- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

New leader

On a raw, misty night in the nation’s capital, a lone self-described “good liberal” stood outside H2O restaurant on the Washington waterfront holding up a sign for Democrats to read as they entered a VIP reception welcoming Howard Dean to Washington as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“We don’t need another message,” it read. “We need articulate messengers.”

Is the former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate, whose primary message crashed in flames, articulate messenger enough at this critical juncture for Democrats?

“He’s now the Democratic Party,” said sign-bearer Ed Edwards, a carpenter from Takoma Park.

“Somebody drank the Kool-Aid,” he told Inside the Beltway. “So did he change, or did [the Democratic Party] change?”

Dean’s agenda

Let’s hope subsequent performances by Howard Dean go more smoothly than his opening act in Washington Wednesday night as Democratic National Committee chairman.

First, somebody forgot to turn down the loud music that accompanied Mr. Dean on stage at H20 restaurant in Washington. When things finally got quiet enough, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, given the task of welcoming the former Vermont governor to the nation’s capital, was left holding a dead microphone.

Frustrated, Mr. Dean finally walked to the edge of the dais and asked an aide who was orchestrating the event.

“You know, I thought Democrats owned this place,” Mrs. Norton was overheard to comment. “This place is sabotaged.”

Somebody finally produced a working mike, and Mrs. Norton told the new chairman: “You’re the man we’ve been waiting for.”

At that, a visibly tired Mr. Dean, who’d spent the day traversing Tennessee, took center stage and told the audience of several hundred: “We have some things to talk about, because we do need to win.”

He immediately began criticizing President Bush’s proposed partial privatization of Social Security, and ripped him for weighing revisions to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education and requires schools receiving federal funds to allow women and girls the opportunity to play sports.

“Stop trying to tear down America,” Mr. Dean shouted. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

He warned Mr. Bush: “You can’t fool women twice.”

Then, the chairman who replaced Terry McAuliffe entered an arena that Republican candidates headlined during the 2004 election.

“I am tired of being lectured to about morals,” said Mr. Dean, particularly by Republicans who “lie” about the environment, circumstances surrounding Enron’s collapse, and whether U.S. troops in Iraq are equipped with proper body armor.

“I’m tired of being lied to,” Mr. Dean said to loud applause. “Moral values are our friends. We need to talk about them.”

He conceded Mr. Bush is a “good politician,” but said Democrats “are never going to win by being a pale copy of the Republican Party.”

Looking ahead to the 2006 midterm elections, when several key Senate races will be at stake, and further along to 2008, Mr. Dean pledged: “We need to run four-year campaigns, not seven-month campaigns.”

That’s good news to Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“Last week, I was reminded of a very important political lesson: Elections matter,” Mr. Schumer said this week. “We lost the vote to prevent drilling for oil in the [Arctic] National Wildlife Refuge 51-49.

“In the last Congress, when the Senate had 49 Democrats, not the 44 we have today, we were able to defeat this proposal and protect this precious natural treasure,” he said. “The only way to fix that is to elect more Democrats to the United States Senate.”

Rest of the story

Language helps shape debate, i.e. “death” tax in lieu of “estate” tax.

Of late, Democrats have argued that “privatize” — as in Social Security — is a Republican term.

Enter James L. Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association, who tells Inside the Beltway that “privatize” was actually coined in 1996 by a Democrat — Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, now president of New School University in New York.

“I’ve told this to a number of members of Congress who were delighted to get the information and plan on turning the tables,” Mr. Martin said yesterday.

60 Plus, we should point out, was the first seniors group that some 10 years ago called for the “personalization” of Social Security, so as to modernize the system for future retirees.

And it so happens that none other than Bill Gates Sr. credits Mr. Martin with popularizing “death tax” over “estate tax.”

Mr. Gates wrote that after Mr. Martin “hammered away day in and day out over a number of years,” proponents of keeping the death tax “knew they were in trouble when CNN of all TV networks began routinely referring to the estate tax as the ‘death tax.’ ”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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