Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Now a word from the other side

I recently received this column through some old news sources that haven't completely dried up. I thought I'd give it a little exposure. Martin Frost was my congressman the many years I lived in Dallas County. The Republicans gerrymandered him out of office in 2004. It's nice to see he's still in there sluggin'.


Anti-Republican Mood Could Give Democrats Default Win

Monday , July 31, 2006

By Martin Frost

During the 1996 and 1998 election cycles, Democrats picked up a net of 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is far more than in any cycle since. I was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during those years, so I am often asked about the appropriate strategy for House Democrats this Fall.

For months people have been clamoring for a detailed statement of what Democrats would do if they are successful in taking over the House. This issue has been raised by the press, Republican critics and by some Democrats.

Some party leaders have attempted to fill the void. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid issued a detailed position statement earlier this summer. Sen. Hillary Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, issued her own position paper on key issues recently.

All this is important but, after a great deal of thought, I believe this year’s Congressional elections will turn on two basic statements for Democrats:

1. We are not them (the Republicans) and

2. The country desperately needs someone to serve as a check on the excesses and misdeeds of the Bush administration.

Both are variations on the same theme.

The “we are not them theme” was recently discussed by everyone’s favorite Washington political analyst, Charlie Cook, in a July 22 column for the National Journal.

To quote Cook, “For all the talk about Democrats needing to ‘be for something,’ a stronger case can be made that the Democrats should just stay out of the way and let events take their course. If Democrats prevail on November 7th….it will be because they are not Republicans and because people voted against Republicans.”

This was also echoed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who suggested recently that the Democrats should reprise the 1946 Republican slogan (“Had Enough? Vote Republican”) which led to a Republican take-over of Congress.

It goes something like this: Republicans have run up large deficits after inheriting a significant surplus from President Bill Clinton. Republicans have opposed an expansion of valuable stem cell research which could lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and a variety of other conditions affecting millions of Americans. Republicans have pushed for tax cuts for the wealthy while giving crumbs to the middle class. Republicans have made a terrible mess out of the immigration issue. Republicans have given tax breaks to big oil companies while gasoline prices continue to climb. In others words, it’s time to give the other side a chance.

Closely related to this argument is the idea that divided government (Republicans in control of the executive branch and Democrats in control of at least one house of Congress) really does serve the country, particularly when the executive branch is acting in a high-handed, autocratic way.

Examples of this include:

--The poor intelligence provided by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq war

--The incompetent manner in which the administration has handled the occupation of Iraq

--Bush administration efforts to spy on phone calls and email traffic of American citizens inside the United States without a search warrant in the name of fighting terrorism

--Bush efforts to try prisoners being held in Guantanamo in tribunals deemed to be illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court

--Bungling by the administration in the response to Hurricane Katrina

--The mishandled Dubai ports deal

--Multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to administration favorites to carry out reconstruction work in Iraq.

Should Democrats take control of the House or Senate, they will be able to conduct “oversight” hearings into activities run by the executive branch….not to punish or embarrass the White House, but to insure basic accountability. Witnesses would have to testify under oath and you can anticipate that a number of tough but fair questions would be asked.

Right now, there is little incentive for the party of the president to engage in aggressive Congressional oversight. However, some Republicans in Congress have started asking the administration tough questions in recent months, partially as a way of protecting themselves from voter backlash against unpopular policies this Fall.

Clearly it will be helpful to Democrats to advance specific ideas about major topics such as energy policy and the future of health care for the millions of uninsured in our country. However, it is possible that voters will not really be listening carefully to the specifics.

This may be the type of election which will be determined by the general mood of the electorate rather than specific policy positions by either party.

“We are not them” may be the most powerful thing that the Democrats can offer the voters this Fall...and it may just work.

More Kinky

My previous column about the campaign of Kinky Friedman for Texas governor was written before recent polls showed an upturn for Kinky. Here is the most recent polling data (which could change tomorrow in this volatile race):

A July 24 Rasmussen poll puts Perry (40 percent), Strayhorn (20 percent), Kinky (19 percent) and Bell (13 percent)

A July 24 WSJ/Zogby puts Perry (38.3 percent), Bell (20.8 percent), Kinky (20.7 percent) and Strayhorn (11 percent).

Kinky ran third in both polls. I stand by my prediction that Kinky ultimately won’t come close to winning, but he is doing better than I originally anticipated. Thanks to FOX website readers for calling my attention to the most recent polling data.


Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

1 comment:

  1. Kinky's campaign kicks a$$ because he's making money while he runs for office.

    As Fox News reported, "entertainer and Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, complete with cigar, black cowboy hat and Southern drawl, is about to star in his own reality show.

    'Go Kinky,' airing on Country Music Television, follows Friedman, an independent candidate, on the campaign trail in the Lone Star State.

    'Every crazy redneck in Texas is for Kinky,' Friedman told FOXNews.com from his ranch in Medina, Texas."

    As an added bonus, Kinky's official campaign website reminds you that Mr. Friedman has a new book coming out.

    This pro-capitalism attitude influences Kinky's political views, too. For example, one prominent feature of Kinky's campaign has been Kinky's pledge to turn over Texas public school physical education programs to corporations and charge them whatever they will pay to "get their hooks into the athletes while they’re still young."


    There is one concern I have about Kinky. The latest SurveyUSA poll show that Kinky could be doing better among Black voters. Kinky's support among likely Black voters is 6% and 4% among minorities who did not list their race. That's less than half the support among Black voters that even Governor Hairspray receives.

    Kinky's support among likely Black voters was somewhat harmed as a result of this video from Kinky's appearance last November on CNBC's "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch" where Kinky explained his view that criminals should be punished by locking them in prison and making them "listen to a Negro talking to himself."

    It didn't help too much when Donny Deutsch asked if Kinky's statement was possibly a little racist, and Kinky replied that "Negro is a charming word."

    The SurveyUSA poll also shows that Kinky has the least support of all the candidates among Hispanic voters.

    Again, Kinky's support is harmed by newspaper interviews where Kinky says the Tejano protesters marching in favor of immigration reform were "half playing hooky" and other newspaper interviews where Kinky says "I will divide the border into five jurisdictions, assigning one Mexican general to each and providing a trust fund for that general" and where Kinky says "all of these politicians are afraid of offending Hispanics."

    Obviously, Kinky is not "afraid of offending Hispanics" – or Black voters, for that matter. It's cool that Kinky's not politically correct, but it's affecting his appeal among minority voters in Texas.

    On the bright side, Kinky has some awesome quotes:

    Kinky said "I have mixed feelings on parental notification" about abortions for girls under the age of 18 and "on the counseling requirement, I'm not sure, but I know the less I talk to social workers, the better. No issue with the public-funding restrictions, but I would want to investigate further."

    Kinky said "I am not anti-death penalty" (when talking to regular folks) and "let's do away with the death penalty" (when talking to liberals).

    Kinky said of Bush's Iraq War "I agree with most of his political positions overseas, his foreign policy."

    Kinky said what Bush has "been doing in the Near East and in the Middle East, he’s handling that well, I think."

    Kinky said my "voting record doesn't look strong, but my voting record is better than Dick Cheney's."

    Kinky said "I am going to see non-denominational prayer and the Ten Commandments put back in the schools."


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