political situation (well, except for Clinton's big problem with his zipper) and not Clinton's desired outcome. There is no "Clinton wing" to counterpose to a "Dean-Gore-Bradley wing." There are different assessments of the range of live political possibilities, and there are arguments over what are the best means to social-democratic ends.

Posted by DeLong at January 8, 2004 12:39 PM | TrackBack

Comments

I thought it was too early for Gore and Bradley to endorse Dean. Let's see where Dean is after South Carolina before endorsements are handed out. The nomination hasn't been decided yet. Personally, after seeing some polling numbers I think that Wesley Clark can make a race out of this.

As for Gore and Bradley in 2000. Campaigns can get nasty, but who besides people that follow politics closely remember Gore and Bradley's disagreements. It wasn't as nearly as bad as Bush going after John McCain's adopted daughter.

Posted by: Sullivan on January 8, 2004 12:55 PM

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Where was Bill Bradley when we needed him to help beat George Bush. Bradley should have worked hard hard hard for Al Gore. Bill Bradley has a way of disappearing when we need him. Perhaps he will persist now.

Posted by: lise on January 8, 2004 01:18 PM

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It may not be a 'Clinton wing' but there clearly is a wing of the Democratic party--call it the DLC wing--that runs towards the middle and alienates the base. The worst of this lot among today's candidates seems to be Lieberman.

Is the difference just one of "different assessments of the range of live political possibilities"? Perhaps. But in the Washington echo chamber assesments have a way of determining possibilities.

Posted by: Dave R. on January 8, 2004 01:33 PM

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It may not be a 'Clinton wing' but there clearly is a wing of the Democratic party--call it the DLC wing--that runs towards the middle and alienates the base. The worst of this lot among today's candidates seems to be Lieberman.

Is the difference just one of "different assessments of the range of live political possibilities"? Perhaps. But in the Washington echo chamber assesments have a way of determining possibilities.

Posted by: Dave R. on January 8, 2004 01:34 PM

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The need now is to come out of the primaries with a united Democratic party. Each candidate has to work hard for the nominee.

Posted by: lise on January 8, 2004 01:57 PM

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You're wrong, Brad, that the Decembrist has nothing to apologize for. Bradley's campaign was the birthplace of the most damaging idea in the 2000 campaign - that Gore is, was, or ever has been particularly dishonest. When Gore accurately described the flaws in Bradley's health care plan, the Bradley campaign called him a liar who would say anything to get elected. That dynamic sound familiar to you?

I supported Bradley, and had misgivings about Gore, but looking back at 2000, I have no doubts about who campaigned more nobly (not in a smug, Nader-like "nobility", but as someone who didn't betray his ideals, or the hopes of his core supporters).

Posted by: JRoth on January 8, 2004 02:07 PM

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On a side note, can anyone tell me how to hack Safari so that, instead of the inevitable "unable to contact www.j-bradford-delong.net after 60 seconds," the dialog will cheerfully say, "Prof. DeLong thanks you for your comment!"

Posted by: JRoth on January 8, 2004 02:10 PM

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Al Gore would have made an excellent President as Bill Bradley would have. Now, they both have to support the Democratic nominee strongly. Bill Bradley especially has to be a tougher campaigner than ever before. Al Gore has always been a tough campaigner.

Posted by: lise on January 8, 2004 02:37 PM

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The DLC wing is alive and well, as witness the bizarre Newsweek cover story on how the "Democrats" want to stop Howard Dean, subtitled "Behind the Democrats Battle to Stop Him":
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3869798/

The article is the usual Howard Fineman hack job. It talks about the ugly stuff that other campaigns are saying about Dean, and annoints Wes Clark as the person who will do battle with him for the nomination, but it has the DLC party line all over it, particularly in the McGovern/Mondale/Dukakis comparisons and the snotty comment from James Carville (what other kind is there from him?), who is identified as the dean of the Stop Dean spinners. Since most people identify Bill Clinton as a DLC'er, the apparent implication of the fact that Clinton people are on other teams is that Dean is not the DLC candidate.

I hope that Fineman will join the ranks of the unemployed when the Democrats eventually oust the incumbents, whose shoes Fineman has so assicuously polished with his tongue.

Posted by: Masaccio on January 8, 2004 03:03 PM

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assiduously

Posted by: Masaccio on January 8, 2004 03:04 PM

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I read it "asslicuously"...

Posted by: Marcus Sitz on January 8, 2004 05:32 PM

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assinonymously?

Posted by: AL on January 8, 2004 05:55 PM

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Yup, Iím afraid Iím in the lisa/JRoth camp. Gore would be far preferable to the alternative we got, and Bradley has his share of faults.

Bradley has been accused more than once of lacking the ďfire in the bellyĒ needed to go all the way. (Character assassination, by the way, does not substitute for FITB.) If one doesnít have it in the campaign, how does one get it in sufficient measure to deal with a Congress led by people who will say anything, enter any alliance, and shoot pumpkins just to trip you up? True enough, Gore has had similar questions raised about him, but he at least went the distance every time.

Another very straightforward advantage of Gore over Bradley is that on-the-job-training had already been dealt with. We saw Clinton stumble around for a couple of years. We saw Bush sinking under the weight of his own unpreparedness till late September 2001. In the grand scheme of things, having somebody in place who knows what he is doing for the first couple years of a 4-year term has advantages.

Gore might only have been a one-term guy (though al Qaeda might have done as much for him as for Bush). The trouble of living with the legacy of a two-term predecessor whose policies one backed for 8 years is that one has trouble setting off many fireworks. But 12 years of any one party holding the presidency is the post-WWII record, so getting Bradley, who was less encumbered by Clintonís legacy, probably would still have meant only 1 term.

Again to lounge into liseís shadow, telling some guy he doesnít need to apologize for helping demolishing a reasonably upright (except for that tobacco thing), intelligent, well-intentioned moderate contender for the presidency is a bit too narrow for me. Thatís all about primary rough-and-tumble, politics-as-usual, not about the big issue, which is who runs the country. In the end, the guy who is running the country is wrecking it, and may have the job because the good guys forgot their manners.

Candidate boys and girls, can we take a lesson from this? Maybe so. Nobody has stepped over the line yet that I have noticed.

Posted by: K Harris on January 8, 2004 06:39 PM

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Bill Bradley, like Ralph Nader altho mercifully less so, was not dedicated to the election of a Democratic President in November 2000. It is a good thing he has woken up to this responsibility in 2004.

Posted by: red on January 8, 2004 07:07 PM

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"Bill Bradley, like Ralph Nader altho mercifully less so, was not dedicated to the election of a Democratic President in November"

As long as the democratic party is what it is, why on earth should the Green pary work for the election of a Democratic President?

With this kind of logic, there is always a "bigger evil" round the corner, and always a Democratic "lesser evil" to vote for (just for fear of some George W. oder Arnie....), and blaster all the issues on which the Democrat of the moment is wrong...

So you'll never have a decent choice of more than two rather similar and similarly disgusting parties.

Instead, you could always try to reform your electoral system (maybe along the lines of the Irish system - where you can vote for the candidate/party of your choice and, at the same time, express preferences for the "lesser evil" among others running - or along the lines of the French majoritarian system, where you have a first turn to vote for whoever is closest to your preferences, and a second turn to choose the less disgusting of the two front-runners...)

Posted by: gerhard on January 9, 2004 01:47 AM

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I think Dean or Clark should take the position that Reagan did in 1980 during the Republican primaries. Reagan said the 11th commandment is Thou shalt not speak badly about a fellow Republican. It made him look above the fray. It made the others look petty. It made for that moment during the debate with Carter when he said "there you go again." Either man should say (but they don't have to mean it) that they would prefer anyone of the Democratic candidates to be the next President of the United States: anyone but Bush. They can then focus on ideas and policies rather than the personal attack stuff. Clark would be the most credible at this tactic because he could say: I am not a career politician, in the service it is all about results, I'm not here to bash the other candidates, I'm here to discuss how I think we can remove Bush, and his cronies, from the White House and implement humane, rational policies, prudent etc. etc. etc. Finally, and this is for the ladies in the house: do you really feel better about a man in a sweater rather than a suit? Is Clark going Gore with this appeal to woman through his wardrob? Now that Naomi Wolf came up with Gore's earth tones, etc. But isn't it to a degree offensive to you that some campaign pundit thinks you are so easily manipulated that wearing a sweater will sway your perception about the candidate enough so that you will support him?

Posted by: Cal on January 9, 2004 02:12 AM

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"It may not be a 'Clinton wing' but there clearly is a wing of the Democratic party--call it the DLC wing--that runs towards the middle and alienates the base."

Thank goodness. The base of the Democratic Party is its albatross around its neck. The Republicans have the same problem. The "middle" is most of us, and the "middle" is the battleground that matters.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on January 9, 2004 04:15 AM

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Speaking as a (but not on behalf of any other) moderate, I tell you it is an awful thing to hear the notion that "things wrong with the Clinton Administration" includes "triangulation".

Mickey Kaus is making much today of Clinton's ability to embrace the middle mood. "Safe, Legal, and Rare". "End Welfare -- as we know it." "Free Trade".

The way he finnessed Kyoto -- Clinton speaking out in favor but never submitting the treaty to a bipartisen, nearly unanimously, hostile Senate -- is another accomplishment rather than a failing, even for those of us who think Kyoto a bad idea. Slick Willie kept the question open so data would continue to matter. Shrub, on the other hand, has made the matter moot.

The now-famous missile strikes on aspirin factories in the Sudan were tainted by "wag-the-dog" questions of timing. But in careful review those were in fact measured response to challenge that needed to be made. Similarly the bombing in Iraq was appropriate -- hawkish retaliation against violations of dovish multi-lateral diplomatic agreement. The understated issue of 'the big problem with the zipper' occludes the fact that Clinton was sufficiently popular with enough people on the Left AND Right to take actions as needed. Not all action as he or the Left might desire. But action _needed_.

Except to resign with good grace, leaving Gore an incumbacy to protect in 2000. When the middle and the Left most needed Clinton to Do the Right Thing, he failed. Leaving us moderates to go looking for the least-worst offerings of the VRWC.

Now we moderates are offered Al Sharpton. Carol Mosely-Braun. And Howard Dean. And everybody clear on over to Joe Lieberman is drawn, as if by magnets, to the Left by the great mass of Leftistism offered up by these angry extremists.

Martin Frost, our moderate Democrat married to a U.S. Army general with the Texas chops to stand up to Shrub/Cheney/Delay -- was completely busted by the Democrats who gave us your Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader, instead.

Zell Miller, a moderate Democrat, won his late election in a SEVEN-WAY race, with nearly 60% of the total vote. Governator Schwartznegger, a moderate Republican, won a so-many-ways-race-I-lost count, with nearly that great a percentage. The moderate candidates can pull commanding victories.

But Democratic partisens consider any effort to "triangulate" a failure.

The Republican-in-chief, however, keeps attempting to portray himself, and behave, as a "compassionate conservative". Which means fighting AIDS in Africa, documenting illegal aliens, spending more money on public schools, researching stem cells, funding prescriptions for the elderly -- in short, carefully advancing issues lifted from the Left.

What an idiot. What a moron. What a liar. What a miserable failure.

What a triangulationator. What a strategeriest.

Posted by: Pouncer on January 9, 2004 10:36 AM

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Thank goodness. The base of the Democratic Party is its albatross around its neck. The Republicans have the same problem. The "middle" is most of us, and the "middle" is the battleground that matters.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on January 9, 2004 04:15 AM

Amen!

Posted by: Stan on January 9, 2004 03:02 PM

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JRoth: According to a recipe of Steve Fromm (spell?), hit "POST", then after a few seconds (or more, if you have a slow connection, i.e. dialup) abort the page by hitting "Stop loading" or whatever means your browser gives you, then hit "PREVIEW" (not Reload) to verify that your post has gone through. Works very well for me on the comment page. It seems to take longer for the comment to show up on the Permanent link page.

Posted by: cm on January 9, 2004 06:38 PM

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gerhard: "So you'll never have a decent choice of more than two rather similar and similarly disgusting parties."

This will happen under any system that has this kind of campaign-finance problem. The guys with big money have too much influence which candidates make it through the primaries (or whatever comparable process you have in other countries). Your tinkering with the voting process will not address this fundamental problem.

The problem is hard to remove though -- politics is always tightly coupled with economic interests. The media seem to play a big role in this though -- tendencious and selective "reporting", replacement of news by commentary, advertisement revenue, etc.

Any suggestion?

Posted by: cm on January 9, 2004 06:57 PM

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Keith: I'm not sure "most of us" are the "middle". Can you offer a good definition? Otherwise I assume it kind of means "middle class", which is fuzzily defined as "between" workers and "the rich"?

While by what in my prejudice is the "traditional" definition I would probably belong to the middle class, being a "white collar" worker (scare quotes as I'm not usually wearing a collar), I would rather consider myself a "worker". I go to work every day, have to take directions from my management, only I work with computers, not with a shovel. This artificial subdivision of the working classes into strata that each consider themselves more important and superior than the others is mostly bullshit. Educational degrees may make a difference, but that's not how middle class is defined, is it?

When push comes to shove, "middle-class" people are stiffed of their benefits, worked harder, laid off, and outsourced as much as "workers", only maybe at slightly different scales.

Posted by: cm on January 9, 2004 07:14 PM

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