My Yankee friend has it right again! When will we ever learn . . . .
By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe
It is time for Democrats to stop moaning about John Roberts and John Bolton and start doing something productive -- such as figuring out how to win elections.
Even though Democrats continue to resist the outcome, George W. Bush won the 2004 presidential contest. His reelection triggered a time-honored cliche: To the victor, go the spoils. Bush selected a Supreme Court nominee and an ambassador to the United Nations who reflect his philosophy. Any Democratic president would do the same.
The Senate has the responsibility to press Roberts on his views and philosophy. But it should come as no shock that Bush would select a conservative thinker as his nominee. So far, activists' effort to paint Roberts as an extremist looks silly. Here is a candidate whose first written response to questions from lawmakers states that judges should possess ''modesty and humility." Roberts understands how to market himself to the masses in a way the abortion rights lobby never learned.
This week, Bush bypassed the Senate and installed Bolton as emissary to the UN. In doing so, the president broke no law; he merely used a procedure that allows him to fill vacant positions when the Senate is in recess. If Bolton is as unsuited for the position as opponents insist, that will become clear soon enough. Ultimately, any failure on Bolton's part will help Democrats in what should be the party's main goal: winning back the voters who now view them as the powerless party of the petulant.
And powerless the Democrats will remain -- unless more of them win office.
More evidence of their difficulty comes from Ohio. On Tuesday, former state Representative Jean Schmidt, a Republican, narrowly defeated Paul L. Hackett, a Democrat and Iraqi war veteran.
Schmidt won a special election to replace Representative Rob Portman, a Republican who resigned from Congress after winning Senate confirmation to become US trade representative. Hackett, an underdog, lost by only about 4,000 votes. He scared the GOP, but still he lost.
In his campaign, Hackett called Bush a ''chicken hawk" for failing to serve in Vietnam and ''a cheerleader for the enemy," for goading Islamic militants to ''bring it on." It was not a winning strategy against Bush in the past, and it wasn't for Hackett against Schmidt. His attacks caused Republicans to throw money and resources into the race. Besides, chicken hawk Republicans have a track record for knowing how to dissect and dismantle war heroes, from fellow Republican John McCain to Democrats Max Cleland and John Kerry.
Democrats continue to fight the last campaign, while Republicans are planning for the next two. While the Democrats are busy bashing Bush -- a second-term president who is not running for anything -- the Republicans are working on their strategy for victory in 2006 and 2008. Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, continues the GOP outreach to Latino and African-American voters. Dividing up the Democratic base and conquering even a small piece of it helps Republicans in future elections and hurts Democrats.
Already, Democrats are beginning the familiar waltz down losing paths, courting liberal activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. Why? If Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Iowa caucus is irrelevant. If Kerry runs again, the New Hampshire primary is also less important.
Democrats should spend more time in places like Ohio, and it should be quality time. They should be listening, for once, to what voters are thinking, not telling voters what is wrong about their thinking and their past choice on election day.
Democrats should also do with stem cell research what Republicans did with gay marriage: present the issue for a vote on every possible state ballot. Republican Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader from Tennessee, just demonstrated the power of the issue. Frist's surprise endorsement of a bill that would approve federal funds for new lines of stem cells enraged the right. But Frist knows the political center supports it, and the political center is where a presidential contender wants to be. In stem cell research, Democrats, for once, have an issue that fires up their base and cuts to the center, across diverse demographic groups.
Sniping about Bush's vacations and workout schedule is not a long-range strategy for Democratic success. Winning on election day is what it takes to derail nominees like Bolton and Roberts.