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COLUMN

Why Dubya Is Smiling

Guest Column
Alex M. Hochberger

It was hard not to notice the inability of the Democratic leadership to articulate real opposition to President Bush’s tax plan. The black leadership and liberal commentators seem to be unable to stop talking about the election counts, which suits the Bush administration fine, and a capable staff is making a mockery of congressional opposition.

President Bush has had nothing but good luck. The election debacle was a blessing in disguise. If you haven’t noticed, every liberal editorial, group, or position (including the Congressional Black Caucus) is obsessed with complaining about irregularities in Florida. While the irregularities there were shocking to the rest of the world (as a Florida resident, I was impressed with how clean our election was), they are over. No amount of complaining will change the fact that President Bush sits in the Oval office, but excessive whining about it is preventing any real opposition from showing its head.

You’d think that the Congressional Black Caucus would push tax-break-happy Republicans towards including more tax incentives for things like empowerment zones and other projects to provide opportunities to black neighborhoods. Instead they are arguing about reappointing Judge Ronnie White. While Judge White may be a capable jurist, you would think that this caucus would have real concerns about issues that to their constituents are of much more importance than this appointment. Indeed, when the Vice-Chairman, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, rejects the “analysis by the newspaper,” referring to the recent count by the extremely left-wing Miami Herald, he is refusing to move beyond previous defeats, giving Bush an open field to offer opportunities to poor, inner-city communities (including school vouchers, heavily supported in minority groups, even in Massachusetts), while they discuss the past.

Daschle and Gephardt are both capable legislators, but they are sadly outmatched, and not just by President Bush; President Clinton continues to devastate them. It wasn’t enough that Clinton’s incompetence for two years is the reason that they are minority leaders instead of Majority Leader and Speaker, respectively. Clinton’s stupidity with pardons and office space soaked up valuable air time, and rather than hurting Bush, who is an old-fashioned Southern politician who uses face time, not nationwide addresses, to advance his agenda, it is crippling the Democrats. While Bush can get on television whenever he wants (he is the President of the United States), the Democratic leadership needs to fight for whatever time remains for politics, and that time is going to Clinton instead.

The situation looks even better for our President’s tax cuts. The GOP will slide it straight through the House, and even the Senate looks reasonable.

A quick count through the Senate Democrats reveals 10 senators from the South (excluding the two liberal Florida senators) who might help Bush get his way. While Zell Miller (Ga.) and John Breaux (La.) may be the only Democrats to sign onto his plan, he has a reasonable shot and can stop a filibuster.

While several of the “Liberal Northeastern Republicans” may not back the President’s plan, I truly doubt that Sen. Trent Lott will let any of the Republicans filibuster their own President. If Bush can get the 10 Southern Democrats to avoid filibustering (so as not to have a popular President campaign against them), they can still vote against his package, and Vice President Cheney breaks the tie (two Democrats are likely to support his package, two Republicans are likely to vote it down).

Short of the Democrats organizing popular opposition to his tax breaks, it looks like Dubya will get his policy forward. Well, at least the Democrats get a moral victory -- they get to complain about Florida vote counting.

Alex M. Hochberger is a member of the Class of 2001.