Oh, the Democrats are getting antsy dreaming about 2002. Over the past two weeks, the out-of-power party — wait, that feels good, let me say it again — the out-of-power party has manufactured presidential scandals in a transparent ploy to position themselves for the 2002 congressional elections.
I count three “scandalitas.” I call them scandalitas for two reasons; first, they’re diminutive and second, this is a term President George W. Bush might find amusing.
Regulating CO2 as a pollutant
The first charge levied against Bush is that he “flip-flopped” on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
I followed the 2000 campaign closely. Now, I don’t remember Bush ever uttering the formula CO2. I remember Al Gore blowing a lot of it into the mike at the debates while he was in a tizzy, but I don’t remember a promise to regulate it as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act (which incidentally doesn’t define CO2 as a pollutant).
I’m sure the Democrats didn’t remember hearing this promise either. At least, they didn’t remember it until their buddies at the Sierra Club chimed in. Then, of course, they jumped out of the environmental lobby’s pocket to impugn the president.
So, let’s suppose Bush intended to and did say he planned to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Does that mean he flip-flopped? No. He simply made an economic decision that was good for the country. It’d be nice to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, but if I do that then I would worsen the energy mess I inherited from the Clinton administration, not clean it up. Hmm. I guess the best thing to do would be to make sure the middle class does not have to spend my entire tax cut refueling their cars.
Governing is choosing. Bush did make another explicit campaign promise — to keep the economy strong. I argue that in prioritizing this process and reserving the right to regulate CO2 when it’s feasible to do so is not flip-flopping at all but responsible government.
You would think the Democrats would be better at sniffing out a flip-flop. After all, if Bill Clinton made any campaign promises in 1992, one was to nationalize healthcare. Yeah, he didn’t flip-flop on that one when the going got tough.
One prominent liberal commentator, Al Hunt, actually said Bush lied just like Clinton lied during the Paula Jones deposition. Must I point out the 10 differences between these cases?
Talking down the economy
This is my favorite. The Democrats allege that in pointing out the fact that Americans are losing money in the stock market, Bush is “talking us into a recession.”
My question is which would satisfy the liberals: one, if Bush lied and said everything was A-OK, or two, if we were actually in a recession for which they could blame him. I don’t think either case would be better than the status quo.
The truth is we have a president who is speaking the truth and proposing a solution: tax relief. This one is so simple, let’s move right on to number three.
The campaign finance Trojan horse
The third scandalita is the charge that the White House is supporting Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s campaign finance measure in an elaborate ploy to seem responsible while undermining real reform that the McCain-Feingold bill offers.
This is a brilliant strategy on the Democrats’ part. After all, if they’re able to sell this line to voters, maybe they won’t notice the liberals who once supported McCain-Feingold are now jumping ship because they are faced with an iceberg that wasn’t present before — a small probability it will pass.
More likely Bush is supporting the Hagel bill because the McCain-Feingold alternative is unconstitutional. I think that’s a pretty good reason; it certainly would violate the first amendment rights of interest groups if they were banned from running issue ads 60 days before an election.
It’s also worth noting Bush opposed McCain-Feingold during the primaries. An interesting question: Would the Dems like Bush to flip-flop on this issue?
In short, I just wasted a column. I didn’t have to point out how ridiculous these manufactured “scandals” are. You could have figured that out on your own. If you’re a Democrat, write your representatives and tell them to talk about policy. They’ll have a better chance of getting re-elected if they score a few victories on Capitol Hill.
Or don’t. I’ll be happy to see them go down in flames at the midterm.
Phil Fortino is a senior in Saybrook College. His columns appear on Fridays.