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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

15 years ago today

by digby

Following up Tristero's post below, from my perch here on this old blog, this was where were were on that day:

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Memo To The Democratic Presidential Candidates:

Do not fall for this bullshit:

While Democrats and Republicans closed ranks last night behind the troops, leaders of both parties have shown a willingness to seize on war issues to score political points. Many Republicans hope to chill criticism of Bush and his Iraq policy by sending a clear and early message that they will come down hard on vocal Democratic dissenters, especially those in positions of national prominence, GOP lawmakers said. These Republicans worry that France, Russia and other critics will seize on comments from high-profile Democrats to buttress their case internationally that a preemptive war is unwise and unwarranted.


Some Republicans see a longer-term political advantage in such applause. They believe Daschle and other Democrats will suffer in the 2004 elections, which may be dominated by themes of national security and terrorism, if voters view them as unpatriotic or soft on defense.

Most national polls show that about two-thirds of Americans back the war against Iraq. "When you are constantly criticizing the president, you are also criticizing the 70 percent of people supporting him," DeLay said.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said Democrats will likely "pay a political price" for feeding the perception they opposed disarming and deposing Hussein. That is why most of the Democrats running for president have backed Bush in the conflict, Reynolds said.

Reynolds warned that politicians, such as Daschle, who hail from states Bush won in 2000 are particularly at risk in 2004 if they criticize the president's Iraq policy. This proves that attacks on Daschle are "so brazenly political and over the top and politically motivated," said Daschle's spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer.

It should be obvious by now that there is no margin in playing Neville Chamberlain to Tom DeLay. Max Cleland proved that nothing will stop them from lying about your record and assassinating your character, no matter what you do. It will gain you nothing to worry about quelling Republican attacks on your patriotism.

If a Democrat wins, he will win despitebeing smeared as an unpatriotic coward by the Republican Party. Whether he supports the President or doesn't he will be portrayed as having tried to foil him at every turn. It is pointless to pretend otherwise. Put your head down and barrel along on your own terms.

Remember also, that the entire strategy is designed for only two reasons. The first and foremost is to get Bush legitimately elected, if possible (illegitimately, if not.) The second is to use his wartime popularity to pass their radical domestic agenda under threat of retaliation to moderates who stray. I doubt seriously that they have ever really understood that their bullying and hectoring is what drove Jeffords from the party, but they will likely not be quite as obvious about it as they were with him. It is in the Democratic Party's interest for Daschle and Pelosi to take some heat right now to give the GOP moderates some cover. This administration may very well overplay their hand (they're not good at sausage making and Frist is a virgin) so it is worth the Party's while to hang tough, really tough, on this budget. The presidential candidates can help by giving Daschle and Pelosi some cover as well. It's going to get bumpy and it would be nice if the Democrats could show a little bit of solidarity here. It would certainly be good for the country.

The Republicans have the strange habit of getting manic and agitated just after they win a battle. They become enraged when they find that winning didn't result in unconditional surrender by the political opposition. On the day the Washington Post revealed that the president had rallied 71% of the American public, George Will wrote:
Speaking of indiscriminate chaos, many elements of the Democratic Party, including most of its base and many of its most conspicuous leaders, seem deranged, unhinged by the toxic fumes of hatred and contempt they emit for the president. From what does this arise? It cannot just be Florida, the grievance that Democrats, assiduous cultivators of victimhood, love to nurse. No, many Democrats' problem, which threatens to disqualify their party from presidential responsibilities for a generation, is their incontinent love of snobbery and nostalgia -- condescension toward a president they consider ignorant, and a longing for the fun of antiwar days of yore.
I don’t know why Republicans have such an overwhelming need for their opponents to cry Uncle and completely capitulate. I suspect it may be from frustration at fighting for an aggressive policy against Soviet communism but never being allowed a final, mano-a-mano battle from which they could derive the masculine satisfaction of dominance and victory. I don’t know. But, it is never enough that they win, they want the Democrats to grovel.

It is more and more clear that those who hated it the most developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in which they came to admire many facets of Soviet totalitarianism, one of the most obvious being the efficiency and power offered by the one party state. These people do not believe there is such a thing as the loyal opposition. Opposition is, by definition, disloyal.

Rush has been known to say, “I’d like to keep one liberal around in a museum so every body could see what they look like.” Republicans believe we are the enemy. We cannot win unless we understand this.

I don't think "we" ever really understood this.  And sadly, I suspect that even the extreme example of Donald Trump won't be enough to make "us" get that.

Note that George Will is now a Never-Trumper.  He obviously didn't see the writing on the wall either.