Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner announced yesterday he would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination for president in 2008, stunning political strategists on both sides of the aisle. Since his term expired as governor, the centrist Democrat has, according to Globeandmail.com, headlined 86 political events in 25 states, hired some of the best-known advisers in the Democratic Party, developed a sophisticated on-line presence and, through his Forward Together PAC, had contributed $7.3-million to Democratic candidates and organizations this election cycle, more than any other political action committee.
The move has reshaped the 2008 political landscape. I predict Warner supporters will split their support between two other centrists, Senator Evan Bayh and former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards.
Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review Online, has become enamoured with centrist Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., who is running for Senator in Tennessee.
A five-term, African-American congressman from Memphis, Ford has come close in his brilliant campaign to cracking the electoral code for Democrats running practically anywhere that’s not dominated by a major urban center. It comes down to “don’t be a liberal,” or at least “don’t be a liberal in easily exploitable ways.”
Ford has sidestepped the symbolic hot-button issues. He is, for instance, against partial-birth abortion and for a ban on flag-burning. The calculation here is plain. Why should Democrats expend an ounce of credibility defending a practice that strikes most people as infanticide and is a tiny proportion of all abortions? And why seem to defend flag-burning, a practice that is highly offensive and happens only rarely anyway? (Liberal absolutists will have answers to these questions, but they never will be elected statewide in Tennessee.)
On national security, Ford voted for the Iraq War and tilted toward President Bush in his dispute with Sen. John McCain on how to interrogate terrorists. Again, even if they object to tough interrogations of a few top-level al Qaeda killers, why would Democrats make an issue of it? On the economy, Ford has supported a slew of tax cuts. Taken altogether, he has systematically eliminated his party’s vulnerabilities on culture, national security and the economy, in a performance worthy of Bill Clinton in his centrist, vote-winning prime.
At a campaign rally for Nevada Senate candidate (and son of Jimmy) Jack Carter, former President Bill Clinton had this to say:
This is an election unlike any other I have ever participated in… For six years this country has been totally dominated – not by the Republican Party, this is not fair to the Republican Party – by a narrow sliver of the Republican Party, its more right-wing and its most ideological element… When the chips are down, this country has been jammed to the right, jammed into an ideological corner, alienated from its allies, and we’re in a lot of trouble… The Democratic Party has become the liberal and conservative party in America. If you want to be fiscally conservative, you’ve got to be for us. If you want to conserve natural resources, you’ve got to be for us… If you want a change of course in Iraq … you’ve got to be for us.”
I’m starting this next portion of today’s entry with a tired “letter to the editor” type cliché. “I read with great interest… ” Sorry, I told myself that I would never again start anything I wrote with “I read with great interest.” Everyone does that. Look at any editorial page. But how else can I express my opinion on the latest Peggy Noonan article? I read with great ridicule? Yes, that’s it. I read with great ridicule the latest Peggy Noonan article in which she tries to cite examples of the “left” silencing the right. Out of the examples cited, only one really qualifies. So I’ll start there.
At Columbia University, members of the Minutemen, the group that patrols the U.S. border with Mexico and reports illegal crossings, were asked to address a forum on immigration policy. As Jim Gilchrist, the founder, spoke, angry students stormed the stage, shouting and knocking over chairs and tables. “Having wreaked havoc,” said the New York Sun, they unfurled a banner in Arabic and English that said, “No one is ever illegal.” The auditorium was cleared, the Minutemen silenced. Afterward a student protester told the Columbia Spectator, “I don’t feel we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. . . . The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration.”
Ok, bad thing. I hate that style of “discourse.” It’s so 60s! Anyone who disrupts a civil and organized forum as described above isn’t interested in free speech, unless it is stopping it. Their goal is to make sure people in attendance don’t get to hear what is being said. Preventing someone with an opposing viewpoint from being heard is the real threat to free speech, regardless of how you personally feel about what is being spoken.
The funny thing about that event was the protestor who said the Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration. Of course they are. They’re in the thick of it! You can’t have a discussion about illegal immigration without the Minutemen being mentioned. The same can’t be said for the organization the protestors were reportedly a part of – the International Socialist Organization.
But I disagree with Noonan’s view of the other examples in her piece for the very same reason I agree with her on the above event. Free speech was not infringed. Take the CBS News occurrence. On the October 2nd edition of Katie Couric’s “Free Speech” segment, Brian Rohrbough shared his views on the deeper causes of the recent Amish school shootings. Mr. Rohrbough is uniquely qualified to speak on the matter because his son was killed in the Columbine tragedy. he believes violence entered our schools when we “threw God out of them.” “This country is in a moral freefall. For over two generations the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum. . . . We teach there are no moral absolutes, no right or wrong, and I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children.”
OK, not exactly MY viewpoint, and other people who disagreed (including officials at CBS News) criticized him and the network for airing it, but his views were not stifled. He made his point to millions of viewers. Freedom of Speech does not shelter us from criticism of what we say – even intimidating criticism. Sorry, Peggy. This simply is not a good example of the “left” silencing the right. It doesn’t qualify at all.
Next up, a recent Barbara Streisand concert at Madison Square Garden. Streisand is a known liberal and it is also well known that she talks politics during her performances. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when she does it and I’m sure it didn’t surprise the heckler in the audience who yelled out something similar to the rightwing mantra on performers who are also political: “Shut up and sing.” Streisand then responded back the heckler. Sounds as though they were BOTH exercising their First Amendment right. So why is Noonan so offended?
Finally, a similar incident on The View found Rosie O’Donnell in a verbal spat with Elizabeth Hasselbeck over gun control and the Second Amendment. Apparently O’Donnell knows how to state her case louder than Hasselbeck, but Hasselbeck was in no way silenced nor did she have her First Amendment rights infringed upon, unless we can also claim that rightwing talkers like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are guilty of doing the same. And there are certainly more cases implicating conservative hosts of “silencing dissent” than there are from the left if we use Noonan’s definition of the terms.