Will 2008 look just like 2004-- AND 2000?
While describing himself as a "conservative," the stump speech he delivered Sunday was designed as a broad appeal to the American middle, the heartland that is sick of Washington politics. Drop out a few lines -- like his endorsement of a Steve Forbes flat tax -- and most of the speech could have been delivered by a Democratic candidate for president. Huckabee condemned the incompetence of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. He attacked white-collar crooks who have squandered people's pensions. He spoke of fathers who are worried about pink slips and parents who can't pay their medical bills when their son breaks his arm.Perhaps the most notable part of the speech was what he never said. He made no mention of his longtime stand on social issues -- pro-life, anti-gay marriage, vocal about his own faith -- that gives him a natural advantage over the Republican front-runners, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who are viewed skeptically by evangelical leaders.
That's been the Republican strategy for the last two elections-- make nicey-nice, win over the voters, then take a hard right turn. Unfortunately, the Democratic approach has been the other side of the sad equation. Taking to heart the DLC line that Americans demand centrists and hate all things progressive, they pretty much renounced their mildly leftist inclinations instead of getting tough with the half-witted trust fund baby with all the folksy charm and country twang of a Connecticut patrician... I mean Texan. While the Dems' policies had broad appeal, they came across as waffling jellyfish-- with plenty of help from snarky "journalists." In spite of that, half the country voted for them, which is quite impressive. And it should have demonstrated twice over that the GOP was winning by faking liberalism, while Dems were losing as they shifted more to the right. (Remember Lieberman's presidential bid?)
But, as you know, Kerry's close call (and Gore's 2000 victory) wasn't enough to keep the lunatics from taking over the asylum. And we all know the results-- national bankruptcy, a Republican party that plumbed new depths of corruption (Grant's administration was pretty damn bad, but this bunch has 'em licked), two failed wars, an unprecedented terrorist attack whose perpetrators are still at large, and a hurricane that all but destroyed one of the most storied American cities handled with utter ineptitude. Just to name a few.
But from what I've seen of Hillary-- and sadly, from Obama to a lesser degree-- some people just haven't taken the lessons of the last two elections to heart. And we're already in for an endless series of Clinton jokes, just as Gore and Kerry were hammered by the press. But even worse. If she takes a third crack at irresolute-as-campaign-strategy, it looks like we're just in for another colossal disappointment. Gore has certainly learned his lesson, and Kerry, too, if only in hindsight. Let's hope the next nominee has already taken it to heart.
Hillary Clinton, who said just 12 days ago that she was "not going to support a specific deadline" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops for Iraq, declared Sunday that George W. Bush has the responsibility to "extricate" the U.S. from Iraq by the time he leaves office in January 2009.
Hey conservatives! It's never too soon to dust off those "for it before he was against it" quips. John Kerry refuted that one (although his credibility was shot to hell by then in the minds of most), but Hillary really did play the hawk card until the last minute. Just the sort of focus-group politicking that BushCo engaged in with gusto-- but sensibly accused their opponents of day in and day out.