A Tale of Two Democrats

Democratic Party, Republican Party

Oliver Burkeman and Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian report that Al Gore called the Bush Administration a “renegade band of rightwing extremists.”

Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as “a renegade band of rightwing extremists”.

In an interview with the Guardian today, the former vice-president calls himself a “recovering politician”, but launches into the political fray more explicitly than he has previously done during his high-profile campaigning on the threat of global warming.

Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2000 election, Mr Gore says: “If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right.”

Righties are outraged, because Gore made these remarks in Britain. To a rightie, criticizing Dear Leader on foreign soil is the worst kind of lèse-majesté. Of course, they’d be just as outraged if he’d said the same thing in the U.S. There’s no pleasing some people.

Burkeman and Freedland continue,

The new levels of attention he is receiving have led some Democrats to call on him to run again for president, while others have responded with anger that Mr Gore did not show the same level of passion in the 2000 campaign.

He has since acknowledged that he followed too closely the advice of his consultants during that campaign, and – before he started to scoff at the idea of running again – swore that if he ever did so, he would speak his mind.

It says something about the state of politics in the U.S. when politicians in office are afraid to speak their minds. (Such as …)

According to Steve Thomma of Knight Ridder, some Dem Party insiders are starting to criticize Hillary Clinton for being a wuss. Finally.

As she kicks off her campaign Wednesday for a second term, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York carries the image of a leader of her party and the expectation she’ll be the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Yet many Democrats and analysts think she’s failed to lead at a pivotal time for her party and the nation, complaining that she’s been overly cautious and timid in her first term. They contend that she’s remained a backbencher on major issues such as the Iraq war and immigration. And they say she’s squandered the unique platform her celebrity gives her to put other issues in play, such as expanding health care.

The approach may help or hurt her political career. But it’s angered or frustrated some Democrats who want more from her, and has contributed to the buzz within the party for former Vice President Al Gore as a more forceful champion heading into the 2008 campaign.

“As we tackle the great issues and debates, I don’t know that she has defined them for us,” said Joe Turnham, the state Democratic chairman in Alabama.

At a recent gathering of state and national Democratic leaders in New Orleans, Turnham said, “I sensed . . . a great yearning for someone to step up to the plate and speak the truth with almost a disregard to their own political posturing . . . even the Clinton admirers admit she’s not ready to go there yet.”

Is it too much to ask that our leaders be, well, leaders?

“Members of Congress scratch and claw to get one line of a news story. Hillary Clinton can wake up and decide to put health care on every front page in the country. But she hasn’t,” complained David Sirota, a liberal activist and former Democratic congressional aide.

“If you ask, `What does Hillary Clinton really represent?’ It would be hard to tell.”

“On the big issues, she hasn’t been there,” agreed Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

He said she’d worked to build a record of collaborating with Republicans on small, noncontroversial issues, much as her husband built up his political capital with proposals such as requiring school uniforms or installing V-chips in televisions to control children’s exposure to violence.

“She’s very cleverly co-sponsored a lot of minor legislation with conservative republicans like Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., so people can say she’s not divisive. It’s not on anything of great importance,” Baker said.

Speaking of David Sirota, this post suggests he probably approved of what Gore said about the rightwing renegades.

In my new book Hostile Takeover, I spend a good deal of time showing how ultra-conservative right-wingers have hijacked the terms “centrist” and “mainstream” and disconnected them from what’s actually “centrist” and “mainstream” among the public. This is no small matter (and a topic I have focused on before) – it is a hugely important and powerful linguistic weapon deviously employed by the most destructive forces. That’s right – today in Washington, positions that are way to the right of where the American public stands are regularly called “centrist” or “mainstream.” That’s no accident – it is a deliberate strategy employed by Big Money interests that run the Establishment to effectively marginalize the vast majority of the population from its own political debate and political system. It is, in short, a hostile takeover not just of our government, but of political discourse itself.

Like I said — In the past several years the media has made right-wing extremism seem “centrist” while progressivism, which has a long and respectable history in mainstream American politics, has been marginalized as something alien and weird and loony. Media enabled the Republicans to become the dominant party in national politics even though the Dems are more representative of American public opinion on issue after issue. It’s more accurate to say that a large right-wing extremist faction has been able to co-opt and coerce a large part of American mass media into reflecting its point of view. What Gore said is, of course, the plain truth, except that the extremists that control our government are not limited to the Bush Administration.

David goes on to talk about a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. I think that, these days, Al Gore is the soul of the Democratic Party, and the question is whether those who control the party will allow the soul to inhabit the body or drive it away. A Dem Party led by Clintonites and the DLC seems a cold, lifeless, soulless thing to me.

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  1. modus potus  •  May 31, 2006 @1:49 pm

    Maybe Al’s outspokenness will wind up goading other Democrats to be more vocal. Could be quite a good thing even if he doesn’t wind up running. On the other hand, perhaps they’ll just look that much more timid by comparison. But I have to note that the Republicans have long made use of the more outspoken members of their party to permit their candidates to (1) raise issues they’d otherwise not dare talk about, and (2) appear more moderate.

  2. justme  •  May 31, 2006 @3:02 pm

    Maha said:” I think that, these days, Al Gore is the soul of the democratic party, and the question is whether those who control the party will allow the soul to inhabit the body or drive it away.A Dem party led by Clintonites and the DLC seems a cold, soulless thing to me.”

    My response: AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It has gotta kick ass to be Al Gore right now….just his presents leaves everyone he speaks to KNOWING they were wrong now…He says”I told ya so” without a word……I had a RIGHTIE tell me last week when he sees Al Gore now he is ashamed of himself and his vote(this from a glenn beck fan)…He admittted to me he voted for “bullshit talking points over substance”- his words….HEH

  3. Gloria  •  May 31, 2006 @10:58 pm

    There is another, proven leader in the Democratic Party, namely, Wesley Clark. He’s been ahead of the curve on Iraq, Iran, and even on the stress on the troops and their inadequate care, before the recent revelations about the Haditha incident. Not to mention he’s been speaking truth to power on FOX…and just last night, he was on O’Reilly defending Murtha.