… last Saturday… several hundred Murfreesboro Democrats, a clear majority of them white, had come out on a brutally hot morning to hear Harold Ford Jr. — the 36-year-old congressman from Memphis who is the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat that Bill Frist is vacating. To recapture the Senate this year, the Democrats need Ford to take Tennessee — no small challenge, since Tennessee hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1990, and since Ford, like just 16 percent of his fellow Tennesseans, is African American.
Yet Ford is still very much in the hunt, and after just a few minutes in his presence, it’s no mystery why: He is, in the tradition of Southern pols ranging from Huey Long to Bill Clinton, a preternaturally gifted campaigner. Young, single, handsome in a way that pols almost never are (he is the only elected official I’ve ever seen who could have a successful career as a model), blessed with a perfect ear for both political argument and the exigencies of local politics, Ford is a sight to behold.
Consider the following Ford attack on the Republicans’ national security bona fides. “When we fill up our gas tanks, we send money to the other side in the war on terrorism — Iran,” he tells the crowd. “Think of Iran as a venture capital company that invests in an unusual kind of start-up — terrorist organizations. It’s a big venture capital fund, and who’s its biggest investor? You are. Yet our government does nothing to fund alternative sources of energy,” he says, noting that his campaign car is powered by biodiesel fuels and arguing that Tennessee’s economy could profit if the federal government had the horse sense to promote hybrid cars and alternative fuels.
George W. Bush sounds increasingly like your average defiant teenager. The teenager won’t clean his room, and the president won’t leave Iraq.
The president’s latest news conference was another installment of rebel with a cause that a shrinking number of Americans believe in.
”We’re not leaving so long as I’m president,” promised – or threatened – Bush.
Acknowledging that public support for the war continues to wane, the president said, ”These are challenging times, and they’re difficult times, and they’re straining the psyche of our country.” But as Senator John Kerry correctly pointed out, ”The American psyche isn’t the problem. The problem is this administration’s disastrous Iraq policy.” In fact, the presidential psyche, not the national psyche, is a big problem.
Bush, the stubborn, won’t leave Iraq. And even worse, he won’t admit mistakes relative to getting us there in the first place, or military miscues since, when it comes to carrying out the mission, he dooms us to travel the same misguided path as long as he remains in the White House.
What’s a nation to do? Ground the commander in chief for the rest of his term and take away his car keys?
Bush – or rather Karl Rove – wants Iraq to be the defining debate in upcoming elections. They are gambling on it. They figure they can pull off the tried-and-true Republican song and dance one more time: They scare the country and marginalize those who challenge war in Iraq as left-wing moonbats who don’t understand the true nature of the terrorist threat.
Bring it on, Mr. President.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM has it that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is an absolute certainty. But in Washington, many believe otherwise, fearing for her prospects and those of the Democratic Party she represents. And now there are fascinating hints that these forces are aligning to offer her a dignified way to demur from an ugly and ill-fated presidential effort, while still emerging a national leader.
Earlier this month, Steve Clemons’ blog, the Washington Note, quoted highly placed sources as saying that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had pulled Clinton aside and offered her a deal: Eschew the presidential campaign and succeed Reid as leader of the Senate Democrats in 2009. Reid’s office, of course, strenuously denies the claim. But Clemons, the director of the New America Foundation’s American Strategy program, is no fabulist, and this week, similar speculation showed up in Time magazine.
It’s obvious that someone wants word of this bargain to be fruitful and multiply. After all, it offers Clinton a way to disengage from an increasingly uphill effort, and it simultaneously floats the image of her in the minority or majority leader’s seat, a position she’s uniquely well-suited for.
Before running through her qualifications for the job, it’s worth explaining why she’d want it in the first place. After all, Clinton is the unquestioned front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president. She commands an unmatched war chest, an unrivaled collection of political talent (headed by her legendarily adroit husband) and star power that most putative candidates can only dream of.
At his blog, The Has Been.The DLC’s Bruce Reed has a sneak preview of his new book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America co-written with congressman Rahm Emanuel.
Strip away the job titles and party labels, and you will find two tribes of people in Washington: political Hacks and policy Wonks. Hacks come to Washington because anywhere else they’d be bored to death. Wonks come here because nowhere else could they bore so many to death.
After two decades in Washington, we have come to the conclusion that the gap between Republicans and Democrats is as nothing compared to the one between these two tribes. We should know. When we began working together in the Clinton White House, we came from different tribes—one of us a Hack, the other a Wonk. (We’re not telling which.) We made a deal to teach each other the secrets, quirks, and idioms of our respective sects.
Throughout history, Hacks and Wonks have been the yin and yang of politics. But in the last few years, something terrible has destroyed our political equilibrium. The political world suffered a devastating outbreak of what might be called Rove Flu—a virus that destroys any part of the brain not dedicated to partisan political manipulation. Now, Hacks are everywhere. Like woolly mammoths on the run from Neanderthals, Wonks are all but extinct.
Although Hacks have never been in short supply in our nation’s capital, the rise of one-party rule in Washington over the past four years unleashed an all-out Hack attack. Every issue, every debate, every job opening was seen as an opportunity to gain partisan advantage. Internal disagreement was stifled, independent thought discouraged, party discipline strictly enforced—and that’s just how they treated their friends.