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Saturday, August 09, 2003

Tell on the Dems

David Tell has an interesting recap of the Democrats' AFL-CIO event this past week in The Weekly Standard. He's not just spouting conservative propaganda here, actually admitting Dean could win the White House, etc. His mockery of Bob Graham and Dennis Kucinich is funny too:

"As I say, though, Gephardt is not the worst of them. That would be Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who runs behind Carol Moseley Braun in most of the polls, and for good reason. Graham provided the only real squirm-in-your-seat moment. And it came the very first time he was asked to open his mouth. 'Sen. Graham, you have a solid globalization record,' moderator Bob Edwards of National Public Radio noted. 'How do you reconcile your recent promises on trade policy with your voting record on the issue?' Graham said . . . nothing, and stood blank-faced, for several agonizing seconds while nervous titters spread through the auditorium. Had it not occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, the AFL-CIO would want to hear a word or two about duties and tariffs and whatnot?

"... Kucinich spent most of his time doggedly attempting to goad his fellow panelists into a more-progressive-than-thou contest. Kucinich would 'cancel' the NAFTA and WTO trade agreements on his first day in the Oval Office, he says. He would replace a 'failed' private-sector health care system with a British-model, government-managed national scheme funded by a '7.7 percent tax paid by employers.' And will 'Dick' or 'Howard' or any of the rest of them make such pledges, Kucinich wondered aloud--repeatedly and sarcastically? Well, will they, huh, huh? 'Let's go home knowing that.' This time, Kucinich did not lose the room. You got the sense, instead, that everyone was watching, intently, to see whether 'Dick' or 'Howard' would blow a gasket and strangle the man. Dennis Kucinich, it turns out, is going to be fun to watch."

The most interesting part, though, is Tell's description of Al Sharpton, who often at these events gets the best appluause, despite polling very low. Sharpton has charged the media this week with being unfair to his campaign, and Tell's article sheds light on why his polling and appluase are so disconnected:

"Al Sharpton went over big in Chicago. He got off the best one-liner: He showed up 15 minutes late, explaining that he'd had a 'non-union cab driver.' Sharpton got the evening's only standing ovation, too--when he railed against the Bush Justice Department for unspecified investigations into union corruption. And so far as I can tell, Rev. Al's rousing reception in Chicago was par for the course. He has a genial, entirely un-politician-like stage presence, and Democratic audiences generally enjoy his company--in the moment, that is. When they answer pollsters' telephone calls, however, it's a different story. Sharpton barely rates a blip. My guess is that a lot of people vaguely sense they're supposed to disapprove of the man, but can't put their finger on why.

"Here's why. Sharpton is a funny, genial, ingenuous man with a record of lurid demagoguery in the not-so-distant past. Also, he's an ignoramus--a totally unqualified candidate. What will President Sharpton do about rising health care costs, he is asked? 'We need to have a constitutional amendment that is being proposed now under House Resolution 29 to make the quality health care of all citizens a constitutional right,' he replies. This would be a stupid idea under any circumstances, but there's a more basic problem: House Resolution 29 is a bill to convert a temporary federal judgeship in Nebraska to permanent status. What will President Sharpton do to help workers who claim to have been harassed or fired for union-organizing activities, he is further asked? 'If I were president, we'd have a federal law' banning such retribution, he promises, apparently unaware that just such a law has been on the books for decades."

I think this hits the nail on the head. Sharpton is fun to see speak, but I don't want him as the president. And if he wants to be taken seriously in the press, he should actually hire some staff in Iowa and New Hampshire and try to win some primaries, as Donna Brazile has suggested.