I've noticed quite a few instances of Democrats getting tough with Republicans, not buying their narratives, not falling into their traps. This is extremely encouraging.
This Sunday Joe Biden refused to comment
on a statement by Dick Cheney about how "cut 'n' run" from Iraq would be such a disastrous strategy. Blitzer asked him to respond (and by association acknowledge) Cheney's remark, and Biden said this:
BIDEN: No, I don’t want to respond to him. He’s at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It’s ridiculous…There’s guys like me and a lot of others and on the Republican side, Chuck Hagel and Lindsey Graham, John McCain, across the board, who realize that this requires a political solution…
That's a superb answer. There's no need to give credibility to your opponent by defending yourself against his ridiculous charges.
Then Rahm Emanuel
went into a swing district and forced the Republican incumbent into a defensive position on Social Security.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy campaigned together yesterday and hammered Fitzpatrick on his less-than-total opposition to Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.
Emanuel questioned whether voters “could rely on Fitzpatrick’s vote” not to privatize Social Security.
“You wanted a difference; now you got a difference,” Emanuel said, standing in front of a retirement home in northern Philadelphia, but not in the congressional district, with several Murphy supporters, his entourage, and a few reporters.
By bringing up his desire to attempt to privatize Social Security next year, the President allowed Democrats to put this back on the campaign agenda. In 2005 Democrats owned the Social Security debate and built up a lot of goodwill with the electorate. Maybe the White House is giving moderate Republicans who make up their margin of majority in the Congress another issue to distance themselves from the President, but Democrats are defining the opponent early here. Any Republican is a threat to phase out Social Security. That's the narrative. And it's being pushed aggressively.
Then Virginia US Senate candidate Jim Webb
would have none of the Swiftboating attacks by incumbent George Allen (who's using negative character attacks 5 months before the election? Talk about scared).
“George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb’s position on free speech and flag burning. Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb they are attacking every man and woman who served. Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards. George Felix Allen Jr. needs to apologize to Jim Webb and to all men and women who have served our nation,” Webb spokesman Steve Jarding said.Ezra Klein
“While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.’s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield,” Jarding said.
noted that calling Allen "George Felix Allen Jr." was a stroke of emasculating genius. Here's a Democrat that is not afraid to fight, and fight immediately, never letting an attack go unmet.
After that, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid
decided to embarrass the Republicans over their refusal to raise the minimum wage yet again, keeping it at 1997 levels.
A week after the GOP-led Senate rejected an increase to the minimum wage, Senate Democrats on Tuesday vowed to block pay raises for members of Congress until the minimum wage is increased.
"We're going to do anything it takes to stop the congressional pay raise this year, and we're not going to settle for this year alone," Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said at a Capitol news conference.
"They can play all the games the want," Reid said derisively of the Republicans who control the chamber. "They can deal with gay marriage, estate tax, flag burning, all these issues and avoid issues like the prices of gasoline, sending your kid to college. But we're going to do everything to stop the congressional pay raise."
The minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. Democrats want to raise it to $7.25. During the past nine years, as Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to increase the minimum wage, members of Congress have voted to give themselves pay raises -- technically "cost of living increases" -- totaling $31,600, or more than $15 an hour for a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year, according to the Congressional Research Service.
This is an obvious bit of political theater, as Billmon called it, a big slow pitch hanging out over the middle of the plate.
But Democrats have taken that called third strike many times before in the pre-Reid days, and Harry is giving them hell now. That should be recognized.
Finally, there was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on the use of Presidential signing statements to overturn hundreds of laws passed by both houses of Congress. The Bush Administration took it so seriously that they sent a deputy assistant Attorney General on their behalf. Pat Leahy
didn't sit there and take it, calling it what it was and then promptly walking out of the meeting.
Senators said they had been expecting a higher-ranking official from the office of legal policy, and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the committee, chastised the White House for not sending "anybody who would have authority to speak on this."
"But then, considering the fact that they're using basically an extra-constitutional, extra-judicial step to enhance the power of the president, it's not unusual," he said.
He actually left the room, saying "Good luck" to the deputy on his way out. It's very important for Democrats to call a charade a charade.
Now, these are conservative Dems, progressive Dems, moderates, people within the Party establishment and without, all united by an unwillingness to put up with the bullshit anymore. Clearly these unrelated examples show a Democratic Party emboldened by low Presidential approval ratings and the possibility of retaking the majority in November. But there's something more here. It's that spine implant so many of us have been waiting for. The Democrats may be recognizing that drawing contrast is a winning strategy, not becoming Republican-lite. They're understanding that taking stands and speaking up will be rewarded by an electorate that will then see them as a party with some semblance of conviction.
The Democratic Party isn't perfect; everybody knows that. But these examples shows that they're starting to get it.