Jude Wanniski
May 7, 2001


Memo To: Congressional Democrats
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Advice from the NYTimes

If I were you folks, I would not spend much time reading the NYTimes “The Week In Review” section. If you do, “TWIR: could cost you any chance of regaining control of Congress in 2002. That’s because President Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress steadily have been building a record of genuine bipartisanship, often to the irritation of the most conservative opinion leaders in the GOP, and your leaders have been acting as if your only chance of gaining control of the 108th Congress is to block Republican efforts and then hope the electorate does not notice. The Times editorial page of course is aligned with your party and is expected to promote the party line. The “Review” section almost always has strained to play it straight, though, which helps provide a sound information base that enables both political parties to decide for themselves how to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

What especially caught my eye yesterday was a piece in the “Nation” section, page three, about how the President is pretending to be bipartisan, “Civil War: All For One and None for You,” by Neal Gabler, a partisan Democrat who writes books. The premise sounded interesting and the Times certainly gave the fellow lots of space to make his argument. But we then find Gabler gabbling for several hundred words about Bush making believe he is trying to get along with Democrats before getting to his point: “So how does this square with the marked partisanship of his first 100 days, where he left most Democrats out of the budget process, rebuked American allies on the Kyoto treaty and sought to undo many of President Clinton’s environmental initiatives? It squares because President Bush’s idea of bipartisanship is something far different from, say, the Republican Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg’s support of Harry S. Truman’s policy of communist containment or the Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen’s support of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Medicare bill.” The only Republican sign of “bipartisanship” on which Gabler can put his finger is that of “Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, [who] has built a bipartisan following not just by talking about bipartisanship but by crossing political divides and defying ideological boilerplate.”

This is pretty junky commentary, transparently so. Gabler gives us examples of a Republican MINORITY in 1949 supporting a Democratic President on foreign policy and then a Republican MINORITY in 1966 supporting a Democratic President on domestic policy. The examples are of Republicans without power crossing the aisle to support the Democrat in the White House. He also applauds the bipartisanship of John McCain, who in the process lost his bid for power. McCain crossed the aisle to back Democrats who also had lost their bid for power, in a bipartisan coalition of losers!!

There is no mention in this piece of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott agreeing to give the Democrats a 50-50 split on Senate committees, which he did not have to do. This was a breathtaking act of bipartisanship. Then there is Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, who is rewarded for his 50-50 bipartisanship on the committee by having the Democrats WALK OUT OF A COMMITTEE MEETING IN PROTEST when he does not give them MORE power than they would have if they had won the presidency and the Congress. They of course want to be able to block the President’s judicial appointments, hoping to pile them up by putting “holds” on them. Hatch is absolutely correct in his assessment that they are hoping for the Senate to change hands any day now, upon the departure of 98-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond. We have here a partisan death watch, for which you can thank Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, an implacable liberal, as he is termed by Bob Novak in his syndicated column today.

Novak’s column is about Daschle’s fanatical determination to prevent the President from getting his budget passed: “In my 44th year of Senate-watching, I have never seen a caucus so disciplined as the current Democrats or a leader so implacably liberal as Daschle.” There is no trace of bipartisanship here, yet the Gabler piece in “TWIR” insists the problem is with the Republicans, saying Bush excluded “most Democrats” from the budget process, an outright falsehood. We note that Sen. Bob Torricelli [D-NJ], a supply-side tax cutter, was given a seat on the Senate Finance Committee this year only on his promise to Daschle that in committee he would vote against ANY Bush budget plan that might be fashioned by the GOP leaders.

Then we read Gabler’s assertion that Bush rebuked our allies by walking away from the Kyoto Treaty. What does this have to do with bipartisanship? There is no mention of the fact that in the last Congress, 95 members of the Senate voted against the Kyoto Treaty. You hardly can get more bipartisan than that, but the Times permits this commentary to inform its readers as evidence of the President’s partisanship. The fact is, MOST Democrats met in conference and decided as a unit to NOT COOPERATE with the President under any circumstances, except of course when he would totally capitulate to Democratic objectives.

The point of this memo, congressional Democrats, is to suggest that you are not helping yourself regain control of the Congress by pretending to be acting in good faith, all the while subverting this process. The voters can be fooled around the edges by this kind of behavior, but when it gets piled high as it has been lately, there is no mistaking a political party that is acting out of desperation for power. The electorate appreciates muscular debate, but I doubt it will reward the kind of mean-spirited bad faith coming out of your leadership.