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(February 27, 2003 // link)

This evening Dianne and I attended the NH Democratic Party’s 100 Club dinner in Manchester. Three Democratic candidates for President, Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Rev. Al Sharpton of New York spoke to the crowd of about 600. Although Kerry and Edwards supporters were there, their candidates were not, causing us to wonder if all those t-shirts could possibly make up for the no-show Senators.

Howard Dean’s speech was safe. Dean attempted to align himself with what he called “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” Aligning yourself with “traditional” democrats certainly seems to be in vogue and it must be what all of the handlers are telling their candidates that they need to do.

Democrats need to find an identity right now. Rather than saying what he thought the crowd wanted to hear, especially on affirmative action and the war, Dean should have taken an opportunity to distinguish himself from the field. Apparently, he looked good to Howard Kurtz and others in the press at a DNC rally this past weekend.

Joe Lieberman looked and sounded good. He was not afraid to take an unpopular stand on the war and he left me confident that he had good reason to support it, that he understood the arguments and that his position is credible. Howard Dean may get some exposure from his anti-war stance, but Lieberman gets a lot of points for integrity. Lieberman’s remarks showed that he has paid enough attention to New Hampshire to be aware of the New Hampshire GOP blockade of the NH Democrat’s and Firefighter’s Union phone banks on Election Day. For a great article on Lieberman, see Noam Scheiber's Mensch at Work in the most recent Washington Monthly.

Al Sharpton brought down the house. He is unelectable, but he is a great speaker. His speech hit on many important core democratic issues with the force of a sledge hammer. He had many strong messages, but the one that most resonated with the crowd was that Democrats need to define ourselves and our values, and we need to get the message out. The beauty of being Al Sharpton is that he can say what everybody else wants to say, but can’t. Unfortunately for him, when his message starts to get through, his baggage will weigh him down.

We haven’t picked a candidate yet. In fact, the kabuki dance has only just begun...

(February 26, 2003 // link)

A Lost Opportunity: I read with interest the editorial in the February 25, 2003 edition of The Citizen regarding tort reform and loss of opportunity. Here is another way to look at it:

The recent tragic death of Jesica Santillan, the young Mexican girl who was given incompatible organs in her first transplant should give “tort reformers” across the country pause. This is a case where a young girl was promised life and had it mercilessly snatched away from her by an act of total negligence -- no different than if she were murdered.

Jesica’s death ended the promise of a young life and the opportunity that it presented. Her death was not an accident. It was a screw-up. Recently proposed medical malpractice caps would limit the family’s ability to recover damages for their loss so that insurance companies can protect their assets and pay their executives their enormous salaries.

Assume for a moment that Jesica was a 45 year old father of three. Assume that he was the sole provider for his family and that his doctors had promised him a second chance at life through the miracle of modern medicine. Then they killed him. His family would be without their dad. More than that, however, the family would be deprived of the opportunities that his lifetime of work would have produced. The commutative effect of his life’s work would never be realized. That is lost opportunity.

Not only will his family be deprived of his support, but of the care and comfort of his presence. What is the value of his daughter’s fatherless walk down the aisle? What is the value in his being deprived of the sight of his grandchildren, his children’s ballgames, his wife’s kiss? All gone, tragically.

The civil justice system cannot give Jesica her life back, nor can it return hundreds of thousands of loved ones to their families. It cannot give those hurt by negiligence their lives back. What it can do is compensate their families for their loss. Some doctors and insurance companies want you to see this as base. You see, doctors give you life – or death – while lawyers are just after money.

Think long and hard about who is harmed when our civil justice system is tampered with. For now it’s just those people who they say weren’t really hurt. Will you, the one who might really be hurt, be next? Remember, everyone hates lawyers until they need one. Tort reform is just another way to erode your civil rights.

// Ed Philpot, President, Belknap County Bar Association

(February 25, 2003 // link)

Time and Tide: The passage of time is working against the US in its plan to invade Iraq, while a rising tide of anti-Bush sentiment sweeps across the shores of Europe. According to a recent Washington Post article by Glenn Kessler and Mike Allen, US embassies around the world are writing home to tell officials at the State Department of increasing dissatisfaction with US policy abroad. Apparently, “[m]any people in the world increasingly think that President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein” according to Kessler and Allen.

Typically, our president, who last week shrugged off millions of anti war protests worldwide by comparing them to focus groups, appears unaffected by this. Other countries considered vital to coalition building efforts by Presidents Bush 41 and Clinton are emboldened by worldwide pressure against the war, and they are becoming more vocal in their opposition to it. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is ordering body bags.

There are compelling reasons why this country’s interests require the removal of Saddam Hussein. Kenneth Pollack, in a recent interview with Joshua Marshall, discussed some of those reasons. He also talks about the importance of coalition building, and of timing. The war on terror seems to have gone missing with Bin Laden and I wonder if we can interest our allies in fighting the terror threat and Iraq at the same time. None the less, we march steadily off to war. If there are reasons to unseat the Iraqi regime, and to do it now, the administration is not doing anything to get its message across and our Ambassadors are hearing the result. When the tide of war subsides, it just may take a measure of US power and prestige with it, and it will hopefully take Bush 43 in the next election as well.

Just so you know that we're not making this stuff up, check out Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo today for more on the republican phone blockade. Apparently the state republican party is going to pay its bill to GOP Marketplace and “move on.” Sounds like a familiar theme….

(February 24, 2003 // link)

The Ugly Republican: Earlier this month I wrote about the New Hampshire GOP hiring telemarketing thugs to block the Democrat's phone banks on election day last November. (See POP Archive: February 10, 2003). The Republican response to getting caught in this imbroglio was to propose a meaningless code of ethics and to express the wish that we could all move on and talk about something else.

Now just a couple short weeks later, Benjamin Keppel in today's Union Leader reports that the chairman of Manchester's Republican party, Joe Kelly Levasseur, issued this "limited apology" for nasty comments he made about 2 state Democratic leaders on his cable access show, the "Kind and Gentle Show" (I swear I am not making this up):

"I stand by them. I basically stand by the words and the context in which they were made. . .From now on, I will make sure my selection of words is more appropriate for a viewing audience."

There. Feel better? Jayne Millerick, chair of the State GOP, acknowledges that Mr. Lavasseur "certainly has a colorful way of expressing himself," and also expresses the desire to move on and talk about something else. That would be nice, but when are people who engage in this kind of attack politics going to be held to account for bad behavior?

Of course the Republicans want to move on. They are wrong and they have been caught. This recent brouhaha illustrates the attack-the-messenger-strategy that seems to be pervasive not only on a state level but on a national level as well. Because they can’t defend their domestic, foreign or economic policies on their merit, they resort to extreme personal attack politics. Every time it comes up however, they say “Let’s not focus on the negatives, lets get to the issues.” Every time we try to get to the issues, they do something else outrageous. “Kind and Gentle” indeed.

The Democrats definitely have the high ground on this one. Calling the State Democratic Party Chair a “bitch” is a little more than “colorful language.” Levasseur reportedly said that he had originally made his comments out of frustration with what he called Democrats’ unbridled attacks on Republican officials. Come again? He further described his words as a mistake, but pledged to resign his position should such an incident happen again. “If I become the center of a story for my behavior, I will step down as city chairman,” Levasseur reportedly said. He should step down but because of what he said, not because of the response. That makes it someone else’s fault, and shifts the blame to others. This seems to be another Republican trait.

I certainly hope and expect that the NH Democrats can keep these stories alive and keep the pressure on. On a national level at least, the Democratic party has not shown itself to be aggressive enough when it comes to challenging Republican policies and platforms. In one sense anyway the NH Republicans are right: there are plenty of other things to talk about. We’ve witnessed the Bush administration make one bone-headed policy after another, and I have to confess that I’m holding my breath waiting for Gov. Benson to follow Bush’s lead. NH Democrats need to hold the GOP’s feet to the fire and keep them there. We need to challenge them on every issue, including these recent nasty remarks.


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