July 17, 2003

Mark Steyn misunderstands the Democrat's Niger attack

Mark Steyn writes that Bush won't be hurt by the current assault over Niger yellowcake uranium. He's wrong. Bush is vulnerable on this, if he turns out to have lied.

Some have argued that the Republicans are the daddy party and the Democrats are the mommy party. This is somewhat true, but incomplete. To be more accurate, the Republicans are the independence, honest, don't tread on me party while the Democrats are the bring home the bacon, compassionate, humane party. When there is no major external threat, who cares to pay the price for a don't tread on me attitude but likewise, who cares how much bacon we have if we never get to enjoy it, having been blown up by our enemies.

Both parties get in trouble when they are viewed as violating their core beliefs. Democrats are frantic to avoid framing school choice as compassionate for school children because then their defense of teacher union position would fatally weaken them. Likewise, attacks on Republican honesty have a disproportionate effect on Republican electoral chances. The Democrats have always promised to bring home the bacon, not that the bacon that they brought home was theirs. The white lie for compassion's sake is also an acceptable Democrat tradeoff.

That's why the Niger yellowcake story is important, it directly attacks a Republican core feature and Democrat strategists have gone after the one that would uniquely affect someone with the surname Bush, the honesty factor. The Democrat hope is that the "read my lips" betrayal of Bush the father would be revisited on the son. It also explains why Bush's spending extravaganza is threatening to Democrats as well. If Republicans are now compassionate conservatives who bring home the bacon, that doesn't leave much reason to pull the Democrat lever.

Neither party is acting as crazy as some observers seem to think they are. They're just engaging in the timeless classic political game, guard your base, extend your coalition. So far, it looks like President Bush is winning. In that assessment, Mark Steyn does get it right.

Posted by TMLutas at July 17, 2003 03:58 PM