Friday, November 19, 2010


Last night I was reading some news and I found myself thinking, "Hey, what did you guys do with my Democratic Party?" Suddenly, the Dems weren't looking like pathetic, hapless losers. Steny Hoyer said that Democrats would vote on just the middle-class Bush tax cuts. Joe Lieberman, who's actually on the side of the good guys on this issue, was saying that there are 60 votes in the Senate for a defense authorization bill that repeals Don't Ask, Don't Tell (whileLisa Murkowski, for what it's worth, was quoted as saying she'd be willing to vote for a bill that includes repeal). And the White House was claiming it had 67 votes to pass the START treaty in the lame-duck session.

Fightin' Democrats!

And, yes, The New York Times says the White House really is fighting to get START passed -- pulling out all the stops, even though it's not at all clear that that's working:

...After months of quiet negotiations blew up this week, Mr. Obama on Thursday escalated ratification of the agreement, the so-called New Start treaty, into a public showdown, enlisting former Republican officials and assigning Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to work on it "day and night." An allied group, the American Values Network, kicked off a television and e-mail campaign.

"It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year," said Mr. Obama, flanked by Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served Republican presidents. "There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress."

But Mr. Obama has no clear path to approval of the treaty without Senator Jon Kyl....

The White House has only one Republican supporter, Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana. A survey of 14 other Senate Republicans who were considered possible supporters found none who were willing to publicly back the treaty....

But wait a minute -- the White House has all these contentious issues on its plate and this is the one that gets an all-stops-out public campaign? This, and not the Democratic position on the Bush tax cuts (about which, of course, White House officials were waving a white flag last week)?

The message before the midterms was that Democrats didn't dare hold a vote on their tax-cut proposal, or run on it, even though voters agreed with them, because voters just hate whatever Democrats say or do on taxes, so it's always bad for them politically.

But that seems more likely to be true on foreign policy -- the only reason voters actually still like Democrats at all is that Democrats are perceived, vaguely, as being more in favor of the less well-to-do than the rich, whereas on foreign policy Republicans are (preposterously) seen as the people who'll always keep us safe. If you're going to make a lot of public noise on any issue, why not play to your strength?

But I think I know the answer to that. Barack Obama wants a public debate on START because it's centrist. There's less of a public campaign on the tax cuts or DADT because the Democratic positions are -- eeeuuuww -- liberal.

See, it's not that Obama doesn't hold liberal positions. He just doesn't want to shout them from the housetops. START is a different matter. Republican secretaries of state support START.

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