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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Presenting The Instantly And Totally Credible Frank Rich

When he says these things about Bush, we dismiss it as partisan griping. But when committed Lefty Frank Rich treats the Dems to a scathing review, we are agog. Just let the acid wash over you:

The Democrats are farcically — or, if you choose, tragically — even more mired in the past than the press is. Terry McAuliffe has been fond of saying that defeating Jeb Bush was his top priority this year. The notion that avenging 2000 could be more important than, say, holding onto the Senate into 2004 is so nonsensical that only a party chairman cryogenically entombed in the Clinton-Gore fin de siècle could say it with a straight face.

...I'm not sure what we did wrong," Mr. McAuliffe declared on Wednesday, no less clueless in defeat than in anticipating victory. Denial, the first of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of death and dying, is his party's order of the day. (No. 2, anger, is rapidly yapping at its heels.)

...The Democrats were not done in by Osama bin Laden or the media or anyone other than themselves. Their intellectual vacuity in this year's campaign was apparent well before 9/11.

...This election was not about nothing; it's the Democrats who were about nothing.

...Foreign policy is a nonstarter with Democrats. At home, we know that they are in favor of "protecting" Social Security and that some of them dream of energy independence, or of universal health insurance in a nation where 41 million people have none at all. But they put forward no serious plans to accomplish such goals, let alone plans specifying a price tag and the means by which to pay the bills.

...This lack of seriousness is sometimes matched by a soullessness that all the eulogizing of Paul Wellstone could not obscure. Fear of the N.R.A. led poor Jean Carnahan to invite reporters to watch her shoot skeet. Defending Bob Torricelli, Mr. McAuliffe enthusiastically observed that the controversy over his sleazy gift-grubbing was "creating excitement out there and helping raise more money."

...Two Democratic Senate campaigns a continent apart were marked by gay-baiting.

...With Mr. Gephardt leaving his leadership position, many Democratic politicians are calling for Mr. McAuliffe's head. Everyone wants "new faces" — not an easy task for a party whose 11th-hour new faces in this campaign were Frank Lautenberg and Walter Mondale and whose favorite form of ingenue, "new" Kennedys (Andrew Cuomo and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend), went belly-up in the friendly confines of New York and Maryland. The bench is so sparse that Gary Hart's name was tossed around this week. Next up, no doubt: Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter and Mike Dukakis.

...Yet Clintonism without Clinton... remains the party's fantasy. This is exemplified... by the relentless search for a telegenic savior, ideally from neither coast, who might magically finesse the difference between the party's liberal base and the American middle (at least until Hillary is ready to run).

That's the role John Edwards is meant to play, but his timidity to date makes even Al Gore sound like Harry Truman. As for Mr. Gore, he turned up in full sanctimonious lather the day after defeat to instruct Democrats, via Barbara Walters, that they "need to draw clear lines" about their policy differences with Republicans — a task he utterly failed to accomplish in his own October speech assailing the administration's economic record.

Well. In attempting to re-connect with the base, Ms. Pelosi might start here.

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