Democrats need to stop being so nice and give Republicans doses of their own medicine
By Jackson Thoreau
FAIRFAX, VA. - I was among those who journeyed to a Washington, D.C., suburb on Feb. 10 to hear John Kerry's Virginia primary victory speech. He said most of the right things until he asked people not to boo Bush, that his campaign was going to take the high road.
This was an event at a local college that allowed Bush supporters to wave their signs among the Kerry signs. At every Republican rally I have ever been forced to hold my nose and cover as a journalist, the Republicans have never allowed Democrats to wave their signs. In fact, at one Bush fund-raiser in Dallas last year, Democrats who wanted to protest his appearance were forced to stand outside in the hot sun on a roped-off street corner, while Bush schmoozed the zillionaires inside the air-conditioned hotel for more money in peace and quiet.
At the Kerry rally, some zealous Republicans waved their Bush signs in the faces of Kerry supporters close to where I was standing, and no one around me said anything. So I did, yelling at the young fascists that they better get their stupid signs out of my viewing area, pronto. They did, and there was no further such incident around me.
That incident just pointed out what is becoming increasingly apparent to me: Many Democrats, short of Al Franken, who pushes the envelope when it comes to the fighting spirit, are just too nice. And it's got to stop if we want to win next November.
Look at Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie's recent speech, in which he laughingly criticized Democrats merely for questioning Bush's military service, calling such queries "the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics." Has anyone with the Democratic National Committee gone back in modern history to point out Republican tactics that were far dirtier? A DNC spokesman accused Gillespie of "hyperventilating," but that was about it.
Those dirty Republican tricks include Watergate, the Florida recount in 2000 that was stopped by Republicans, the 1980 "October Surprise," the current Senate hacking scandal, the Republican redistricting campaigns last year in Texas and Colorado, the 2003 California governor recall campaign, and even the Bush-Rove tactics against fellow Republican John McCain in 2000.
On Watergate, we should remind people that Richard Nixon had some employees break into DNC headquarters and wiretap the offices to help his 1972 re-election bid. Nixon took illegal steps soon after taking over in 1969 to wiretap some 40 private telephones. In 1971, the Nixon "plumbers" broke into the office of California doctor and anti-war advocate Daniel Ellsberg to steal medical records they could use against him. They also burglarized the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute.
Some believe Nixon aide G. Gordon Liddy inserted LSD into the food of respected Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie, who had a public emotional breakdown that ended his 1972 bid for the presidency. Then came the DNC break-in and the bugging of other Democratic offices. Nixon even ordered campaign literature from his 1972 Democratic opponent, George McGovern, to be planted in the apartment of Arthur Bremer, who shot independent candidate George Wallace in May 1972, in an attempt to implicate the Democrats.
Ask Ed the "Esteemed Modern Political Historian" if he really believes that Democrats questioning Bush's military record is worse than those Nixonian tactics. Still with all that, I'd rather deal with Nixon in the White House than Bush. At least Nixon paid his dues and did his homework, even if some of his actions were criminal.
Ask Ed & co. about the many Republican dirty tricks in Florida, the Willie Horton smear campaign against Dukakis in 1988 that was supported by Bush and Rove, the campaign to impeach Clinton over a private affair, the controversial "October Surprise," and many other examples. The "dirtiest campaign" charge is another tactic by Republican spinmeisters to divert attention from their party's failures and unfair dirty tricks through lies. It needs to be answered.
I also think the RNC is heavily involved with pressuring media outlets to run these rumors about an alleged affair involving Kerry, which have run on everything from Saturday Night Live to Meet the Press and Reuters. Democrats should be asking the media to question Bush about rumors of extramarital affairs involving him, if Kerry has to answer such queries.
Those include a Texas woman named Margie Schoedinger, who filed a sexual assault lawsuit against George W. Bush in December 2002. She wound up dead last September, listed as a suicide due to a gunshot wound.
Another rumor was publicized somewhat during the 2000 campaign involving another Texas woman named Tammy Phillips, who said she and Bush had an affair in the late 1990s when he was Texas governor.
Democrats should point out that on one hand, the media doesn't even name and interview the woman in the Kerry case, whereas in the Bush instances, we have the names, comments by the women involved, and even links to public documents.
The lawsuit filed by Schoedinger was admittedly wild, but it alleged, among other things, that Texas authorities found out that Schoedinger dated Bush when she was a minor. There are also reports that in his single days, Bush impregnated at least one woman and made her get an illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade.
If Kerry has to answer questions from the media about an unnamed woman, then shouldn't Bush have to answer press inquiries about if he knew Schoedinger and dated her when she was a minor? And shouldn't Bush have to answer questions related to if he ever met and had an affair with Phillips, and if he-- or his friends or family -- ever paid for an illegal abortion caused by him?
If you do an Internet search on these women, you will find background on their cases. I have written several columns on the cases myself for various ezines.
It's just puzzling to me why many in the "liberal media" seem to pursue such rumors involving Democrats and downplay or ignore similar ones involving Republicans. I really think most reporters try to be fair, even if it's just a Fox News sham, but their bosses don't have to do so. Perhaps there is something to the claim that conservative media owners bend over backwards to appease conservative politicians, huh? I've seen this process in action at the newspapers where I've worked, but that's just me, another member of the "liberal media." Believe me, there are not many of us left.
But it's puzzling why Democratic officials and politicians don't go ballistic more often and scream louder than Howard Dean did, which was really not that loud. That was ridiculous - the media was berating Dean for screaming while they let Republican politicians steal everyone blind. But at least the media has done its job well on the Bush military record issue.
I'm not saying we all have to threaten Republicans to fist fights and tackle people like Franken has done -- just don't condemn those who do literally fight back. My wife and I had quite a debate on Franken's tactics driving home from the Kerry rally. I said I liked Franken's spunk, that I'd rather see Democrats do what he did than give another Gore-like concession speech when you win the damn election. She thought Franken's methods were going too far, that they were giving Democrats a bad name. I countered that Republicans were going to accuse us of far worse things than picking fights with them and give us bad names no matter what we do, so we might as well go ahead and pick fights when we have the chance.
We sure better yell at them to get their damn signs and smug faces out of our sight when they wave them in our faces at our campaign rallies.
Then came Ed the Propagandist's speech a few days later, and my point was driven home.
On another front -- Ralph Nader's campaign -- sure, I think Nader has become an egomaniac and he gets a lot of support and funding from Republicans who want him to run to take votes away from Kerry, which has caused Nader's message to be compromised. I don't like seeing him run just to spite people, especially when much of his support is from Republicans. But there is not much we can do about that, besides expose his hypocrisy and refuse to vote for him.
We should be confronting Republicans more on their lies and their behind-the-scenes support for candidates like Al Sharpton and Nader. We should be clearly pointing out the lies and dirty tactics to mainstream journalists, calling them, emailing them, faxing them, writing them. Republicans call journalists to the point of harassment, and that does get in journalists' minds when they work on a story.
We can't raise as much money as the fat-cat Republicans, but we can demand that the media does its job and reports accurately on the lies spewed by Republicans. Like it or not, this battle will be won in the media, especially on network TV. That's where most American voters get their news.
It's time to step it up a notch. I can be a nice guy, too, but not when some bullies have their hands over my throat, like the Republicans do.
Jackson Thoreau is an American writer and co-author of We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House. The updated, 120,000-word electronic book can be downloaded on his Internet site at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/ebook.html. He is working on another book, The Strange Death of the Woman Who Filed a Rape Lawsuit Against Bush & Other Things the Bush Administration Doesn't Want You to Know. Some chapters from that can be read at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/know.html. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.