The Happy Leftie

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Clintonite Ready to Kick Butt

People around the Clintons are supposed to be too cautious to embrace Russ Feingold's censure resolution, right? Well, it turns out that one Clintonite is not at all frightened of it: former Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart.

Lockhart speaks out in an interview with Chris Lehmann in his entertaining piece on Feingold in this week's New York Observer. Lehmann writes:

[Lockhart] sees no political downside to Senator Feingold’s proposal—and likewise sees much desperation in the Republican spin that it would be another self-inflicted Democratic wound that would haunt the minority party in the fall elections. All the G.O.P. bluster about an early vote on the Feingold proposal to smoke out weak-sister Democrats for elimination in November, Mr. Lockhart said, “is complete nonsense.”

He said: “One simple rule of politics is that the more ferociously you’re pushing your talking points, the less you believe in them. The Republicans jumping so hard on this tells you that they believe they’re in a really vulnerable position—that this issue is not the winner they thought it was.”

Whatever you think of censure, Lockhart's hitting on a really critical point that can't be emphasized enough. Reporters and commentators have grown conditioned to believe Republicans when they say an issue's a political winner for them -- mainly because Democrats too often act as if they're convinced they're going to lose. When Karl Rove threw down the gauntlet in that speech about NSA wiretapping, few if any commentators even thought to imagine that Rove might be bluffing, even though it was perfectly likely that he was trying to psych out moderate Dems and get them to break ranks. And of course, some moderate Dem thinkers immediately followed Rove's script.

The point is that Rove knew he could count on such folks to do this. And when Feingold floated censure, Republicans immediately -- and very confidently -- tried to force a vote on it, because they knew they could count on Dems to reveal a craven fear of losing and otherwise project a general aura of indecisiveness. More and more Dem strategists are arguing that Dems need to stop tripping over their own caution every single time the GOP says they've got a winner on their hands -- after all, the Republicans can always be counted on to say that, regardless of whether they even believe it -- but it's especially refreshing to hear a Clintonite saying so.