Friday, June 23, 2006
Democrats need a new script
By HELEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON -- When are the Democrats going to get their act together?
Surely, they are not going to let President Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, snooker them in the mid-term November election campaign as he did in the past two presidential elections.What is he going to pull out of the hat? Soft on terrorism? Gay marriage? Flag burning? 9/11?
Are the Democrats going to be such easy prey again, neutralized by phony wedge issues and neglectful of the real issue, which is the administration's flagrant use of falsehoods to justify a war of choice? It could happen again. The leaderless Democrats, speaking in a cacophony, are being outgunned by the conservatives and members of their own party representing the Democratic Leadership Council who are at heart "Republican lite."
There are a handful, including Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a Vietnam veteran who is calling for a speedy U.S. pullout from Iraq. He also took a swipe at Rove on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday for pushing the war while "sitting in his big air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside, saying 'Stay the course.' "He was responding to Rove's speech in New Hampshire last week in which Rove attacked Democrats for what he called "that party's old pattern of cutting and running."
Rove -- who prides himself on being a history buff -- obviously did not remember when President Ford ordered U.S. troops out of Vietnam in April 1975. They departed -- some clinging by their fingertips to helicopters -- as North Vietnamese forces advanced on Saigon. At that time Ford said at Tulane University: "We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina."But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America's leadership in the world."
Summing up, he added: "The fate of responsible men and women everywhere, (meaning the South Vietnamese) rests in their own hands, not in ours."Amen.
Polls show that the American people -- including many Republicans -- are beginning to turn against the war. In addition to an endless war for no known U.S. objective, there are a host of other issues that Democrats should embrace to hit home to every American.
They could shout from the rooftops against the chipping away at the Bill of Rights and expansion of presidential power. Bush has asserted the right to wiretap and eavesdrop on any American without a warrant in the name of fighting terrorism. He has asserted presidential power beyond stated constitutional rights and there is no Republican gutsy enough to call his hand.
The administration also has detained hundreds of suspected terrorists in limbo without charges or trials.And then there are the shameful alleged secret prisons abroad where prisoners may be subjected to torture under interrogation.
The fact that millions of Americans lack health insurance is a theme Democrats should campaign on. The Democrats should support universal health care. When the administration lays down the law in the prescription drug program that drug prices are not negotiable, who is it working for?
Another rich target for Democrats: Bush and the Republican Congress cut taxes for the richest people in the country while fighting to keep the 10-year-old minimum wage at $5.15.Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., said last week that the "divide between rich and poor in this country has reached outrageous proportions." He urged passage of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy's bill to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in three stages.
And how about the cuts in homeland security funding for vulnerable New York and Washington?
The Democrats also could hit upon our diminished image around the world and loss of credibility. As Bush prepared to visit Europe this week, Die Zeit, a German weekly, declared that Americans have "lost their moral credibility in Iraq."The newspaper also said "America's entire Iraq policy is out of control."That's what the Democrats should be saying.
Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.
Copyright 2006 Hearst Newspapers