- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

PHILADELPHIA — Democrats plan to attack George W. Bush at their upcoming convention far more than Republicans assailed Vice President Al Gore this week, according to infiltrators who prowled the GOP convention.
Insisting they are not alarmed by the double-digit "bounce" in the polls Mr. Bush is enjoying from the convention, Democrats are nonetheless lobbing broadsides at the Texas governor's campaign in an effort to slow GOP momentum. The goal is to prevent Mr. Bush's lead from becoming insurmountable before Mr. Gore's own bounce kicks in during the Democratic convention later this month.
"We Democrats have to remind the American people that there's a real Democratic Party and a bogus Democratic Party," said former White House special counsel Lanny Davis. "This meeting in Philadelphia is a bogus Democratic Party."
"The Bush convention literally has run away from the issues and policies of the Republican congress and their own platform and we can't let them get away with that. The Republicans came to Philadelphia and they tried to act like Democrats.
In addition to making a little mischief at the GOP's party, Democrats have been able to glean some valuable lessons from observing the opposition up close all week. They termed the GOP's aversion to conflict for most of the convention a critical blunder.
"What this convention solidifies in everybody's mind, is that it is literally impossible to have a political convention and not do a compare and contrast," Democratic National Chairman Joe Andrew told The Washington Times yesterday. "They should have had some compare and contrast — not necessarily negative attacks — but compare and contrast from day one.
"We're going to talk about issues and substance, but we're also being strategically more realistic about what you can accomplish at a contemporary convention," he added. "It is literally impossible to have a contemporary convention, with 15,000 members of the media, and say, 'We're just going to be feel-good, we're just going to be positive, we're not going to take them on.' "
Democratic strategist Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi derided the GOP convention as an "informercial" and "masquerade for inclusiveness."
"Our convention's going to optimistic, it's going to be upbeat," Mrs. Laszlo-Mizrahi said. "But at the same time, whether it's at the convention or in other places, we're going to be talking about the fact that George W.'s record as the governor of Texas makes Michael Dukakis look like the best governor America ever had."
But for now, even Mrs. Laszlo-Mizrahi acknowledged Mr. Bush has succeeded in making a positive impression on Americans this week.
"They're going to have this feel-good feeling about George W.," she said. "But I fully expected it."
The job now for Democrats is to make voters feel bad about Mr. Bush.
"We believe that the bounce here will not last," Mr. Andrews said. "We started countering it even before the convention began by having our 27-person staff here, more than 40 surrogates like Jim Carville here, our daily press conferences, our rolling donkey bus and our seven websites run from here in Philadelphia."
Mr. Andrew acknowledged that his own party's convention in Los Angeles later this month will steer clear of conflict to a large degree. But he said the Republicans went too soft and insulted the intelligence of moderate voters.
"They've proved — they think they have proved, or they've tried to prove — that they're not the same old Republican Party," he said. "Now I don't think they've accomplished that because, for example, they literally used people as props by putting those Hispanic and Arican-American kids in those nice neat desks.
"By definition, almost, swing voters are some of the most media-savvy and some of the most cynical people — they are swing voters because they are cynical. They don't believe either convention — Democrat or Republican — is something they ought to believe to begin with.
"But then when they actually see using people as props, their phony meter really goes off," he concluded.
To make matters worse, Democrats said, the Republicans saved all their vitriol for a single partisan attack speech by Mr. Bush's running mate, former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney. The speech obliterated the feel-good tone of the entire convention in a single stroke, they added.
Rather than veering from one extreme to another on the niceness-nastiness scale, Democrats plan to dish out a steady diet of moderately sharp attacks throughout all four days of their convention. In particular, they will attempt to take apart Mr. Bush's record on education and the environment in Texas.
"We need to start letting people know, for example, that Houston is a filthy, smoggy, disgusting city," said Mrs. Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi. Now that the GOP convention is over, Democrats will begin to shift some of their guns away from Mr. Cheney and train them directly on Mr. Bush.
"It's not about Cheney," Mrs. Laszlo-Mizrahi said. "I mean, Cheney is only important in that Cheney helps illustrate who George W. is and what George W. cares about. It's telling that his first major policy decision is that he chose somebody who is anti-choice, including in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother."
In addition to shifting attention toward Mr. Bush, the Democrats will seek to blunt the GOP's effort to link Mr. Gore to the scandals of President Clinton.
"What's interesting is that the message of this convention is not about the issues or the policies of the clinton administration," Mr. Davis said. "It's about the personal problems of the president, which is then, by innuendo, suggested to also be a problem for Al Gore.
"I don't believe that's gonna wash," he added. "The policies of the Clinton administration are supported by about 60 percent of the american people, according to the polls, and we have to require governor bush to tell us what would you do differnelty on the policies.
"And the only answer we're getting so far is that I'm going to restore the honor and dignity of the oval office — that's a code expression for monica lewinsky."
But even if the GOP continues to make character an issue, the Democrats have to stick to policy issues, cautioned Mr. Davis, who has known Mr. Bush since they were fraternity brothers at Yale"I know what a good guy he is," Mr. Davis warned. "My advice to Al Gore is if you run against this guy and attack him, you're gonna lose. If you run aginst him on the issues, you're gonna win."

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