Schmoozalist's Notebook: L.A., Day 1

Political commentary and more.
Aug. 15 2000 4:47 PM

Schmoozalist's Notebook: L.A., Day 1

Here's your metaphor! Why isn't Joe Lieberman's current clash with Maxine Waters the most telling metaphor for Gore's candidacy? Here's the choice: Gore can let a few voices of dissent intimidate his campaign into getting Lieberman to water down his principled non-liberal positions--like his support for California's preference-ending Proposition 209--which would be a signal that Gore gets easily pushed around by the Democrats' "constituencies," à la Walter Mondale. Or Lieberman can hold firm, demonstrating that he really is a principled pol, and Gore can get Waters to shut up, demonstrating that he really is a strong leader. ... So far, the Mondale metaphor seems to be winning. ...


Labor Secretary Alexis Herman's attempt to fuzz up Lieberman's position was particularly memorable. Lieberman, she said, supported 209 "without knowing the full impact ... he did not understand the intent of Proposition 209." In other words, Lieberman's too dumb to have understood what Prop. 209 actually did! Of course, if he's really that stupid or ill-informed, he shouldn't be vice president. ... But it's Lieberman himself who most insults his own intelligence, pretending on Meet the Press that like every other poll-tested pol he was only against "quotas," that he didn't endorse 209's more general ban on preferences. ...

Clinton's speech, as some commentators noted, was missing the telling anecdote that would have sealed the case for Gore. Clinton could, for example, have used an anecdote from Bob Woodward's The Agenda, telling the delegates something like this:

I've worked with this man. I remember in my first term when I was sort of dithering, in that way I have, about whether to support a budget that focused on cutting the deficit, rather than pleasing everybody, Al came into my office and told me to "Get with the program." That's leadership!

Actually, "Get with the program" wouldn't be a bad thing to tell Maxine Waters. ...

The Democratic Leadership Council's president, Al From, held a press lunch at which he cogently declared victory for the New Democratic philosophy (on the deficit, welfare reform, trade, and national security) and bragged about a farm team of up-and-coming New Democratic pols. He was less convincing when he tried to argue that if the Democrats retake Congress they will take their cue from DLC-types. ... In particular, he had trouble making the case that Rep. Charles Rangel, who would take over the powerful House Ways and Means committee, is any kind of a New Dem. (From argued that Rangel had been, in effect, "centralized"--as opposed to radicalized--when leftish anti-globalization groups opposed efforts to liberalize trade with Africa.) ... New Dem Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher offered an impressive middle-ground analysis of missile defense. (She compared it, in part, to a "$2.99 umbrella"--one that's worth buying only if it's cheap enough.) ... From also said a Gore presidency would be a period of "consolidation" for New Democrats, rather than bold new initiatives. No fair stirring up the animal passions! ... Alas, From is probably right ...

Conversation topics: Tension between Peter Kaplan's New York Observer and Frank Lalli's George over who gets squatters' rights to the now-semi-abandoned skybox ... Worries among Dem staffers that they haven't yet seen a copy of Gore's speech. The frisson of fear: Maybe he really is writing it himself! ... Clinton's speech, in contrast, circulated a week in advance ... Indeed, the dirty little secret of the Gore campaign seems to be that a lot of what it does actually isn't poll-tested or dictated by others. Gore perversely does it himself. He designed the campaign logo himself; he named his "Social Security Plus" plan himself (a name the campaign then foolishly abandoned). He proposed a series of dramatic enviro initiatives with little vetting ...

Kausfiles' favorite schmoozalistic discovery: That a prominent Democratic-leaning pollster does consulting work for singer Steve Earle, advising Earle on his anti-death-penalty campaign ... I went to the last Earle concert in New York, and found his anti-death rap both smart and moving. Now I wonder--was that because it had been focus-grouped first? ... If only today's alternative rock stars could be as spontaneous and uninhibited by their professional advisers as Al Gore.


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