Democrats setting negative tone for 2004 election

A. J. Atchue

On Tuesday September 9, the nine Democratic candidates for president converged on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore for a debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. With the primary season just around the corner, it was the first in a series of major debates leading up to the voting in January.

The debate quickly turned into a competition for who could bash President Bush the hardest. Florida Senator Bob Graham referred to Osama bin Laden as “Osama been Forgotten.” Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman called Bush “the most fiscally irresponsible President in the history of the United States of America.” In reference to the rising cost of health care, North Carolina Senator John Edwards quipped that the White House should hang a sign on its door reading, “This President is hazardous to your health.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Democratic candidates are using this harsh rhetoric to rally the liberal base for the primaries. However, they are doing very little to distinguish themselves from each other and even less to appeal to the moderate swing voters that will ultimately decide the general election in November 2004. There are two typical policy breakdowns that the Democrats are focusing on with their criticisms of President Bush: foreign policy and domestic issues. Let’s take it step by step.

The situation in Iraq is clearly worse than the administration expected it to be at this time, but that reality cannot be overblown.

Changes should be made, but it is extremely premature to call the entire operation a failure.

It is typical of Americans’ digital-age desire for instant success that some have already grown tired of the reconstruction effort and declared the situation “a quagmire” – this after five whole months!

Graham went so far as to assert that Bush deliberately lied to the American people about the justifications for the war, such as weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), while Massachusetts Senator John Kerry dodged the same question. Democrats have to be very careful here. They have shown that it is easy to accuse the president of deception.

However, when you accuse another person of deliberately lying, you better have evidence supporting your allegation. Simply saying that no WMDs have been found does not cut it.

Just because the weapons have not been found sitting in a pile with a sign on them saying, “here we are!” does not mean that they didn’t exist prior to the war. It was the unanimous opinion of the UN Security Council last November that they existed, and Saddam Hussein did nothing in the meantime to diffuse

The questioning turned to domestic issues during the second half of the debate, and the attacks on Bush certainly didn’t let up. The Democrats criticized everything from his tax cuts to the loss of jobs and rising cost of health care under his administration.

My biggest peeve on the tax cut issue is when truly ignorant anti-Bush people wrap it up in the catchy, but false, phrase of “tax cuts for the rich.” These people, seeking a convenient sound bite, completely ignore the fact that a good portion of the cuts apply to middle class workers with children. In fact, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt would repeal even these middle-class tax cuts, which would in effect be a tax increase on working Americans.

Dean and Gephardt have pledged to use these repeals to subsidize different versions of a Universal Health Care program. . The problem that the Democrats face is how to deliver on all of these rosy-sounding promises while still allocating money for overseas expenses, such as the continuing War on Terror.

The only fighting chance that the Democrats have at beating the popular Bush next year is to nominate a candidate who will not bend to terrorists and who has realistic proposals for domestic issues. To this point, all I’ve heard from the nine candidates is Bush-bashing and very expensive domestic program ideas.

The American people will be very reluctant to elect a member of the left-wing, or “Democratic wing,” of the Democratic Party, which is how the front-running Dean describes his affiliation.

Throughout the upcoming primary season, the worst thing that the candidates and voters can do would be to underestimate the immense support that many Americans still show for President Bush. He is still a justifiably popular president in the eyes of most swing voters.