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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Playing The Game

Haven't paid much attention to the latest twists in the Katherine Harris corruption scandal, but this update at TPM Muckraker put a smile on my face :
Here's the kind of lede you never want to see as a candidate, particularly if you're a makeup-happy Republican running for Senate in Florida: "Katherine Harris has seen better days."

Or try this one: "If you heard a big implosion during the weekend, it may have been the sound of Katherine Harris' campaign."

Or, my favorite: "A yet-to-be-identified Hawaiian has almost as much of a chance of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate as Longboat Key Republican Katherine Harris[.]"
Unfortunately, the very fact that we're still talking about Harris in 2006 shows how poorly the Democratic party is at playing politics. The main reason people know her name at all is because she was the Florida Secretary of State who worked on the Bush campaign and led the 2000 recount. I know we're supposed to put the stealing of an election behind us, but are you guys really so shell-shocked that you're afraid remind people of a blatant conflict of interest? You don't need to reopen the election 2000 can of worms to point out that her unwillingness to recuse herself from that recount doesn't inspire confidence that she'd put the interests of her constituents first. The people of Florida deserve a Representative that doesn't have divided loyalties.

Of course, the Democratic rope-a-dope strategy worked well here, since Harris is essentially knocking herself out, but that same political timidity is evident all over the place. I've brought this up plenty of times over at my site, but it bears repeating : Democrats need to stop apologizing for being right. For a good example of what I mean, this March 2004 article is an early glimpse at the traits that made John Kerry lose his bid for the presidency :
After a union rally in Chicago, Illinois, on Wednesday Kerry told a worker that "these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen." His microphone was still on when he made the comments.

Kerry, who was on Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with Congressional Democrats, he told CNN, "I didn't say it about the Republicans, I said it about the attack dogs."

On Wednesday, a campaign aide had said that Kerry wasn't talking about President Bush.

Kerry has touted himself as a "fighter" who will stand up to GOP attacks. He told the worker, "Don't worry, man -- we are going to keep pounding, let me tell you."
I was a big supporter of John Kerry, but this incident was complete bullshit. If you get "caught" telling the truth, don't obfuscate later when pressed on the subject. In this case, John Kerry's gaffe gave him the perfect opportunity to explain why he thought the Bushies were "crooked", but he figured he'd be better off tiptoeing around the feelings of his opponents. Democratic consultants may think this sort of thing wins them points with undecided voters, but it also makes people like me embarrassed to be supporting a guy too craven to back up his own words.

This is even worse when you realize that politicians hardly ever take damage for speaking off the cuff. George W. Bush called a reporter an "asshole" and Dick Cheney told a Senator to fuck himself, but their potty-mouths didn't cost them a single vote among the moral police. Why? It's not just because 90% of the righteous indignation that comes out of that crowd is manufactured outrage, but because sticking to your guns will make people respect you. Even in cases as obviously immature as Bush's and Cheney's, after the first couple days of faux-anger on the part of Democrats, voters responded positively in both incidents because the closest they came to an apology was saying (I'm paraphrasing here) "Sometimes when I get pissed off, I lose my cool."

Not that I'm saying that Democrats need to start cussing like sailors, but that they need to realize that when Republicans get offended it's probably because they're doing something right. Yet even with the GOP imploding, we're still treated to the sorry spectacle of Harry Reid comparing the GOP to the mob in an op-ed and a week later issuing an apology for a report coming out of his office that actually named names. As Henny Youngman might say, "Give 'em hell Harry...please".