Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA ON THE ATTACK, REVISITED....So what kind of new campaign idea could Obama come up with that would (a) be simple enough to resonate with a lot of people, and (b) force Hillary Clinton onto the defensive? To tell the truth, I can't think of anything. But here are a couple of ideas anyway.

(1) Propose that the United States unilaterally offer to reopen its embassy in Tehran. Ditto for Cuba and North Korea (and Bhutan, I suppose, though I don't really know what the deal is with them). Make the point that we live in dangerous times, and diplomatic relations should be used as a way of more effectively dealing with the world, not as a way of making self-righteous statements of approval or disapproval about specific regimes.

(2) Propose a specific list of Bush administration executive orders that he would rescind. No shilly-shallying, just a flat promise to revoke them. Possibilities include the orders governing torture, military commissions, and FISA. If he wanted to be even bolder, he could categorically promise to halt the use of presidential signing statements.

Like I said, I don't really know if either of these things would resonate strongly (and I don't know if Obama thinks they're good ideas, anyway). But they're simple, they appeal to the same instinct that Obama is appealing to in his campaign, and Hillary would oppose them. Worth a try?

POSTSCRIPT: Obviously, an unqualified promise to pull all troops out of Iraq and shut down all American bases by, say, January 20, 2010, would also be big, bold, and something Hillary would oppose as naive. Unfortunately, Obama has already taken a stand on this issue. A sudden spine stiffening on something he's been asked about hundreds of times before would probably generate as many questions as it would answer.

Kevin Drum 7:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

We broke off diplomatic relations with Bhutan?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 27, 2007 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Donald: No, we're friendly with them. I suppose Google (!) could tell me the history behind this, but apparently Bhutan has formal relations with only a small number of countries, but it's not because anyone thinks they're warmongers or anything. I'm not sure what the story is.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on October 27, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

#1 seems problematic in that it would cause another round of "Obama is naive" and all the Sunday talking heads would go into a tizzy. All of which would be fine, but somehow, I just don't think reopening embassies would resonate. People want saner foreign policy, but I don't see a clamoring for normalized relations. Throw in the Cuba issue, and half of Florida wigs out. I'm all for the idea, I just don't see it as a PR/campaign win.

#2 might play better, but it seems sort of weak. Everyone (particularly everyone voting in the Democratic primary) already hopes that their preferred candidate will undo much of what Bush has done, so a few specifics probably aren't going to set Obama apart that much. It might work if he could roll it into a more comprehensive argument against Hillary's leanings toward a strong Executive.

Posted by: Royko on October 27, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

You can't trust the Bhutanese. Those guys are shifty and inscrutible.

Posted by: Chocolate thunder on October 27, 2007 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, there is at least one, if not two candidates that have already promised this sort of action. Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich plan to open relations with Cuba, Iran, NK, etc., and plan to use diplomacy to its fullest extent before warming up the bombers. Unfortunately, the media, and therefore the public, have decided to ignore both.

Posted by: Dano on October 27, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "I'm not sure what the story [about Bhutan] is."

Nestled into the Himalayas between India and China (Tibet), Bhutan is probably a true hermit kingdom, and just wants to be left alone.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 27, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

He knows he has no chance. He's trying for VP.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on October 27, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Each of these ideas suffers from the obvious problem that they could be made to look as if it would suggest weakness on national security, or ignorance of how diplomacy is conducted. They would surely backfire.

Really, there are no steps here that are going to be 1) bold and decisive and 2) will be immune politically against effective counterattack.

That's what makes politics so hard. I'm sure Obama and his campaign wish there were such issues ready at hand. But, as I argued in the earlier thread, Hillary has already positioned herself very, very well toward the middle of the Democratic Party. The legitimate criticism of Hillary has been that she makes every decision by poll. But if she has done so, where can Obama stake out a major position that's going to suddenly score far more voters?

If Obama was going to win, it was going to be by positioning himself slightly to the left of Hillary (but not so much that he gives up many voters to his right), thereby picking up voters on the left, but impressing people with his greater commitment to essentially Democratic causes, and as being an agent of change.

Thing is, he's done precisely that, to the best of his, and his campaign's, ability to pull it off. And look at what it's gotten him.

I know it's early, but I think that the real campaign for people's hearts is taking place much, much earlier this election than in others. Voters are paying attention to the campaign because they just can't wait to get rid of Bush. They'll do anything to entertain a future in which the man is finally gone.

As early as it is, Obama looks done to me.

Posted by: frankly0 on October 27, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Both of those are too weak, Kevin, and hardly fit to capture the imagination.

Gotta be the War on Drugs, which if I remember correctly, you one mentioned that 'nobody thinks is a good idea'. Something like that. That was the War on Drugs, right?

Posted by: g on October 27, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

If you're rooting around for an issue at this stage in the game you're done for. Stick a fork in. Cooked. Done. Over.

Posted by: Chrissy on October 27, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

He could go after Mark Penn in a big way and demand that Hillary fire him, and not let up. He could pick a different issue each day: Penn and union-bashing, Penn and doing PR for Blackwater, Penn and Big Tobacco, Penn's connection to Dick Morris, Penn and electricity deregulation (hence the California power meltdown), Penn and Microsoft. There's basically no corporate interest the guy won't whore for, but he's also one of Hillary's most senior advisors.

And if we wind up with Hillary as the nominee but she's forced to dump Penn, Obama still will have done the country a service by making the guy radioactive.

Posted by: Joe Buck on October 27, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

What I'd like to know is if she will rescind Bush's executive order that sealed Presidential records. (just at the time that that Reagan's records were about to become public, conveniently closing off access to information about Bush senior's involvement in Iran/Contra.)

One of my biggest concerns about Clinton is her unwillingness to tell us what she plans to do, once in office. She has plans, but she obviously feels that telling voters about them would damage her campaign.

Posted by: slideguy on October 27, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton is Republican-lite.
Obama is green.
Edwards is the one we need.

In your heart you know he's a Democrat!

Posted by: MarkH on October 27, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

I wish he would unequivocally state that once in office warrantless wiretaps, signing statements, renditions and any interrogation methods even suggestive of torture would stop and habeus corpus and the Geneva conventions would be honored. No weaseling. Why is that so hard for them to say?

Posted by: Bob on October 27, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Really support gay rights. Not just pussy foot around and tell one group that he supports it (the LGBT crowd) and then not mention it to others. He could start by signing on as a cosponsor to the Uniting American Families Act that would allow same-sex binational couples to support their foreign-born partners for immigration, like 19 other countries do. He could say that separate but equal is never equal and compare this to his own story and his own family and really sell it. He could say that the state should be in the civil marriage business and that churches can too, but that these need to be separate. He can also dump that "ex-gay" but still, allegedly, gay minister from his South Carolina entourage.

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on October 27, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

OT:

Congressional Dems: 43% approval

Bush: 36% approval

Dems have some capital.

Burn it to burn Bush and the GOP.

Posted by: anonymous on October 27, 2007 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

How low must approval of congressional Repugnicans be to have overall approval of Congress that is around 15% when the Democrats' approval alone is at 43%.

Posted by: anonymous on October 27, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

[OT] A serious question: How many here believe, as I most earnestly do, that it would be a FAR better idea for the US to bomb degenerate, lunatic hate-mongers like this rabid NeoConNazi jackass?:

We Must Bomb Iran, Says US Republican Guru
[The Telegraph/UK]

A senior foreign policy adviser to the Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has urged that Iran be bombed using cruise missiles and "bunker busters" to set back Teheran's nuclear programme by at least five years.

The tough message at a time of crisis between the United States and Iraq was delivered by Norman Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, who has also imparted his stark advice personally to a receptive President George W. Bush.

"None of the alternatives to military action - negotiations, sanctions, provoking an internal insurrection - can possibly work," said Mr Podhoretz. ...
__________

And regarding the oft-touted five-to-ten-year "weaponization window":

Ex-Marine, Top Analyst Calls For Humane Foreign Policy
The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

... Toward the end of his talk, Ritter said he believes there is an 80 percent to 100 percent chance that Bush will attack Iran.

"This administration has paved the way for an assault on Iran before next summer's elections.

"But there is no evidence whatsoever that Bush is right about Iran's nuclear program. If you look at International Atomic Energy Agency reports, there is nothing to say Iran has any nuclear weapons program.

"Some say Iran is 10 years away. Charleston, West Virginia is 10 years away. My hometown in New York is 10 years away. There is not a spot on the earth that is not 10 years away from having nuclear weapons if they spend the money." ...

Posted by: Poilu on October 27, 2007 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

It depends on whom you're trying to reach, doesn't it. If you want the demographic break down of the poll, Kevin, I'd be happy to send it to you.

Posted by: Suetonius@religious.com on October 28, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

$800 billion and growing sounds like a pretty big bill to me to be passing on to my kids for an unwinable war in Iraq. Maybe Obama should lead the fight to tie any future funding for the war to tax increases (progressive of course) to pay for it.

Posted by: noexpert on October 28, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to predict, but at this point Obama will have a tough time making up lost ground. Hillary was only assailable from the left, and for whatever reason Obama showed little interest in shoring up that side of his message.

1. Yes, Obama was againt the war in the first place, which is more than a point in his favor, but he failed to make a clear difference between himself and Hillary in terms of policy *going forward*. Obama could have called for a more definitive end to the occupation (cf. Richardson), but he didn't.

2. On health care, the same problem: Obama is not that different from Hillary. If Obama had got behind HR 676 (Medicare for all), he would have drawn the line starkly between himself and corporate-friendly Hillary. He didn't. Instead, we got Obama's industry-approved proposal.

3. On the FISA issue, Obama had a clear moment to make the differences clear. But he failed to lead; that banner was picked up by Chris Dodd, who performed admirably (he is now my sentimental favorite).

Perhaps Obama really is just a fairly conservative Democrat like Hillary. Perhaps he was trying to avoid being cast as the leftist protest candidate. Perhaps he's just a little timid and lacks a sharklike political instinct. I don't know.

So now Obama says he's going to be tougher. Even in this, I see a lack of will: don't tell others your strategy. Don't say what you are going to do; just do it. Politics is a rough sport these days, especially with the corporate influence on our media. Obama can go for the sunny nobility stuff, but he has conspicuously lacked the ninjas who would turn the media cycle to his opponent's disadvantage. Perhaps he thought he could do without those ninjas. Bad calculation. Being nice does not make you president. And if you can't lead now, why should you be able to if you become president?

Posted by: ppg on October 28, 2007 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Check out this demographic polling information on Gore-Obama v. Clinton.

Posted by: Suetonius@religious.com on October 28, 2007 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pK4rLiIA6m_GQh5r5qGFxEA

Posted by: Suetonius@religious.com on October 28, 2007 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Bob. Plus war crimes trials.

Posted by: James Wimberley on October 28, 2007 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

Obama swearing off signing statements isn't going to register with the population at large because they haven't noticed Bush using them, and that goes the same for a good percentage of the Democratic primary voters. So that probably won't boost Obama much.
Opening up embassies in Tehran, Cuba and North Korea will, at best, end up a wash in the end - as many people who get fired up by the idea will be matched by the number of people who get pissed off by it.

The British Conservative party campaign idea you mentioned earlier has one advantage over the two ideas you mentioned: inheritance tax abolition under 1 million pounds grabs the attention of more people because it has the potential to be something that affects them personally. Not that it has the likelihood of affecting them, but the chance of affecting them. The funny thing about it is that it not only gives people the opportunity to daydream about getting more money (insert daydream of dead rich relative here), but it also gives them the chance to feel potentially robbed by the system. So on both ends it reinforces the Conservative idealogy with the voter's own wishful thinking.

Obama needs something that likewise grabs peoples' attention on a personal level. I don't think one new thing is going to do it for him, considering how far down he is in the polls. Probably it would help if he were to start promoting a bundling of issues that promoted growing the middle class, while reminding them at the same time of the threat to their own middle class dreams if the status quo keep chugging along. I know he touches on these things in his campaign, but he hasn't effectively put them together in an easy to swallow package.

Posted by: Lab Partner on October 28, 2007 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

I think he should go big and propose an ambitious mandatory national service program for 18-20 year olds, or 22-24 (post college after deferment): 6 months basic training (military) for all, followed by chosen tracks such as military, Ameri-Corp, Peace Corp, WPA, CCC, etc. This would be unpopular with teenagers, but they won't be voting anyway!

Posted by: Josh Ellsworth on October 28, 2007 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes the simplest ideas work best:

1) Promise to go to Iraq immediately after election ala Eisenhower (1952).

2)Promise to unfetter Embryonic stem cell research
and expand research spending by an amount commensirate with it's staggering potential to benefit millions.

3) Be Specific about increasing taxes on the wealthiest and cuts for every family which makes less than six figures.

Hillary could do any of those things but in advertising we had a saying that an idea belongs to the one who says it first and loudest.

Time to get cracking Obama!

Posted by: AndyS on October 28, 2007 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

The only way that HRC can be stopped is by Edwards dropping out and throwing his support to Obama -- in return for a spot on the national ticket. This would hand HRC a loss both in Iowa and New Hampshire, and prick her inevitability balloon.

You have to "know when to fold 'em." Edwards simply cannot win and is through in national politics at this point. (BTW, I like Edwards very much.) Obama is almost toast, desperately needs Edwards' supporters -- and Edwards would be a great running mate, arguably as good as anyone else. Whether this ticket could beat the eventual republican nominee is uncertain, but I think they would have a chance.

It is in both men's interest to work out something very soon. But I won't hold my breath.

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 28, 2007 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's failing support is likely to evaporate. Hillary's numbers are probably exaggerated since polling data involving race and gender are unreliable. The pundits babble about Hillary's inevitability just may turn off voters as well. The best candidate and the only one who can beat the Republicans - Edwards - just may emerge the winner.

Posted by: Chrissy on October 28, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

One thing is sure, Kevin Drum will never be a political consultant (That is a compliment, by the way).

It is more and more apparent that Obama is an empty shirt. Clinton, despite all her obvious flaws, is a forceful candidate who at least gives people an actual vision of herself as president. I would never vote for her, but I can see her as a plausible president. Obama just doesnt seem plausible to me.

The mistake that Obama has made is that he fell into the trap of running against Bush when he is actually running against Clinton and Edwards. The general election doesn't start until late next spring. When you have to start by announcing that you are going to get tough with your real opponent, it may be too late. It certainly seems weak and gives the impression of an indecisive leader.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on October 28, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

More Beltway subjunctivitis. "Would be" tough?

The tough are tough. They don't say they're going to be tough.

Posted by: lambert strether on October 28, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Inaudible Nonsense. Apparently the whole gospel singing crew in the Obama SC tour are publicly homophobic. This has been pointed out to Obama, who distanced himself with some typical boilerplate stuff. But did nothing else about it. To me, this has completely blown his image as the principled moral guy vs. politician Hillary. Particularly to anyone in the gay community who is paying any attention. I would now absolutely not vote for him. (OK, unless he is the nominee of course.)

Posted by: emjayay on October 28, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

He should use this.

Hillary's Mystery Money Men
by RUSS BAKER & ADAM FEDERMAN

[from the November 5, 2007 issue]

EDITOR'S NOTE: Alan G. Quasha responds to this article with thirteen specific objections, and Russ Baker and Adam Federman reply in turn to Quasha, in our web letters section.

In the Clintons' pursuit of power, there is no such thing as a strange bedfellow. One recently exposed inamorata was Norman Hsu, the mysterious businessman from Hong Kong who brought in $850,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign before being unmasked as a fugitive. Her campaign dismissed Hsu as someone who'd slipped through the cracks of an otherwise unimpeachable system for vetting donors, and perhaps he was. The same cannot be said for the notorious financier Alan Quasha, whose involvement with Clinton is at least as substantial--and still under wraps.

Political junkies will recall Quasha as the controversial figure who bailed out George W. Bush's failing oil company in 1986, folding Bush into his company, Harken Energy, thus setting him on the path to a lucrative and high-profile position as an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and the presidency. The persistently unprofitable Harken--many of whose board members, connected to powerful foreign interests and the intelligence community, nevertheless profited enormously--faced intense scrutiny in the early 1990s and again during Bush's first term.

Now Quasha is back--on the other side of the aisle.http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20071105&s=baker_federman

Posted by: Cee on October 28, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

So what does he pick instead of either of these two options? Social Security! great - let's open that up for more Republican sacare tactics and misinformation. Or is Obama going to be misinforming people also? I'm about done with that guy.

As Atrios said, leave it alone. It ain't broke.

Posted by: Dawn on October 28, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Emjayay: Absolutely. He lost my backing over the issue of the UAFA. He has told my community over and over again that he "supports the bill" but won't actually consponsor it. And then trumps up nonsense about "fraud." Which would be of no more an issue in same-sex immigration than in opposite. And there is a series of ways to deal with fraud that the BCIS uses. And of course, same-sex immigrants would automatically be under increased scrutiny anyway. Unless there is just latent prejudice and he doesn't understand that our relationships look exactly like our straight counterparts. And this whole issue with the SC crew suggests that. He wants to have his cake then eat it too. The gospel community is incredibly homophobic -- and of course filled with teh gays as well. Obama is hedging his bets. And that smells of the kind of political gamemanship he wants to decry.

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on October 28, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

"they could be made to look as if it would suggest weakness on national security, or ignorance of how diplomacy is conducted."

We HAVE a President who already fulfill's that description. Since the American electorate isn't too bright, it could work. It did with whatshisname.

Posted by: Mazurka on October 28, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

How about trying to get every Democrat in the Senate to sign a pledge saying that he or she will vote against confirming (and filibuster if necessary) any nominee for Attorney General who won't say that water boarding is torture?

Instead of promising to do something, do something!

Instead of talking about leadership, lead!

Instead of telling us about a new kind of politics, show us.

Posted by: Andy McLennan on October 28, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

When FDR ran for president he was a sitting governor, actively leading the state of New York. When Harry Truman was nominated for VP he was actively leading a Senate committee ensuring that fraud, waste and corruption were kept to a minimum while the country fought WWII.
Why didn't Senator Obama plan ahead? Certainly he knew months ago that he was considering running for president. He almost certainly knew that HRC (and others) would also be running. Why then, didn't he sit down, think about what he believes in and then go out and push HIS agenda? Actively build support for what he wants to do as president; you know, lead? And that means sustainable positions on policies other than Iraq.
Right now, it appears as if he may simply casting about; trying to find something, anything, that might put a dent in the present front-runner's position. The Senator has an audience. He's well-known enough so that any speech(es) he gives will be fully written about. Surely he didn't expect to coast to the nomination simply on opposition to Iraq? Where's his fall-back positions?
Personally, unless Senator Obama can very quickly start turning his campaign around (by the New Year at the latest), he would best serve his future political interests (and ours), by using his position on a Senate committee to keep some particularly egregious activity of the Bush/Cheyney mal-administration in the forefront of the news.
This would not prevent him from actively supporting certain Democratic candidates to balance the party's nominee, if he felt that was necessary. After all, there will be elections in 2012, 2016, 2020....
(My advice would be the same to any candidate - though age might rule out 2020 for some of them).

Posted by: Doug on October 28, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats need to get disenfranchised, unhappy traditional Republicans and waffling independents in alignment with them, and focus on exposing Republican wrong-doing
in handling public affairs, their violation of trust, their malfeasance. There is plenty of it.

Posted by: consider wisely on October 28, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The most important issue: Corporations have too much power. Since Hilary is telling all the other candidates that she is a realist for taking lobbyists money, I think she is very vulnerable. As of Yearly Kos, she is the only major candidate taking money from lobbyists.

Posted by: MsComment on October 28, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

The internets are a wonderful place. Here's one essay from November of 2004 (post Kerry defeat) I found that's practically like a Halloween grab bag for Obama or Edwards. Moreover, every single idea- and I counted over 25- has what Kevin Drum asked for: a simple, easy to understand proposal that demonstrates a bold, outside the box, initiative, sure to garner massive public attention. First one between Edwards and Obama to hold a press conference and announce any or all of the following has a much better chance of beating Hillary:

A DEMOCRAT’S BLUEPRINT FOR THE PARTY- AND AMERICA

Democrats don’t have to be a moribund party. We have plenty of thinkers, plenty of ideas, and, unlike the divisive and destructive policies of our opponents, many of our ideas have the elegant combination of being both politically popular and useful to the nation- the whole nation, not the favored few.

Highlights of essay include:

* transforming medical malpractice into a no-fault system which will eliminate ALL malpractice insurance premiums for doctors and provide compensation for the vast majority of patients who currently receive nothing

* an abortion policy which will attract pro-lifers without sacrificing a woman’s right to choose

* national defense which takes dollars from useless and expensive high tech weapons systems and puts the dollars where they are needed- in the pockets of ordinary soldiers and in the defense of our ports, borders, and nuclear and chemical plants

* A reform of Social Security which takes over the privatization scheme but makes it revenue neutral by removing caps on taxable income and requiring taxation of interest and capital gains

* campaign finance reform that allows attacked candidates free air time immediately following the attack ad

* catastrophic health insurance which puts labor and big business on the same side of the issue

* putting Republican tax breaks for the rich- like mortgage interest- out in the open where they can be seen for what they are- $25,000 a year for the mansion owner, $500 for the middle class homeowner

* A constitutional amendment that limits federal justices and judges to 10 years and requires that they have prior experience both as trial lawyers and in the State judicial system.

*****************
ESSAY:

Although it’s long past time Zell Miller enrolled in an anger management course, if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that he has inadvertently revealed the two biggest failings of the Democratic Party:

(1) we as a party have no core principles; and

(2) we have no ideas with specific plans for implementation.

Democrats have lost the last three elections (2000, 2002, and 2004) by running a “safe” middle of the road strategy or by aping Republican tactics. We heard way too much about John Kerry’s military history and how he would- apparently single handedly, like a superhero- hunt down and “kill” the terrorists. No one bought it- least of all the Republican faithful who stuck to their commander in chief in spite of his spectacular, record setting ineptitude.

Time after time Kerry promised that he had a “plan,” and even after he was mocked for it on Saturday Night Live, he never produced a single detail or specific proposal in debates, on the stump, or on his website. Promising to provide health care for 45 million without it isn’t a plan- it’s an aspiration. Promising to bring in the allies to help us in Iraq, when a military solution is clearly making things worse, was useless and counterproductive on Kerry’s part. Promising to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term was identical to Bush’s promise, which was equally devoid of details as to how to reach that modest goal.

Pointing out that Bush lost jobs, had run up record deficits, and had made America less safe, was merely stating the obvious. Voters already knew that. What they wanted to see was a road map out of the swamp in which the Bush administration has mired all Americans.

It’s now long past time to retire the strategy of nationally prominent Democrats who abandoned their ideals and supported destructive Republican programs such as tax cuts for the super rich which led to record deficits, and who cowed in the face of illegal and disastrous military adventures, such as voting to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq (Kerry, Edwards, and Max Cleland all got on that bandwagon) in a vain attempt to keep their seats or win a national election.

It’s time to stop acquiescing in the destruction of our fiscal integrity and the loss of our global moral authority. I propose we take the moral high ground back and at the same time espouse programs and real solutions to problems which will resonate with most Americans who aren’t on the extreme right. In other words, let’s do the right thing, but be politically astute at the same time.


ABORTION: PRO-CHOICE VERSUS PRO-LIFE: MEET ON COMMON GROUND AND ADVOCATE POLICIES TO REDUCE THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ABORTIONS IN THE U.S.

First principles: Democrats should make it clear that we adamantly oppose going back to the days when abortions were criminal, which allowed rich (Republican and Democrat) women to fly to other jurisdictions where it was legal and have an abortion, while poor women ended up with dangerous and sometime fatal back alley abortions.

However, we should all find areas of agreement and work together as much as possible to prevent unwanted pregnancies, especially among teenagers, and provide loving homes for unwanted children. First, we should support federal legislation that would include financial and other incentives to teenagers which would keep them from becoming pregnant.

I recently saw an interesting statistic that there have been more abortions since Bush was elected than in the last four years of Clinton’s administration. It may be related to Bush’s lousy job with the economy (too many unemployed mothers or wives of laid off workers who can’t afford another mouth to feed?), or it may be other factors, such as the welfare reform act of 1996 which cut off TANF benefits after 48 months. In any event, Democrats should do what has heretofore been virtually unthinkable: find common ground with pro-lifers. We do this by advocating programs and policies that reduce the total number of abortions.

One proposal would be to create a right of fathers to veto an abortion and raise their children. So far as I know, a woman’s “right to choose” has never been held by the Supreme Court to include the right to prevent the father’s child from being born, especially if he agrees to raise the child (a quick search turned up no Supreme Court cases on this point).

This may be heresy to the NOW and pro-choicers, but their logic is faulty if they say a woman has a right to choose- but the person she chose to be the father (or potential father) of her unborn child should have no say in the matter. They both chose to have relations that could conceive a child. This leaves the woman in a poor position to argue that the government is somehow infringing on her right to privacy if it allows the father- whom she chose to help conceive the child- to veto an abortion. The political advantage of this is that it allows the Democratic Party (as with trial lawyers in malpractice cases) to show its independence of a group to which it has been linked in extremely unflattering ways by Republican propagandists.


ALLOW PRO-LIFERS TO PUT THEIR MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTHS ARE

In addition to the automatic veto that fathers should be given, we should also advocate legislation to create a registry to raise unborn children. People signing up would enter into a binding contract to raise an unborn child. If they breach the contract, then they would be liable for child support through the age of majority, and they would have to post a bond to ensure financial responsibility. They would also be screened for parental suitability and security in the same manner in which adoptive parents are currently screened. This will give any woman who has a financial reason for needing an abortion an out- she would know in advance if a person on the registry was willing to raise the child. Moreover, the woman bearing the child would have access to the people in the registry, and could choose the parents to raise the child. By giving the mother this option, it would reduce the total number of abortions and give the pro lifers an opportunity to put their words into deeds.


BUSINESS ISSUES: JOBS, OUTSOURCING AND CORPORATE MISDEEDS

Too many American companies have shown little or no loyalty to those workers who served them faithfully for decades. Corporations have jettisoned their jobs at the slightest hint that their profit margin might be increased by relocating to countries where environmental concerns are little or non-existent and child labor is exploited. We can’t keep them from cutting jobs in America- but we can make them pay a premium for the privilege and use the money towards education and retraining Americans displaced by outsourcing. Our policy should be as follows:

(1) No American business may deduct any business expense for any labor costs incurred outside the U.S.;

(2) An additional flat tax of five percent will be levied on the gross income for any American company whose labor force is more than 25% outside the United States. The proceeds will be used to retrain and educate Americans laid off by companies which outsourced their labor. In communities where plants have closed, funds will be used to employ laid off workers in public works programs until they have found new jobs in the private sector.

(3) Any American company which relocates abroad (i.e. the Bahamas) in an attempt to avoid U.S. taxes will pay an additional federal flat tax on all U.S. sales of five percent of the gross. Proceeds will be used to fund health care, retraining, and education for American workers.

(4) Salaries of all employees not subject to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act will no longer be deductible as business expenses. In other words, companies now desperate to redefine employees as exempt or management will lose the business deduction for all expenses related to those employees.


CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

Many good people refuse to be involved in the campaign process because of the mud slinging. Many voters are turned off by the relentless (and ridiculous) negative advertising. And many people feel that they are shut out of the process because they don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to “contribute” to candidates for public office. I put “contribute” in quotes because campaign contributors expect- and receive- something for every dollar donated. Whether it is simply labeled as “access” to the Senator or Congressman or “influence” over legislation makes little difference to the rest of us who are completely shut out of the process.

Unfortunately, the recent campaign finance reform legislation did nothing to correct these abuses. Consequently, we should propose the following:


(1) TELEVISION ADS SHOULD BE FREE FOR CANDIDATES WHO ARE ATTACKED IN THE OPPONENT’S AD:

The airwaves belong to the public, and every FCC licensed radio and television station receives a license with a requirement that a portion be devoted, free of charge, to the public service. To end the vicious downward spiral of endless vicious attack ads funded by millions of dollars, every television ad of a candidate will be previewed to his or her opponent, who will be allowed to air a free ad, of the same duration as first, immediately following the ad of the opponent. However, only the candidate may be seen or heard speaking in the free followup ad. If the candidate airing the followup ad wants to add other speakers or have other visual material in the ad, then he or she will pay full freight for the followup ad.


(2) LET’S CALL A BRIBE A BRIBE:

Federal law already makes it a crime to give money for the purpose of influencing any public official in the course of his or her job. There should be no exceptions for money paid during political campaigns. Everybody- the contributor, the candidate, and the public- knows that the money is being given to either pass favorable legislation or block unfavorable legislation. Consequently, federal law should be amended to prohibit any campaign contributions by persons or political action committees who stand to financially benefit from any legislation which comes before Congress.


(3) THE “NASCAR” UNIFORM:

Most people don’t know that oil companies, drug companies, and insurance companies, heavily lobby- and contribute funds- to Congressmen and Senators from distant states. Voters are entitled to know who is financially backing the candidates, and one way would be to require that every candidate’s public appearance, including all television ads, include “sponsored by” stickers on his clothing, clearly visible, for any three campaign contributors chosen by the opponent. Once public financing becomes the law, this requirement will no longer be needed.


CIVIL RIGHTS AND JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

PUBLICLY END AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AS A “QUOTA”

Most people don’t realize it, but racial quotas are already illegal under federal law unless ordered by a federal court as a remedy to redress prior discrimination, and then only for a limited period of time. So coming out publicly to end “quotas” really means giving up nothing. Since the phrase “affirmative action” has been effectively redefined by Republicans as “quotas” (and, to be fair, some large companies do use “targets”, “goals” and “guidelines” to avoid being sued that in practical application are quotas for race and sex), we should explicitly abandon the phrase “affirmative action.” Instead, we should come out foursquare for color blind laws, but at the same time, we should propose legislation which bans criteria which have the effect of discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or other protected groups, but which have no useful purpose. In effect, discrimination will be easier to prove, so the overall effect will be a greater representation of minorities in colleges, graduate schools, and high paying jobs.

Using the University of Michigan Law School case as an example, if the school rejected black applicants because of poor LSAT scores, the school would have the difficult (if not impossible) burden of showing a high statistical correlation between academic performance at the law school and the test scores of the students. Even harder would be the burden of showing correlation between high LSAT scores and success after graduation. If we factor in judicial appointments as an indicia of “success,” we will have many academically unimpressive but ideologically pure Reagan and Bush appointees to the federal bench as proof that impaired intellectual ability and a lack of academic accomplishment are unrelated to a successful career after law school. Talk about hoist on their own petard!

This does not mean in any way, shape or form that we will back down on the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality. But we should always recognize that affirmative action is a means, not an end, and we should make an explicit trade off of all laws and regulations that smack of quotas in exchange for a relaxation of the burden of proof in discrimination cases that will allow victims to successfully challenge policies or employment decisions that have the effect of excluding minorities. If the Fourteenth Amendment means that no person may be treated disparately because of race, then we should acknowledge that morally and politically it is better to have a color blind Constitution and color blind laws and regulations, while discouraging overt and covert acts of discrimination.


42 USC 1983 LIABILITY:

The party should endorse legislation to end loopholes currently used by State and Federal governments to avoid responsibility when they wrongfully injure their citizens. Politically this should be a no lose situation for Democrats, especially if we find anecdote after anecdote of innocent persons injured by incompetent or malicious acts of government employees. It would also be nice to hang the phrase “activist judges” around the necks of the judicial conservatives who invented the phrase “qualified immunity” and grafted it onto the Civil Rights statute that allows persons injured by government malfeasance to recover damages for their injuries.

“Qualified immunity” is akin to the dog bite case where judges have ruled the dog gets one free bite, then his owner is on notice and can be sued for the second bite. In the civil rights arena, this one phrase has doomed more otherwise meritorious suits than any other doctrine, and essentially has gutted civil rights protections except in the most egregious cases. And the sad irony is that the phrase appears nowhere in the statute, but was created out of whole cloth by the Burger/Rhenquist Court.


JUDICIAL SELECTIONS AND A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

The Democratic party should stand for taking politics out of judicial selections. Our stated platform should be that all recommendations for judicial nominations will come from members of the bar who practice in that court rather than from the President or senior Senator of the State.

We should also (for once) beat the Republicans at their own game and advocate a Constitutional Amendment to limit all federal judges to 10 years of service. Included with that limitation should be a requirement that every judicial appointment go only to lawyers with a minimum age of 50 years, and include a restriction that no judge should be nominated or allowed to serve on the federal bench- from the Supreme Court on down- unless he or she has tried both civil and criminal cases as a lawyer, and has also served some period of time as a judge in the state system. This will ensure appellate judges who have experienced reality as a trial lawyer and have also had an opportunity to display their judicial temperament- or lack of it!- on the bench.

Many groups have attempted to impose a so-called litmus test on judicial appointments in an effort to seat judges who will rule one way or another on particular issues. The Democratic Party’s litmus test should be to vote to confirm only judges or justices whose career has demonstrated broad experience as both a trial lawyer and a judge, and an outlook which amply demonstrates a 100 percent commitment to the United States Constitution- most especially, the Bill of Rights and the 13th through 15th Amendments, which guarantee that the government will not infringe on freedoms enjoyed by all Americans.


FOREIGN POLICY: USE OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS INSTEAD OF UNILATERAL AMERICAN INTERVENTION

Does anyone understand why it would be appealing to ordinary Americans who label themselves “conservatives” to see American kids being blown up in Iraq instead of foreign mercenaries or U.N. troops? During the debates, Kerry completely dropped the ball on this issue with his “global test.” Instead of the “global test” for use of American troops abroad (the term was received gleefully by Bush’s handlers and may have been the key gaffe that lost the election for Kerry), we need simply point out that the test for use of American troops abroad is, as noted above, whether or not there is an imminent military threat to the United States. The test is simple and compelling: no imminent threat, no dead Americans thousands of miles from home.

In situations like Bosnia and the Sudan, where no American security interests are directly affected, we should do everything possible to engage and, if necessary, create, international security organizations which can act more swiftly to halt genocide or aggressive war than the U.N. and NATO, which have dropped the ball in both the Balkans and in Africa. Unilateral American acts to stop genocide are morally and legally permissible, but a structure should be put in place to provide a relatively quick response without the constant need for ad hoc, case by case, measures, such as occurred in Kuwait in 1990 and Bosnia in 1997.

In sum, we should advocate a foreign policy which takes the human toll and the financial burden from the United States when foreign intervention is necessary but not related to an imminent attack on the United States (i.e. the present genocide in the Sudan). Our military should be available for self defense- not for foreign adventures to advance the political agenda of fantasy addled neo-conservatives who imagine a U.S. hegemony in the Middle East by planting our army on top of oil fields.

OTHER FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES

The party should take a stand against the export of cigarettes and the sale of weapons to foreign countries. Simply put, it is hypocritical of us to castigate Mexico or Columbia for drug smuggling when we openly export the means for other countries' citizens to kill themselves or each other.


GOVERNMENT WASTE: SUNSET FEDERAL AGENCIES

Once upon a time the Republican Party was perceived as the party of limited government and axing unnecessary federal agencies. With Bush they have abdicated that position- and we can and should take it from them by proposing a law to sunset all federal agencies and departments (except essentials like the Defense Department, Justice Department, State, and a few others). Ten years should be the standard for departments like education, labor, and homeland security. Five years for federal agencies. They would have to be reauthorized in order to continue to exist. If they are vital to the national interest, then Congress will keep them.

This proposal will put Congressional Republicans in a bind- agree, and they concede that the Democrats have the better idea. Oppose it, and they have lost the support of the anti-big government conservatives they courted once upon a time.


HEALTH CARE

ADVOCATE A SINGLE PAYER PLAN AND CATASTROPHIC HEALTH INSURANCE

Republicans think they can pound on us all day long if we come out for national health care, or even something so simple as a single payer plan which otherwise leaves the present system in place. They think that all they have to do is shout out the magic word “Socialism!” which scares small children and adults with a distant memory of the Red Menace. (They remind me of Marty Feldman’s character in the movie “Young Frankenstein” who would say the name of the evil Frau Blucher to scare the horses.) In 1994, Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress. Yet they went scurrying for cover rather than fighting for a policy that would have kept 45 million Americans from being left outside the health care safety net.

In response, we should use the art of political judo, and turn this one around on the Republicans. We only need point out the obvious- right here, right now, we already have socialized medicine- our public hospitals, which are required to treat everyone in need at great expense to the rest of us. Where do they think the 45 million uninsured go when they are injured or seriously ill? Rather than cowering in fear of the word “socialism,” we should be screaming to the rafters that Republicans are in favor of keeping a socialized health care system that is the most expensive and least efficient- those are our tax dollars paying for the 45 million uninsured when they get sick or injured.


SINGLE PAYER

Instead of the current mess, we should re-propose the “credit card” idea that Clinton first touted in his 1994 State of the Union speech. The government will be the conduit of the payments, and the onus will be taken off the health care providers to administratively figure out who is paying their bills, reducing overhead by billions. The amazing thing about the failure of this proposal the first time around is that there was no natural constituency of voters to oppose it, but every patient and every provider would have benefitted from it. This proposal should be separated from the catastrophic insurance proposal (that was Clinton’s mistake- trying to do too much at once), because this legislation can (and should) stand alone.

Many people do not get regular checkups or see a physician unless it is a real emergency- because they can’t afford to. However, many people on medical benefit programs see a doctor or go to the emergency room even when they don’t have to. The “Clinton Card” (a useful phrase that will nostalgically recall the halcyon era when the nation was at peace and was running surpluses instead of huge deficits) can be used for every visit to the hospital, doctor’s office, or other medical provider. The patient will be billed the actual cost just as if he or she had paid by a credit card, and his or her insurance company or other provider will be notified to pay back the government, with the patient paying the rest at a low interest rate as he or she can. To cut down on abuse of emergency rooms and such, every person, no matter how poor, will pay something at the time of every visit- even if it is as low as $10.00. This proposal will save huge amounts of administrative costs in the health care system


CATASTROPHIC INSURANCE- $3,000 AND UP

We can also drive a wedge between Republicans and their oldest constituency- big business- on this issue. And I’m surprised that the AFL-CIO hasn’t already picked up on this. If the government provided catastrophic health insurance covering expenses over $3,000 annually to every American, including every employee of big business, then big businesses’ health insurance costs would be dramatically cut, saving them billions in overhead.

The average worker fears losing his health insurance almost as much, if not more, than losing the income from his job, because if a serious illness hits him (or her) or family members, they can be wiped out financially. Democrats should deal with this issue directly, by promising a system that will alleviate the fears of employees while shoring up the economic strength of America. Legislation to provide catastrophic health insurance for every American, paid for by a national sales tax of one percent, would provide a means for American businesses to be on a more even footing with foreign competition. Foreign companies in countries with national health don’t have medical costs and insurance as part of their overhead, so they can sell the same products at lower prices than American companies.

Why organized labor and large American corporations which presently provide health benefits for employees haven’t yet figured out that they are on the same side of this issue is beyond me. But if they ever do- and it’s our job to point them in that direction- then Republicans in power will have to explain to their core constituency why they can’t be allowed to compete on an even playing field with foreign companies selling the same products to Americans.


ELIMINATE ALL MEDICAL MALPRACTICE INSURANCE PREMIUMS- NO FAULT MALPRACTICE INSURANCE HELPS PATIENTS AND PROVIDERS

Republicans whine that because of evil trial lawyers, runaway juries (I think I’ve seen their pictures on some milk cartons) and frivolous lawsuits, malpractice premiums have soared, driving obstetricians out of their specialty and taking doctors away from small communities. Their main solution: cap non-economic damages that can be awarded at $250,000. Of course, the fact that this has already been done in some jurisdictions without reducing malpractice insurance premiums doesn’t faze them- after all, Bush’s handlers arrogantly asserted that they “create their own reality.” Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live in the real world, where their “tort reform” benefits only insurance companies, not doctors or patients. Rather than fighting them on this issue and looking like the tool of “trial lawyers” (a phrase which actually refers to a subset of trial lawyers- plaintiff’s lawyers who handle tort cases on contingency fees), we should leapfrog them on the issue and put doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies completely in the Democratic camp.

How? We replace the current tort system with a no fault system that will end all malpractice insurance premiums for doctors, hospitals, and drug companies.

Zero- that’s right- they will pay zero dollars in insurance premiums.

Instead, the no-fault system will be funded by a one percent tax on all medical goods and all medical services (note: services are currently completely untaxed). The money will go into a fund, and claims will be paid similarly to workers’ compensation programs without regard to fault. Defense lawyers will be unnecessary, as the money will be paid out of the fund, so no medical provider would have a stake in opposing a particular claim. Plaintiff’s lawyers would be permitted but not necessary, because fault would not have to be proved and payment would be based on the severity of the injury.

I liken this to the old flight insurance- buy $100,000 flight life insurance for a buck. If the plane goes down, your family collects without having to prove negligence of the pilot, the carrier, or the plane manufacturer.

To deal with incompetent doctors, all claims paid for medical related injuries (with patient confidentiality assured) will be reported and posted on internet websites. Before going to a doctor or purchasing a medicine, the consumer can check out the site.

This proposal will completely trump the Republicans’ suggestions for a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages or a reduction in drug related class action suits, neither of which provide any guarantee that malpractice premiums will be reduced by even a penny. The Republicans will be left to explain to doctors why the Democrats’ proposal- which eliminates all of their malpractice insurance costs- is somehow worse than the Republicans’ proposal, which rewards only insurance companies and which provides continued employment and retainers for insurance defense law firms.


PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFITS: TIE A TAX THE REPUBLICANS WANT TO GET RID OF TO A BENEFIT THE MAJORITY OF THE CONSTITUENTS WANT

As an overall approach to fiscal policy, Democrats need to learn that general taxes are unpopular, which is why no one ever got elected promising to raise taxes or cut spending. However, most people understand and agree with the concept of “you get what you pay for,” and most taxpayers and voters will be more sympathetic and understanding when taxes can be 100% dedicated to a particular program, especially if the tax isn’t onerous or is imposed on a group eminently capable of paying for it.

For example: Republicans have been beating the Democrats over the head with proposals to phase out the estate tax (which they call the "death tax" to avoid the elitist connotations of the word "estate"). We should take this one head on and propose an estate tax which is "dedicated" like gasoline taxes are for highway construction and repair. In this case, "dedicate" estate taxes to a prescription drug benefit for the elderly. I would just love to see any Senator or Congressman try to explain to the elderly why that would be a bad thing- that it would be better to save money for rich dead people than to provide low cost or no cost prescription drugs for live old people who are not wealthy.

When Republicans attempt to paint the estate tax as destructive of small businesses and family farms- as Bush did during the Presidential debates- Democrats should counter by accurately pointing out that unless the dead person had a million dollars free and clear, his federal estate tax burden was zero (it was a $600,000 floor a few years ago, and was scheduled to go up to a million when it was repealed by Republican demagogues). To ice the cake, we should include an exemption that leaves small businesses and family farms untouched by estate taxes. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain on this issue- the Republicans will find themselves labeled as the Party for dead millionaires and their drone children who live off their inheritance, clipping coupons and collecting interest checks.

By dedicating the proceeds of the estate tax to a prescription drug benefit for the elderly, the Democrats get a two for one: (1) the elderly who might otherwise oppose estate taxes are the beneficiaries of the tax while they are still living; and (2) the Republicans are even more closely aligned as the party of the rich- in this case the dead rich (!) versus the people who are in need right now.

NATIONAL DEFENSE

THE WAR IN IRAQ

DEFINING GOALS

The purpose of the United States armed forces is to defend the people of the United States. Putting American soldiers or Marines in harm’s way should only happen when the security of our nation absolutely requires it, and our military should never be used to serve the political agenda of any politician or bureaucrat in Washington. That trust has been breached by the Bush Administration, and John Kerry failed to make this point in his campaign. So long as Americans are dying in Iraq, we should be relentless in pointing out the failures of the Bush Administration until the killing stops.

Political leaders from both sides have said publicly that “we can not afford to fail in Iraq.” It was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place, but now that we are there, we must decide how and when to leave. Since none of them has bothered to provide a specific measure of what we need to achieve in order to leave, I will do it for them.

Success is fulfilling the mission America started out on March 19, 2003, when we launched a missile attack in an attempt to kill Saddam Hussein, and a day later, when we invaded Iraq by crossing the border with our Army and Marines. That mission was to remove Saddam Hussein from power and to safeguard America from Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction.” By May 1, 2003, we had succeeded in accomplishing both stated goals. We discovered that there are no weapons in that country which are capable of being used to attack the United States. Saddam Hussein was removed from power, captured later that year, and is now in custody awaiting trial.

Failure is the Bush Administration staying in Iraq with no definite exit strategy. Failure is the Bush Administration pursuing unspecified goals and changing its mind about the mission there after the invasion revealed that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Failure is spending tens of billions of dollars rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq while allowing America's infrastructure to languish. Failure is having worldwide television broadcasts of American soldiers abusing Iraqi civilians in Saddam’s torture chambers. Failure is making it easy for Americans in uniform to become recruiting posters for Al Qaida and other fanatical Muslim terrorists. Failure is committing acts such as the killing of an unarmed, wounded, and helpless Iraqi in a mosque. Failure is enraging fundamentalist, fanatical Muslims and increasing the risks of terror attacks on Americans at home and abroad.

OUR EXIT STRATEGY

We should announce to the Iraqis and to the world that we will be gone from Central Iraq in 6 months. That is long enough to finish training police and an internal security force (police academies and boot camp take far less time), and any Iraqis who want to fight for their own freedom are welcome to sign up. After six months, we should leave Baghdad and every major city in Iraq, keeping only enough troops in the north to protect the Kurds and in the south to ensure the oil fields are not seized. As soon as possible, we should then turn those tasks over to United Nations peacekeepers and leave the country.

In consideration of the fact that Iraq has viciously attacked two of its neighbors- Iran and Kuwait- in the last 25 years, we should absolutely prohibit the new government of Iraq from having an army or any military force other than the police necessary for keeping order.

Finally, we should keep the Iraqi oil revenues out of the hands of future dictators or terrorists. We should not allow the government of Iraq to have the use of revenues from southern oil fields, which should remain occupied by a neutral outside military force. Half of the oil revenues should be used to compensate families with killed or injured from Iraq’s aggressive wars and to repay the United States for our costs. The other half should be held in trust for the Iraqi people by non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross, Care, Doctors without Borders, OxFam, and Unicef. Not one dollar from oil revenues will go to purchase weapons, to pay the families of suicide bombers, or to support terrorism.


WEAPONS PROGRAMS NEED TO BE RETIRED AND FUNDS DEDICATED TO THE NEEDS OF AMERICA IN 2004 AND BEYOND

Democrats need to assertively challenge unnecessary weapons programs like the Osprey, Seawolf, F-22 Raptor, and missile defense shield (Star Wars) which are wasting hundreds of billions of dollars. Up to now most Democrats have been afraid of being labeled “weak on defense” and have voted for virtually every useless boondoggle, with the effect that our national security has been compromised. The first way to challenge these programs is by pointing out that these weapons systems were designed to fight an enemy that no longer exists- the Soviet Union of the 1970’s and 1980’s (the F-22 Raptor being built by Lockheed-Martin originated in the 70’s as a fighter to duel advanced MIG fighters). The second, and more potent attack, is to publicly trumpet the campaign contributions by every defense contractor to every Republican who has voted for the funds. Most Americans can recognize a bribe when they see it, and that is precisely what has been accomplished by General Dynamics, Lockheed-Martin, Halliburton, and so on.

The Democratic proposal should be to transfer the funds now appropriated for these useless and expensive programs and earmark the money for better pay, benefits, and equipment for soldiers; screening of cargo on ships and airliners; more border patrol, security in and around nuclear and power plants, and so forth.

To rebut an anticipated Republican claim that the weapons systems provide jobs in the communities where the plants are located, we should immediately respond and ask them if their party now advocates Socialism where the government is the employer of last resort? And we should suggest that if they are advocating government employment as an official policy, we ought to at least come up with programs that put all of the money towards job creation that actually does public good: border and port security, public works, hiring tutors, cleaning up communities, and the like.

We must frame the debate as choices between expensive, useless toys vs. necessities to save lives. We can also point out that by cutting useless weapons systems and putting the money into port and border security and securing nuclear and chemical plants in the U.S., we can be more secure but still save money overall, because all of the labor intensive security measures combined won’t equal even one useless high tech system like Star Wars missile defense or the F-22. We have to make clear the fact that nuclear submarines, missile defenses, and fighter programs, which have no role in the fight against terrorism, cost far more than the basic nuts and bolts of hiring personnel and equipping them.


DO THE LITTLE THINGS FOR THE MILITARY THAT ARE IMMEDIATE, CONCRETE, HELPFUL, AND POPULAR

An example of an idea which is simple, easy, and which will be popular among military and military retirees is to propose legislation which will establish a national vehicle registration for all active duty soldiers and all 20 year retired veterans. The US government would charge a nominal fee, and the vehicles would be exempt from local ad valorem taxes (impact money could be paid to counties or political entities with a high proportion of military registered vehicles, in the same way we pay that money to the public schools in such geographic areas). The registration would be good for the life of the vehicle or the end of active duty service, which ever occurs sooner.

A second example- which would be extraordinarily popular among retirees- would be to dismantle the VA hospital system and replace it with the highest quality government purchased insurance program which would be honored at every hospital. Instead of veterans driving a hundred miles or more to a VA hospital, every veteran, disabled or not, will get a credit card good at any American hospital or other health provider. The program should also include free prescription drug benefits. Currently, retired military feel that they are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to health care, and they should be afforded the very best that the nation has to offer.

One advantage of the free medical care for veterans proposal is that it constitutes the nose of the camel in the tent on national health. If the system works efficiently for veterans, then that deflates the Republicans' arguments that it can’t work at all. It can then slowly be expanded to cover persons currently without health insurance.


PREVENTING NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE

If we are victims of a nuclear attack in the next 10 years by a fanatical adversary created or inspired by our Iraq adventures- at present we are loathed throughout the Moslem and Arab areas of the world- we can thank the Bush Administration for creating new enemies willing to martyr themselves and take a million of us with them. Consequently, our overriding goal should be to eliminate the conditions precedent to a nuclear attack on the United States- and we should make that clear as a bell.

We need to support the Nunn-Lugar efforts to sweep up loose nuclear bombs and materials. In addition, we should actively recruit every nuclear scientist and technician and bring them to the United States- paying them whatever the market requires to keep them out of the hands of third world countries, religious fanatics, and terrorists.

WHISTLEBLOWERS

We should make it a policy to protect and encourage whistleblowers who protect the military from dangerous or shoddy products and safeguard the public purse from white collar thieves. A potent current example: the U.S. has taken the position that whistleblowers exposing corporate fraud in Iraq aren't covered under the law because the companies were dealing with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), an artificial construct wholly funded by U.S. tax dollars. Democrats should take the opposite position in this issue. In addition, we should oppose privatization and outsourcing of national defense (i.e. Blackwater & Titan Corp. in Iraq, which employ former U.S. military in security roles at 10 times the expense).


SCHOOLS AND VOUCHERS

Republicans want to spend tax dollars on vouchers to send kids to private schools; Democrats have opposed it while coming up with nothing to improve public education other than “more money.”

Republicans disengenously argue that vouchers are necessary to rescue the talented poor from underperforming schools. Democrats counter that siphoning tax dollars from public schools while skimming off the cream of the talent pool will only further degrade the quality of public education. Both are right- and neither is the best solution.

Instead, we should do an end run around the Republican proposal: vouchers for public school students that will be means tested- but not for private school tuition. The vouchers will be for private one on one tutoring for public school students who will remain in the public schools. The advantages of this proposal are:

(1) it doesn’t involve a back door subsidy for parochial schools in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment;

(2) it won’t be a covert means of subsidizing secular private schools;

(3) it will enhance the education in public schools rather than degrading it as students’ achievement increases;

(4) by providing private one-on-one tutors, the taxpayers get more bang for the buck than if a whole years’s tuition is paid to a private school, which may or may not result in increased achievement for individual students; and

(5) teachers will be eligible to tutor, meaning that instead of losing out they will gain from the voucher system.


SOCIAL SECURITY

REFORM SOCIAL SECURITY- IT’S TIME TO BITE THE BULLET AND MEANS TEST WHILE RAISING CAPS ON THE INCOME TO BE TAXED

The OASDI payroll tax is the biggest tax for most poor and lower middle class Americans. We should make it more fair by doing two simple things. First, save the program by means testing it, but to avoid controversy, start at a very high threshold (again, the nose of the camel in the tent analogy applies). If a person over 65 receives income (earned or unearned) of $100,000 a year or has a million dollars in the bank, he or she doesn’t need the “security” of Social Security.

Second, it won’t hurt to agree with the privatization proposal of the Republicans- but make it revenue neutral by removing the ceiling (currently just over $80,000 in income on OASDI) and apply the tax to unearned income (interest and capital gains) which are currently untaxed. Whatever additional amounts of revenue are obtained by raising the ceiling can be offset by lowering the Social Security tax on everybody and letting the remainder go into private savings accounts. No set percentage will be allowed for privatization- it will be wholly dependent on the additional revenue received from removing the cap and taxing unearned income.

This is a compromise which once again takes a Republican initiative and puts them on the defensive. If they resist raising the ceiling, then they will have to argue that cutting total revenues to let young workers invest their money is sound fiscal policy just as the baby boomer generation gets ready to retire. We get to be the party of individualism and sound fiscal policy at the same time.


TAX SYSTEM-MAKE IT FAIR AND EFFICIENT

Democrats are- wrongly- perceived as the party of taxes. That has to stop- and a 180 degree turnaround will put Republicans on the defensive. The party should promote a tax system which does the following:

(1) ends all loopholes and all deductions in exchange for lower tax rates for everybody- including the wealthiest;

(2) extends Medicare and Social Security taxes to all income, earned and unearned, without a cap, also in exchange for lower rates (see the privatization discussion, above, that we allow a savings plan which is revenue neutral in exchange for removing the caps and means testing benefits, starting at the highest income levels).

(3) lowers all income taxes once the national debt is significantly reduced.

Kerry looked foolish decrying tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent when he was at the very top of the pyramid. And it probably cost more votes than it won. In other words- end all class warfare, whether in rhetoric or reality. We must end the perception that the Democratic Party is concerned only with the poorest elements of society. If there is one lesson we need to learn, it is that people of every economic status aspire to be rich, which is why Republican promises to eliminate the “death” tax were popular with people who would never have paid a dime.


WHY REMOVING DEDUCTIONS AND CREDITS IS SOUND FISCAL POLICY- THE MILLIONAIRE’S MORTGAGE SUBSIDY

If Republicans want to give $25,000 in annual tax breaks to persons buying $10 million homes while giving $500 annually to those earning less than $100,000, then they should have to openly appropriate the money and send the big checks to the millionaires. Anyone care to guess how long that program would withstand public scrutiny or how long it would take for the outcry for fairness to eliminate the inequitable breaks the rich now get for having children and mansions?

We should come out foursquare for openness in spending policies rather than concealing government largesse through tax credits and deductions. If mortgage relief, children, or charitable giving are considered worthy of tax expenditures, then the money should be paid openly and not as part of a 1040 form check off. The one thing I learned in tax class in law school: the consequence of every tax credit is the same as a dollar for dollar expenditure from the U.S. Treasury; a tax deduction is a proportional expenditure related to the overall income of the taxpayer- the higher the bracket, the greater the contribution from the Treasury.


WAR ON DRUGS

The party should redefine the war on drugs as the “war on drug addiction” (not addicts). We should advocate research for a cure to addiction, and in the meantime redirect resources presently wasted in incarceration towards treatment centers for addicts.

Posted by: goose99 on October 28, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: Propose a specific list of Bush administration executive orders that he would rescind. No shilly-shallying, just a flat promise to revoke them.

Obama promised to do this today in his MTV/Myspace chat. I am not exaggerating. He used your language word for word. Please watch the video.

Posted by: Suetonius on October 29, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly