Bush’s Blind Eye Offers Kerry Chance to Seize Debate

Posted March 15, 2004 at 2:15pm

When thinking about the Bush-Cheney campaign committee and its powerful GOP allies, I can’t help but recall the old proverbial saying about the three wise monkeys — “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”

When it comes to governing and implementing major public policy initiatives, the Bush-Cheney re-elect team does not have a coherent domestic or foreign record to run on. That’s why Bush-Cheney ’04 included negative attack ads in its debut on our nation’s airwaves. It had no other options. [IMGCAP(1)]

With the general election in full swing and President Bush trailing in several national polls, the Bush-Cheney team has decided to make the 2004 election about Democratic nominee John Kerry’s (Mass.) extensive Senate voting record rather than reassessing its own dismal policy proposals that have failed to solve America’s problems. This indicates that the Bush-Cheney re-elect team has been off its political game and seriously off track in its post-primary planning.

As Kerry prepares to win another major primary today in Illinois, he has grown stronger in articulating his views on major policy issues and even bolder in reaching out to others to help in the next phase of battle. This is good news for Democrats who feared the nominee would stick with the team that brought him to the dance rather than reaching out for more help.

That is why the Kerry camp, which responded to the Bush-Cheney attack ads in less than 48 hours, has grown more confident in its ability to take on the incumbent White House.

While the GOP’s highly disciplined and well-financed team gets back into focus, Kerry and Democrats on the Hill should reassert themselves and take control of the issue terrain to solidify and expand their base and shame the arrogant GOP-controlled Congress.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Kerry’s Senate colleagues can lead the charge and assume control of Kerry’s national surrogate apparatus. Pelosi can use the anniversary of the Iraq invasion to remind the American people that it is time to refocus attention on the war on terrorism and what we need to do to win it.

Kerry, with his onset of priorities and initiatives in this area, can direct his surrogates to step up in every major media market to discuss the party’s comprehensive plan to fight the war on terrorism and its “global vision” to make America safer and more secure. The blueprint for such a plan was outlined in a major speech the Democratic nominee gave in Los Angeles and was amplified later by Senate Armed Services member Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. It’s time Democrats take a page from former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s (R-Ga.) book, which called for constant political and policy assault on Democrats when they were in the majority. Democrats, especially those in safe seats, can now stand up to the powerful committee chairmen and later on the floor during special orders or one-minute speeches.

When the governing party is oblivious to the ideas and policy proposals from the opposition party, it often suffers from insularity and arrogance. It’s outrageous that the Republicans have refused to speak up about America’s problems when they are in control of our lives, liberties and freedoms.

As I visited more than 15 states — including many battleground states — this year, voters told me that this election should not become a referendum on what’s wrong with Kerry, progressive Democrats or Bill Clinton. Like most Democrats in office, Kerry spent most of the last decade in the minority, not the majority. The central question of this election cycle is why those who are leading us today are so blind, deaf and mute to America’s problems: job losses, insecurity at home and abroad, rising health care costs and a loss of goodwill around the world.

If you tuned in to the Sunday shows last weekend to hear Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pitch the administration’s latest salvo on the war on terrorism, you would think we have already won the war on terror. But with al Qaeda’s ability to infiltrate and assume control of local homegrown terrorists, the problem may be bigger than we were first led to believe. Kerry and his allies must question those in charge daily. I would suggest: Mr. Bush, where is Osama? Mr. Bush, where are the major leaders of the Taliban? Mr. Bush, where are the weapons of mass destruction?

Perhaps Vice President Cheney will address these questions in a foreign policy speech scheduled for today. These are questions that the American public will be asking this election cycle.

That brings us to the Bush-Cheney domestic record — or lack thereof. Like the so-called weapons of mass destruction, the president’s team continues to tell us that “the jobs will be coming” or “the economy is on the rise,” but American voters are not dumb. We know that our family and friends are fighting an uphill battle to make ends meet. What has the president (who inherited a budget surplus) done about creating jobs for our nation’s hardest workers?

Throughout this election season, the voters will want answers from the president and those in charge of government. Unlike the proverbial three monkeys, covering their eyes, ears and mouths, the American voters understand what is going on and they want answers. Although the Bush-Cheney re-elect team and its GOP allies may try to hide from the truth, they cannot assume that incumbency will serve as a security blanket.

Donna L. Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grassroots political consulting firm.