Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Speaking of Kerry: We're starting to see a general-election strategy jelling:
John Kerry accused President Bush of running "an extreme radical administration" as Wisconsin Democrats decided Tuesday whether to support his front-running campaign or help his rivals stay in the race for their party's nomination for president.
I think that's how he'll pitch his campaign, since "extreme" and "radical" are good hot-button words. Doris Kearns Goodwin said (roughly) this morning, on Imus, that Bush is "a lot more of a right-wing ideologue than we thought." It's a good line. It will probably sell pretty well.

But can you name a single policy that defines the current administration that is not supported by at least one prominent Democrat? Partial-birth abortion has its dissenters among the Dems. Iraq -- both the war and the nation-building -- had quite a few Democrat supporters, until the party saw Howard Dean using it as red meat. Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, both of whom sought to replace Bush, were fully on board. Tax cuts passed with quite a bit of bipartisanship. On discretionary spending issues, the Dems carp around the margins -- Bush is not spending "enough" (whatever that means) on this or that program. But the president has spent hugely at home. Congress's wish list has been burning up, from farm giveaways to highway pork to entitlement spending, with no discipline in sight. Easterbrook has praised Bush's cap-trading approach to environmental protection. Most non-ideological AIDS groups realize that Bush's aid-to-Africa plan is head and shoulders above the supposedly caring Clinton administration's words-not-deeds approach. On top of that, Bush has made serious efforts (sometimes successful) to either stay above or stay quiet on divisive subjects like abortion and gay marriage (though the base seems to be demanding a solid stand on the latter).

I honestly don't see where the right-wing ideology comes in. Spending targets aside, I'm with the liberal side on a lot of these issues, as we've discussed here frequently. But I don't buy the "Bush is extreme" rhetoric.

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