Friday, June 16, 2006

Congressional Democrats announced “a new direction for America” yesterday, outlining a litany of promises to raise the minimum wage and lower gas prices, college tuition and the cost of health care.

“Democrats are united in presenting a new direction for America, one that will make our nation as strong as the American people,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

The new Democratic agenda does not contain suggestions, however, for fighting the war against terrorism or dealing with illegal aliens, two issues that are of top concern to many Americans. Instead, it focuses entirely on domestic and economic issues.

If Democrats take control of the House in November, Mrs. Pelosi promised they will on the first day of Congress “give America a raise by increasing the minimum wage.”

Republicans were quick to ridicule yesterday’s announcement.

“When you’re going in circles like the Democrats, it just seems like you’re going in a new direction,” said Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, issued a press release under the headline, “Everything old is new again.”

“So what is their ‘new’ direction?” asked Mr. Cornyn. “It’s hard to tell. For example, the minority leader of the House of Representatives recently said that the economy was headed in the ‘wrong direction’ — after 33 months of consecutive job gains. And the Senate minority leader issued a press release saying American efforts in Iraq were headed in the ‘wrong direction’ — the day after American forces killed terrorist leader [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi.”

The closest Democratic leaders came to shaping a foreign policy agenda was to raise concerns about the amount of foreign oil consumed by Americans.

“When it comes to energy, we’re focused on the fact that we use 21 million barrels of oil every day, and we import 66 percent of those 21 million barrels of oil,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said. “In America, we’re in a Stone Age policy by which the rich grow richer, the world becomes warmer and middle class families are being squeezed.”

The “New Direction for America” slogan comes after Democrats quit using “America Can Do Better,” which was used extensively by Sen. John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign and during the past two years. Even many Democrats didn’t like that phrase because it sounded like the party was preaching to voters that they were somehow doing something wrong.

Republicans were quick to point out that the “new” slogan isn’t entirely new and dug up no fewer than nine instances when Mr. Kerry called for “a new direction for America” during his failed campaign.

During yesterday’s press conference, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois used another mantra that Mr. Kerry employed during his campaign.

“Our message to [families] today: Help is on the way!” he said

Mr. Cornyn was not impressed.

“While Democrats continue their search for a slogan and an agenda, Republicans are united behind the effort to lead America, strengthen the economy and enhance our security,” he said.

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