Sunday, May 25, 2003

Which Democrat Will Speak Fiscal Truth?
By Roger C. Altman ... Juxtaposed against the gargantuan Social Security and Medicare actuarial deficits, [Bush's tax cuts are] ruinous fiscal policy and even worse social policy. But in raw political terms, it is brilliant. It paints the Democrats, and particularly their presidential candidates, into a corner. They are forced to support even larger deficits or call for a rollback of certain tax cuts or accept the utter absence of budget resources to pay for any new initiatives, from health care on down. Each of these choices is politically excruciating, just as the White House planned it. But, perversely, there is a bright side. Problems this big lend themselves to simple approaches, such as these: (1) The Bush tax cuts are excessive and, in part, should be rolled back; and (2) future budget deficits should be smaller than the president is proposing. A Democrat with the courage to adopt these principles and communicate them effectively becomes the truth-teller and could go far.
Gov. Dean, meet Mr. Altman. Mr. Altman, meet Gov. Dean. I can tell from recent news reports that Howard Dean is still below the media radar for much of the establishment press. For example, the other day I was watching Chris Mathews (I was just surfing, honest) when the topic of Robert Byrd's recent floor speech came up. Mathews, Gergen, and some other woman all said that Byrd represented an old style of Democrat and that NONE of the Democratic candidates for President had the courage to stand up and say the kind of things Byrd was saying. To bad Howard Fineman wasn't there. He might have mentioned that Dean has been saying the same things that Byrd said and has been doing so for more than a year. What we might be seeing here is not just a case of Dean's lack of name recognition but the adoption of yet another "storyline" by the mainstream press: Bush is on fire and Democrats are hapless (except for ineffective examples like Byrd). Anyone who doesn't fit this storyline (such as Dean) is ignored because journalism is so much easier if all you have to do is regurgitate the same story that everyone else is doing. Fortunately, this habit of the press could be used to Dean's advantage. There are few things the press loves more than a David vs. Goliath story and the Doctor is out there swinging his sling just waiting for an opening.


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