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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ed Kilgore

Watch Out for Medicaid

With all the attention being focused on Bush’s Social Security privatization proposal, it’s important for Democrats to keep an eye on a different entitlement program: Medicaid, where there are lots of signs the administration will soon pursue something equally radical.
Making Medicaid something less than a federal guarantee of minimum, defined benefits has long been a conservative goal. Ronald Reagan’s first budget proposal included a “cap” on federal Medicaid payments, which would have basically left the states holding the bag for cost and eligibility increases. It was the one big proposal in the 1981 Reagan budget that was defeated in Congress. But the Medicaid “cap” has continued to circulate on the back-burner of conservative thought ever since. There was a very interesting story in WaPo last week in which the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, preemptively denied that Bush was about to renew the Medicaid “cap” idea. But in the fine print, Leavitt made it clear the foreswearance of a “cap” would only apply to federally mandatory Medicaid coverage, which excludes a whole array of important Medicaid services offered by most states, including prescription drugs, long-term care, and indeed, most services made available to elderly and disabled adults.
Leavitt went on to cite state “gaming” of Medicaid to draw down federal funds, and alleged abuse by middle-class families who hide or shift resources in order to qualify for long-term care benefits, as a big part of the Medicaid cost spiral. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out in a Feburary 4 report, rising health care (including Rx drug) costs, families losing employer-based coverage, and the aging of the population are the main culprits.
So: expect the administration to propose a Medicaid cap-by-another-name, disguised as some sort of attack on waste, fraud and abuse. And recognize that states are hardly in a position to pick up the slack; any sort of limitation on federal fiscal responsibility for Medicaid will guarantee a significant reduction in services, and another boost in the ranks of the uninsured.
The ultimate conservative plan for Medicaid tracks their main goal with Social Security: making it a defined contribution rather than a defined benefit program. For a glimpse of the Golden Future they desire, look no further than Jeb Bush’s proposal for “Medicaid reform” in Florida, which would basically write checks to private insurers and give them unprecedented latitude over who they will cover and what services they will provide.
If you care about old folks and po’ folks, this is some scary stuff, and a token of how far both Bush brothers are willing to take their ongoing mockery of George W. Bush’s pledge to usher in a “responsibility era.”


After helping pound out the DLC’s take on Bush’s SOTU (to sum it up, we were unimpressed and unintimidated), I had the chance to appear on one of my very favorite NPR gabfests, Warren Olney’s To the Point. My anticipation of spirited warfare was heightened when the producer told me I would be pitted against Cato/Club for Growth chieftain Steven Moore, who is a High Church Social Security Privatizer.
But my bloodlust dissipated when my opening gambit–the absurdity of a president who has deliberately engineered a real and immediate fiscal crisis demanding that Congress show “responsibility” by taking on a dubious and remote Social Security “crisis”–met with basic agreement from Moore, who was as exercised as I was by the casual treatment of the budget crisis by Bush last night. I also got the distinct impression that Moore knows Bush’s SocSec initiative is pretty much for show, since the highest praise he could muster for the purported Privatizer-in-Chief is that he was brave to draw attention to the issue.
Libertarians generally make me nuts, but sometimes they offer a refreshing refusal to completely buy in to the tactical alliance they have forged with a Republican Party dominated by corporate porkmeisters, cultural warriors, and neocon empire-builders.
In case you have an unslaked thirst for essence-of-SOTU, check out Dana Milbank’s painstaking WaPo account of who stood, who sat, who clapped, and who looked like a fidgety nine-year-old at church, during the speech. He also reveals it was Rep. Bobby Jindal of LA, without question one of the smartest people in the GOP, who came up with the purple-ink-stain idea, which gave Republican backbenchers something useful to do other than hooting and hollering at every other Bush line.
Purely in terms of entertainment value, last night’s speech made me long for the days of divided government. One of the most interesting features of Bill Clinton’s post-1994 SOTUs was watching Newt and Al Gore react to the president’s applause lines, right there behind him, like cheerleaders forced to dance and prance on the field ten feet from every play. Would Newt screw up and fail to stand and applaud every time veterans were mentioned? Would Gore remember to nod sagely at the Chief’s wisdom on the full panoply of issues? Watching Cheney and Hastert move sluggishly in tandem last night was not nearly so much fun.

A Speechwriter’s Take on SOTU

From long experience, I’ve decided that giving my own take on a Big Bush Speech is a waste of space, because I invariably misunderestimate his rhetorical strengths, and know too much about his weaknesses, his record, and the Objective Reality he so often ingores.
So: this time I’ve decided to paralyze my frontal lobes and look at this SOTU from the vantage-point of a professional speechwriter, which is what I used to be. Here we go:
Speech Mission: Re-establish a sense of irresistable momentum for the administration’s foreign and domestic policies, including those that seem to be in trouble.
Primary Message: Freedom works, retroactively validating administration policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and prospectively validating administration policies at home.
Secondary Message: We are up to great things here, and Democrats are simply obstructing the March of Progress.
Desired Print Lede: “Bush Says Democracy Is on the March.”
Desired Electronic Media Bite: “Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.”
Defensive Electronic Media Bite: “Our children’s retirement security is more important than partisan politics.”
Speech Structure: economy, values, security.
Flyover Country: sections on the economy up until Social Security were standard pablum; values section all pablum; rhetortical weight of speech all about security.
Surprises: several, none of them dramatic: (1) much less on the budget than advertised; (2) an odd specific statement in a generally foggy Social Security section that ultimately, younger workers could divert a full 4% of payroll to private accounts (a high figure even among devoted privatizers); (3) a commitment of real dollars and unprecedented U.S. interest in Abu Mazen’s Palestinian government, and (4) an overdue suggestion that maybe Egypt and Saudi Arabia ought to get with the democracy idea themselves.
Bipartian Grace Notes: limited to former, and some of them dead, Democrats Bush cited as being worried about Social Security solvency. That was it. No acknowledgement of the closeness of the election or Kerry’s quick and gracious concession; no acknowledgement of the legitimacy of any opposition on any issue.
Generally, I thought the speech was pretty pedestrian other than the grande finale about freedom, dreams and threads of purpose. A CNN snap poll showed the public liked it a lot, but I doubt it will change too many minds on issues like SocSec. Pundits will eventually raise doubts about many of the details of the speech, such as Bush’s belligerent and ludicrous claim that his energy bill is essential to the achievement of energy independence.
From a speechwriter’s point of view, however, this verbally challenged man got through another SOTU without inflicting much damage on his various causes, though when you really look at it, his rhetoric continues to represent a fog machine rather than any lighthouse for the truth.
UPCATEGORY: Ed Kilgore’s New Donkey
UPDATE II, THURSDAY: as you can imagine, I was a little suprised to open up the papers this morning and discover that Bush’s speech was ALL ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY. There’s a simple and rather interesting explanation for that: as a mental health measure, I didn’t watch any of the pre- or post-SOTU media jabbering, and thus was not aware that the administration has released a briefing paper on SocSec before the speech. In other words, the speech wasn’t just “the speech,” but part of a rollout of a long-awaited proposal, or at least the parts of the proposal that the administration was willing to talk about. I felt better about my “mistake” when I read Josh Marshall’s initial take on the speech. Nobody could accuse Josh of letting any Bush comment on SocSec get by him, but he, too, thought the speech underplayed SocSec compared to what we were all expecting.


The only thing worse than having to sit through and then write about another George W. Bush State of the Union Address (and yes, I will post an insta-comment shortly after the speech tonight) is to have to read the soon-to-be irrelevant speculation about what the man’s going to say. In today’s Post we learned that the speech has gone through 17 drafts, and that Bush had practiced it twice as of yesterday. We learned that it would last about 40 minutes, not counting the time that will be consumed by both routine applause over noncontroversial lines, and sycophantic GOP applause over the red-meat stuff. We learned that the Real People assuming the traditional position flanking the First Lady in the gallery will be Real Voters from Afghanistan and Iraq. And we learned that the speech will represent the Maiden Voyage of new chief presidential speechwriter William McGurn, though of course, the Old Master and author of the Second Inaugural Address, Mike Gerson, will have his hand in as well.
On this last point, former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet did an online piece for The New Republic today predicting that McGurn, formerly of the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Page, will introduce a new, less high-minded, more conventionally conservative, and perhaps more harshly partisan tone into this SOTU. Seems to me that Bush has often used Gersonian universalist language to advance a right-wing policy agenda and to savage Democrats with a genial half-smirk on his face.
We will obviously know what’s in store for us soon enough, in painful detail.

VA GOPer Attacks Church Property Rights

It was buried pretty deep in today’s Washington Post, but there was a story about a Republican legislative initiative in Virginia that tells you a lot about how deep the cultural war mentality runs in today’s GOP.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. William C. Mims from exurban Loudon County, would give religious congregations seceding from their denominations control over church buildings, even if that violates longstanding denominational arrangements governing church property.
There’s zero question what this initiative is about: the conservative effort to pull Episcopal parishes into breakaway denominations in response to the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. The Episcopal Church has consistently told potential break-away congregations they must be willing to leave behind their buildings if they refuse to maintain communion with their brethren. (As the name of the denomination might suggest, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States is not an alliance of independent congregations, but an organic union claiming its authority from the apostolic succession of bishops). A wide array of state and federal courts, up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court, have upheld this position as a matter of simple property law. Mims’ bill would give Virginia the rare distinction of becoming the first state to force a reorganization of a major religious denomination.
So: for at least one Republican, the imperative of encouraging the demonization of gay people overrides both the independence of churches and private property rights.
As I recall, Virginia eliminated mandatory membership in or financial support for the Anglican Church (the precursor of today’s Episcopalians) with the enactment of Jefferson’s Statute of Religious Liberty in 1786. Those whose homophobic tendencies override their belief in the other tenets of the Episcopal Church have a rich variety of other devotional options available. (After all, what’s two millenia of theology and liturgy as compared to the latest right-wing witch hunt?). They are entitled to take their views elsewhere. But they are not entitled to a nice little sectarian endowment in the form of property seized from the church they are repudiating, as a special gift from the Virginia Republican Party.

This Blog and That

Today one of the better-known bloggers out there, Andrew Sullivan, announced he was scaling back The Dish to an occasional post so that he could devote time to writing a book, traveling in Europe, and generally, I guess, having a life. Interestingly, Kevin Drum of Political Animal interpreted this announcement as as an abandonment of the blogosphere. Since Kevin also did a post this week suggesting that any true blog should include comment hosting, I guess it’s time to wade into the perilous topic of blogospheric standards.
First, there is the question of posting frequency. Most of the estimated two million bloggers out there obviously have day jobs, mostly with employers who don’t think they have any obligation to subsidize commentary on Social Security or Iraq. Presumably most of these bloggers also have some sort of personal life away from their laptops; indeed, the number of political bloggers who comment regularly on sporting events indicates that they are stealing a few hours away from their civic duties to watch SportsCenter.
Personally, my goal is to do a post a day, sometimes more, but my day-job work load is pretty brutal, and my domestic life is about as low-maintenance and predictable as The Thirty Years War. Some of you who follow the DLC (with interest or with trepidation, as the case may be) may have noticed that we recently changed our New Dem Daily into a slightly less regular commentary product called the New Dem Dispatch. The Daily was my responsibility for more than four years; I wrote well over a thousand op-ed length pieces on a daily deadline. But we recently made a decision that (a) it isn’t really necessary for the DLC to comment on every sparrow that falls to the ground, and (b) with two unofficial blogs, this one and The Moose, there would be some commentary from a NewDem perspective available all the time to friends, enemies and insomniacs. This gives me a bit more time to blog, but the question remains: how often is enough?
Now, blogging only when you only have something compelling to say and the time to say it coherently is not good for traffic. But it is good for the overall quality of choices available in the blogosphere. One of my personal favorites, Mark Schmitt’s The Decembrist, is not terribly regular, but it adds value to political debate every time he hits the post button.
Don’t get me wrong: There are a number of high-profile blogs, some done by individuals, some by groups, that make a point of high frequency. Those are the ones I visit when political news is breaking, because I know Political Animal and Tapped, just to cite two, will have something to say that goes much deeper than CNN.
And still others are useful to follow one ongoing subject in great detail.
Despite the blog’s general unfriendliness to my particular point of view, DailyKos was essential in keeping up with Congressional races last year. And Lord knows anybody who’s following the Social Security debate needs to regularly read Josh Marshall, who has been equally dedicated to in-depth coverage of a lot of other issues (especially the run-up to the Iraq war) over the last few years.
The rather obvious point is that different blogs serve different needs, and the idea that they need to follow any particular model or format strikes me as missing the whole point of the medium.
That brings me to the issue of comment hosting. A lot of readers have let me know they are offended this blog does not accomodate comments. And Kevin Drum, in the post linked to above, appears to think it’s essential to the “self-correcting” nature of the blogosphere, and that failure to include comments indicates a desire to suppress dissenting views.
My prejudice–and that’s what it is–against comment threads goes back to the pre-blogospheric era, when internet political chat was dominated by what we now call “freepers.” I used to do a regular column for an e-zine called IntellectualCapital that posted comments after every article. It didn’t matter what I wrote about; within two comments the threads invariably degenerated into an intra-libertarian food fight over slavery-as-a-contract or privatizing the sidewalks or Ayn Rand’s Epistle to the Californians, or whatever. Within a few months, I just stopped reading them altogether.
Obviously today’s blogs, especially those of the left and center-left, are very different, but I try to read other blogs’ comments, and in many cases, they, too, quickly morph beyond the topic at hand into intramural fights and insults and arcana. Does all this stuff (much of it, I suspect, written by people with their own blogs) serve a public service? Sure, no question about it. Does every blog have to function as a public utility? I dunno. Maybe David Brooks was right when he proposed a “Gresham’s Law of Punditry,” whereby the more people who are talking, the more there is to say. But there are hardly that many limits on talk in the blogosphere.
And then, of course, there is the “troll” problem with comment hosting–the tendency of people–sometimes a lot of people–to come into the conversation merely to throw bricks. I gather from reading blogs like Kos that this is a constant headache, and that there are very complicated steps they take to cut down on it (as a self-administered blog, NewDonkey is ignorant and incapable of such counter-measures).
But I do know this: there are a lot of extremely opinionated, angry people out there, on both the political Left and Right, who really hate the DLC and probably hate me; the former think we are orchestrating a Corporate Conspiracy to Create A One-Party State, while the latter think we are crypto-Marxists who are repackaging State Socialism and Baby-Killing for the middle-class (all these critics share a powerful disinclination to read what we actually say, and a hilarious belief that we exercise huge, occult power behind the scenes as a sort of Centrist Opus Dei). Do I want to publicize these ignorant and insulting views? Hell, no. Does this mean I am trying to “stifle dissent” or hide the fact that a lot of people don’t like what I say, or more often, who they think I am? No, I’m telling you about it right now.
As for the “self-correcting” function of comment hosting: when it comes to factual errors, I hope anybody who catches me in one will email me, and if their argument has merit, I will correct the post by editing if it’s a typo or minor error or an update if it’s more serious. If you inform me of an error and I don’t react, then by all means, blast my ass on your own blog or on the comment thread of somebody else’s, and it’s as likely to get noticed as a comment buried at the bottom of some thread on NewDonkey.
Believe me, I know I could get more traffic and props if I turned this thing into a wide-open forum, or posted like a rat in heat. But I ain’t got the time, and don’t have the stamina to do much more than trying to say something every day or so that some of you might find interesting and different from the billions of words out there each hour. And the blogosphere, despite the well-meaning efforts of some to impose order on it, is nothing if it can’t accomodate that.


At the risk of grinding an old ax, I’d like to call attention to an article by Michelle Cottle that’s up on the New Republic web site. Reviewing the reception on the Left to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s abortion speech from last week, and to the Rev. Jim Wallis’ emergence as a spokesman for how progressives can address people of faith, she says Clinton’s approach makes a lot more political sense. Her main argument is that Wallis is telling lefties too much of what they want to hear–i.e., that true Christians are more worried about poverty than sexual issues–while Clinton is trying to broaden the Democratic Party’s appeal to people who think otherwise. without abandoning progressive policy positions.
I tend to agree, with a few qualifiers. For one thing, I love Jim Wallis, who has been perhaps the most compelling figure on the Religious Left for many years. And to the extent that Wallis is out there reminding everyone, including his co-religionists, that fidelity to Holy Scripture does not necessarily, and in fact, does not obviously or logically, involve homophobia or anti-feminism, he is serving a function that transcends politics.
But I share Cottle’s concern that many of Wallis’ disciples among secular-minded Democrats are not terribly interested in the following the steps of Jesus, but in taking the path of least resistance in dealing with negative perceptions of the party among many people of faith, and among cultural traditionalists generally. That path is simply to take conventional Democratic policy positions and wrap them in God-Talk.
Jim Wallis can obviously pull this off, because for him God-Talk is how he talks all the time. But in the mouth of your basic Democratic politician, telling people that Jesus wants to preserve Social Security or withdraw from Iraq will sound both disingenuous and insulting.
Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton is doing something entirely genuine that defies all the stereotypes about Democrats: trying to find common ground on which people who violently disagree on abortion can stand. Sure, Right-to-Life activists won’t applaud, but the larger group of people who are troubled by the frequency of, and motivations behind, abortions may, if Democrats continue this approach. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, Clinton is doing something that goes well beyond the abortion issue: making it clear that in defending individual rights, Democrats are not ignoring the social implications of individual decisions that worry many Americans. In other words, she is taking seriously the belief of cultural traditionalists that the blessings of modern life carry a cost in the quality of our overall culture in a way that negatively affects our future as a people and as a country.
Cottle’s also right that Wallis’ interpretation of Christianity, much as I share it, will not quickly or certainly prevail among Christians who have been led to confuse cultural conservatism with the universal demands of their faith. My own simple formulation of the political challenge this poses is that politicians who want to prove something to people of faith need to articulate (to use the Christian formulation) both Old Testament and New Testament values: a clear sense of right and wrong along with an inspiring call for love for one neighbors, and even for one’s enemies.
If Democrats, religious or not, learn to speak with the moral certainty of the law and the prophets, then people of faith might not only be reassured, but could well start demanding that Republicans learn to speak with the charitable impulses–and commandments–of the Gospels.

Hidden In Plain Sight

Most of the time, pre-State-of-the-Union thumbsuckers are a waste of newsprint, full of administration spin and extended recycling of the most Conventional of CW. But Tom Edsall and John Harris of the Washington Post manage to convey something of importance in today’s brief but pointed front-pager: the constituency-group motivation behind most of George W. Bush’s domestic policy agenda. The extraordinary attention the GOPers are paying to so-called “tort reform,” for example, is a simple function of the amount of money trial lawyers contribute to Democrats, and the amount of money their enemies are beginning to contribute to Republicans. Similarly, the administration’s ongoing efforts to reduce public employee rights is no accident, and is driven less by ideology than by the amount of money public employee unions contribute to Democrats.
The article, naturally, quotes Grover Norquist, whose willingness to cheerfully admit the deeper motivations of GOP strategy makes him sort of the Norm Ornstein of the Conservative Id.
While noting that investment firms which would enormously benefit from transferring Social Security funds to private accounts have also been heavy givers to the GOP, Edsall and Harris generally appear to think the administration’s SocSec offensive is more a matter of ideology than hard-ball reward-your-friends-and-punish-your-enemies tactics. And that’s why the proposal may well represent a dangerous act of hubris, they suggest, aiming at destruction of the Crown Jewel of the New Deal at a time when Republicans don’t have a firm majority of consistent public support.
While this argument makes sense, Edsall and Harris may be missing two other well-established characteristics of the Karl Rove GOP: tactical flexibility and a belief that polarization works in their favor.
Going all the way back to Texas, Bush’s M.O. has been extremely consistent: push your proposals again and again and again without compromising at all, until the moment when defeat is imminent, and then either cut a deal or switch to something else, with never a hint that anything has changed. So what if the Republican chairmen of the House Committee and Subcommittee with jursidiction over Social Security have called Bush’s proposal DOA? Admitting that before the White House is ready for Plan B, whatever it is, would be like, well, admitting Mistakes Were Made In Iraq. (An instructive exception, of course, is Bush’s willingness to back off on pushing a Gay Marriage constitutional amendment because of the political landscape in the Senate–a surefire indication that he doesn’t really want to deal with the issue now that it has served its purpose in his re-election campaign).
But the second factor–keeping the debate in Washington as polarized as possible–is also important. There is zero doubt in my mind that Karl Rove thinks an ideologically polarized electorate will always tilt towards the GOP since self-identified conservatives outnumber self-indentified liberals by a three-to-two margin. At any given moment, you can expect Bush to be pushing at least one major initiative that literally makes Democrats crazy with rage. That rage, in turn, will make the actual policy dispute look like nothing more than a partisan food-fight to much of the non-polarized electorate, thus shifting the center of gravity of any given debate sharply to the right. Rove and Bush have pursued this strategy again and again. It’s hardly infallible, but it does create a trap for Democrats unless they are smart enough to modulate their anger according to the actual importance of a given issue, and offer positive alternatives instead of just negative opposition.
All three strands of this GOP strategy–extraordinary constituency-tending, tactical flexibility, and deliberate polarization–are right out there in public, hidden in plain sight; understanding them does not require any sort of taste for conspiracy.
But what’s really, really remarkable, as the Edsall-Harris piece implicitly demonstrates, is that actually making conditions in the country better doesn’t seem to show up anywhere in the Bush-Rove priority list.
For a long time, I’ve wondered if these guys want to entrench themselves in power perpetually, or just want to do as much damage as possible before they are driven from office. The answer, apparently, is they want to do both, by pursuing an agenda that creates power through the crudest possible methods: money and divisiveness. If I’m right, then it should be no surprise that the initiatives that really excite them are those which offer to enrich one group of Americans at the direct expense of others.

Cold and Hot

Here in central Virginia, the snow has stopped falling, and you can see the Blue Ridge through the low-lying clouds in a vista that even aesthetically-challenged people like me can understand as one of God’s regularly scheduled masterpieces.
Halfway across the world, in Iraq, the polls will soon be open for that nation’s blessed and cursed first democratic elections.
The Iraqi insurgents have done their worst to intimidate voters from participating.
The Bush administration, dating back to its negligent preparations for winning the war and the peace, has done little to make this day the triumph of democracy it has so often predicted.
The sacrifices made by all the people of Iraq, especially the brave souls willing to run for office, and by the U.S. and British troops who have provided what little security the country currently enjoys, will soon be redeemed or repeated. Whatever you think about the original decision to intervene militarily in Iraq, you have to hope that these elections help move the country away from the brink, away from civil war, and away from the Hobbesian choice between military tyranny and sectarian theocracy.
As Howard Dean, one of the most resolute opponents of the decision to invade Iraq, often said: now that we are there, we cannot afford to lose and abandon Iraq to chaos. Within hours, the people of Iraq will have a unique chance to begin the reconstruction of their country, and to show us the door. If I can make it over the snowy mountains to my tiny church tomorrow morning, I will join the Prayers of the People to ask the Almighty for just that result.

Fashion Statement

I don’t know if Dick Cheney’s casual, ski-trip attire at the extremely solemn event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp received much notice around the country or overseas, but the Washington Post Style Section certainly riveted local attention on the subject with a couple of photos and some arch commentary.
But Tapped’s Garance Franke-Ruta provides the most thorough and serious discussion of this incident, along with the best sound-bite: “Cheney wore an outfit that made him look more like Kenny from South Park than an international statesman and world leader.”
She goes on to document the extraordinary attention to symbolic detail, particularly in matters of dress, of the Bush White House, and concludes thusly: “There’s no question in my mind that Cheney knew what he was doing when he chose to play the role of ugly American in his embroidered parka and knit cap. Perhaps he was trying to signal something about America casting aside the constraints of history.”
I dunno, Garance. Last time I checked, Karl Rove was pretty focused on chipping into the Jewish-American vote, and particularly on chipping into Jewish-American financial support for the Democratic Party. And this administration has made a true art form out of symbolic support for liberal values in foreign policy, while violating them as often as possible.
My take, which is obviously conjectural, is that Cheney’s sartorial gaffe shows these guys are not the infallible political geniuses that Democrats think they are–ironically echoing the Republican tendency to treat Bill Clinton as an adversary possessing demonically supernatural powers.
Maybe Franke-Ruta is right, and if so, that really scares me, since Auschwitz is a uniquely inappropriate place in which to show contempt for the lessons of history. But maybe there’s no deliberate symbolism here, and it’s a case where stupid clothes are just stupid clothes. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on the allegedly Very Serious Mr. Cheney.