May 26, 2008

Speaking Clearly

In Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, he recounts a television address on the eve of the 1970 midterms, given by Ed Muskie, who was expected to be the frontrunner for the nomination in 1972:

Calmly, he said the charge Democrats appeased thugs was "a lie, and the American people know it is a lie"--a lie about the party "which led us out of depression and to victory over international barbarism ; the party of John Kennedy, who was slain in the service of the country he inspired; the party of Lyndon Johnson, wh0 withstood the fury of countless demonstrations in order to pursue a course he believed in; the party of Robert Kennedy, murdered on the eve of his greatest triumph. How dare they tell us that this party is less devoted or less courageous in maintaining American principles and values than they are themselves?"...

His tone turned rueful: "This attack is not simply the oversealousness of a few local leaders. It has been led, inspired and guided from the highest offices in the land."

"Let me try to bring some clarity to this deliberate confusion."... The Republicans? "They oppose your interests" and really believe that they can make you afraid enough or angry enough, you can be tricked into voting against yourself. It is all part of the same contempt, and tomorrow you can show them the mistake they have made."... [The debate is between] the politics of fear and the politics of trust. One says you are encircled by monstrous dangers. Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you. The other says the world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped to the will of men."

There's quite bit here. First, of course, the song remains the same, nearly forty years later. Then the bogeymen were the dirty hippies and the commies. Now it's scary brown people wearing turbans. But the deal the Republicans proffer hasn't changed. Just the cover story has changed. It wasn't true then. It's not true now. Still the same deal. And still the same calumnies directed at the patriotism of Democrats.

Second, what has happened to our party's leadership? I challenge you to find a speech by Pelosi or Reid that calls out the president for his "lies," or for the contempt for voters that is inherent in their tactics of thuggish threats. Why can't our leaders speak out with this kind of directness and clarity?

The administration's favorability rating and the right track/wrong track numbers make it clear that Americans are ready to hear a direct attack on the Republican party, the President and McCain's plans to continue the contemptuous disregard for the democratic process and voters themselves that has characterized this administration.

Paging Howard Dean.

1 comment:

Todd and in Charge said...

Jay, nice blog my man.

I recently re-read Mailer's Miami and the Siege of Chicago and found those same themes resonating, again with predictable results.