The guy in question is E.J. Dionne. The public forum is the op-ed page of the Washington Post, a fact that goes a long way towards answering my question. But when one considers Dionne’s latest drivel even that answer isn’t entirely satisfactory. Dionne makes two arguments: (1) that President Bush squandered the good will of the Democrats after 9/11, “losing most Democrats forever” through his “bold conservative policies” and (2) as a result, the Democratic base is solidly anti-Bush, thus paving the way for Dean to reach out to swing voters and enhancing the chances of defeating Bush.
As to the first point, the only evidence Dionne is able to cite that Democrats reached out to Bush after 9/11 is the fact that they supported military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The notion that such support was other than obligatory (sort of like supporting medical treatment for those injured on 9/11) speaks volume about Dionne and the Democrats for whom he is speaking. The overall Democratic response to 9/11 was as partisan as it could have been given the political dynamics of the time. They seized upon the need for immigration reform to promote actions that had nothing to do with keeping terrorists out, and everything to do with promoting their long-term immigration agenda. They seized upon the need for improved security to push for a huge new bureaucracy and then resisted attempts to allow the president to efficiently manage that bureaucracy, thereby placing their pro-union agenda ahead of the national security. Nor was Dionne’s alleged one-way era of good feeling accompanied by any cessation of Democratc hostilities against Bush’s judicial nominees, including those endorsed by Dionne’s own liberal newspaper.
What about Dionne’s claim that Bush responded with “unrequited partisanship” and “bold conservative policies?” Dionne cites two such policies — tax cuts and the war with Iraq. Tax cuts may seem radical to Dionne, but they are a staple of Republican economic policy and something that candidate Bush had promised. Of course, Bush could have backed away from his promise, as his father did. But, as in the case of his father, that would have been less a gesture of bipartisanship than an act of political suicide. To Dionne and the Democrats for whom he speaks, the two things are same.
Dionne also fails to explain why seeking regime change in Iraq was a stab in the back of the Democrats. As president, Bush is obligated to take measures that he believes will improve our security. Bush believed that removing Saddam would accomplish this. His view is controversial, but not necessarily partisan or conservative. Many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and Dick Gephardt, apparently agree with Bush’s view. So did (and still do) most Americans. The issue need not have become a partisan one and there is no evidence that Bush raised the issue for partisan reasons.
The bottom line is that Bush is the president. He has to have an economic policy and he has to make decisions about what does and doesn’t threaten our security. When Dionne blames Bush’s controversial but defensible decisions on these matters for setting off a partisan war, he is really challenging Bush’s legitimacy as president. And that, of course, is what this has always been about.
Finally, let’s consider Dionne’s counter-intuitive claim that, whatever its cause, the Democrats’ hatred of Bush will help Dean’s candidacy. Dionne thinks that Bush’s “betrayal” has secured the Democratic base for Dean, so that a “new, pragmatic Howard Dean” can emerge and sweep swing voters off of their feet. Dionne’s analysis is wide of the mark on both counts. First, the Democratic base was always going to belong to the Democratic nominee (thus assuring that nominee of maybe 35 to 40 percent of the popular vote). For example, does anyone believe that Bush would be making serious inroads with the Democratic base if only he had refrained from cutting taxes? I’m pretty sure his father doesn’t believe this. Second, though Dionne is almost certainly correct that Dean will try to present himself as more “pragmatic” once he clinches the nomination, it’s far from clear that he will succeed. Dean has, after all, left something of a trail.
In any event, this election won’t really be about Dean, it will be about the incumbent, as it always is. By taking bold but popular actions, instead of letting the Democrats dictate, Bush has helped promote a booming economy and, so it appears, a much more secure nation. That’s not “unremitting partisanship,” that’s his job.
HINDROCKET adds: Awesome, Deacon. If the Post had any sense, they’d cancel his contract and give you his space.
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