- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2003

White-flag Democrats?

The Democratic establishment apparently lacks the will to resist the Howard Dean insurgency, New York Times columnist David Brooks writes.

“In 2000, John McCain led an insurgent campaign against the Republican establishment. Say what you will about the GOP elites, they do not lack self-confidence. When McCain hit them, they hit back, viciously. In South Carolina, they insulted McCain’s honor, caused him to lose his equilibrium and left him battered and defeated,” Mr. Brooks said.

“An election later, the Democratic establishment faces its own insurgency campaign. Howard Dean has launched a comprehensive assault on his party’s leaders. First, he attacked their character, charging that they didn’t have the guts to stand up to George Bush. Then, he attacked their power base, building an alternative fund-raising and voter-mobilization structure. Now he is attacking their ideas, dismissing the Clinton era as a period of mere damage control.

“So how are the Democratic leaders defending themselves? They are responding as any establishment responds when it has lost confidence in itself, when it has lost faith in its ideas, when it has lost the will to fight.”

Mr. Brooks, describing the mood of the Democratic establishment as “dour and fatalistic,” added: “While most Washington Democrats expect that Dean will get trounced in the fall, they are not trying to head off the catastrophe. Some fear a party feud more than a defeat. Some don’t want to get on the bad side of the likely Democratic nominee. Some privately love what Dean says as they fear he will lead to disaster. Most important, the Democratic establishment lacks the will to stand up for its beliefs.”

A partisan’s partisan

“Say what you will about how he has governed, but George W. Bush didn’t win his party’s nomination nor the White House by promising bitter political fighting,” Brendan Miniter writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“From at least the release of his autobiography, ‘A Charge to Keep,’ in November 1999, he promised to change the ‘tone of the national discourse’ by working with Democrats. And as Time magazine reported a year later, that message was still the ‘essence’ of Mr. Bush’s campaign as Election Day 2000 approached,” Mr. Miniter said.

“This year, the same cannot be said of Howard Dean. Washington remains a bitterly partisan place, but the Democratic front-runner is upset about how little partisan wrangling there has been. That’s right, Mr. Dean isn’t interested in bringing tranquil, somber deliberations to the Beltway. The essence of his campaign is the promise of much more partisanship and a purge of the Democratic Party leadership.

“For Mr. Dean, the cardinal sin committed by his fellow Democrats was choosing to govern with Republicans over partisan stagnation. So last week he slammed Washington Democrats — including the impeached former president. ‘While Bill Clinton said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic Party, not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage,’ he howled.

“Later he softened, a little. ‘It’s time to take the country back, the country of FDR, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton.’ But then he launched another attack: ‘Washington Democrats failed and backed away from the fight. We need new leadership in this country and we need new leadership in this party.’ ”

Martinez’s law firm

Former Housing Secretary Mel Martinez signed on with a Miami law firm Monday while he plans his anticipated run for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Martinez served in President Bush’s Cabinet from 2001 until he resigned earlier this month to run for the seat to be vacated by Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, the Miami Herald reported.

Before becoming housing secretary, Mr. Martinez, a Cuban-born Republican, was the elected chief executive of Orange County in central Florida.

Mr. Martinez will do strategic planning for the Akerman Senterfitt law firm of Miami, consulting with corporate clients.

Mr. Martinez did not disclose his salary or what corporate clients he would be working with, United Press International reports.

Mr. Graham will retire at the end of his third term in the Senate next year. He ran for the Democratic nomination for president, but dropped out this fall. He is considered a possible candidate for vice president.

Nader’s decision

Ralph Nader, the third-party candidate viewed by many Democrats as the spoiler of the 2000 election for taking votes away from Al Gore, has decided not to run on the Green Party ticket next year, a party spokesman says.

Mr. Nader, who garnered nearly 3 percent of the national vote in the last presidential election, has not ruled out running for president as an independent and plans to make a decision by January, the Associated Press reports.

“I think we’re all a little bit disappointed,” said Scott McLarty, a Green Party spokesman. “I suspect Mr. Nader would have gotten the nomination.”

Mr. Nader called party officials Monday to inform them of his decision, said Ben Manski, a Green Party co-chairman and spokesman. Mr. Nader’s reasons were not clear, Mr. Manski said.

In an effort to gauge support, Mr. Nader has a new Web site and an exploratory committee, attends small fund-raisers, and has mailed letters to supporters. He said he has raised more than $100,000, mostly to pay expenses for the exploratory network, but is noncommittal on whether the resources are sufficient yet to persuade him to run.

The Green Party is debating whether to take a nominee on a full state-by-state campaign or to adopt a “safe-state” strategy, the AP said. Under that method, the party would mostly avoid states up for grabs, in order not to jeopardize the Democratic candidate’s chances against President Bush.

Contract canceled

The U.S. publisher of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoirs has withdrawn rights for the Chinese translation, citing the Chinese publisher’s unwillingness to restore passages critical of the government.

“They no longer have the right to print or sell the book,” Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, said yesterday.

Simon & Schuster had learned in September that Yilin Press, a Chinese government-backed publisher, removed references in “Living History” to the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, and altered Mrs. Clinton’s comments about human rights activist Harry Wu, who campaigns against abuses in the Chinese labor camps, where he spent 19 years.

Simon & Schuster demanded an immediate reprinting of the complete, uncensored text. In response, Yilin sent an apologetic letter, saying the company had to rush the Chinese version to stores to compete with counterfeit versions sold by street peddlers.

But after three months of negotiations, Simon & Schuster decided to cancel the contract.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected].

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