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by Paul Heller
Email: pfheller (nospam) cox.net (unverified!)
18 May 2005
Remember the "New Tone"?
Does anybody out there remember the "New Tone"? It was a concept brewed up in a fit of campaign desperation, when Texas Governor George W. Bush was in a dead heat with Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election. While it warmed the hearts of many undecided Americans, the very notion of "reaching out" was enough to make Rush Limbaugh grind his teeth to the point where he actually felt the pain.
Even after the election, when most politicians let go of their campaign promises the way many of them drop their first wives, Bush kept up the appearance of this New Tone. He would have to, he must have reckoned, if he wanted to achieve the reforms his Party had long sought on such matters as tax relief and education, stuff he had plainly spoken of on the campaign trail.
Early on, the result of the New tone was a success, from the Republicans' point of view. In Aril of 2001, then-RNC Chairman Jim Gilmore made it a talking point.
"By any standard, President Bush is off to a remarkably successful start. The President knows what he wants to accomplish and has brought new leadership to Washington by working with others to get results for the American people." He went on to praise Bush' leadership skills in what only be described as the most cloying of terms.
Co-chair Ann Wagner chimed in with, "In his first 100 days, President Bush has followed through on bringing a respectful, bipartisan change in tone to Washington that hasn’t been seen here in many years. Americans support President Bush by solid margins because he provides plainspoken, honest leadership and works with both sides of the aisle in Congress to improve education, lower taxes, strengthen Medicare and protect the environment."
Ah, those halcyon days of pre-9/11... Before America really got to know Georga Dubya, who yesterday ascribed to the Senate "a duty to promptly consider each of these nominees on the Senate floor, discuss and debate their qualificiations, and then give them the up-or-down vote they deserve." What he's really saying is Sic 'em! as the GOP considers wiping out a centuries-old tradition in American political life, the filibuster (as it applies to judicial nominees).
That sounds very Old Tone. It hearkens all the way back to 1775. Gone are those bipartisan lunches at the White House, like the one held at about the same time that NewsMax published Mr. Gilmore and Ms. Wagner's remarks. At a press conference shortly thereafter, press secretary Ari Fleischer found himself playing tee-ball with the media over the New Tone. From the transcript:
"Ari, Congressman Armey said that the President -- he was a little exorcised about the number of Democrats who did not show up. He said the President must be getting courtship fatigue."
MR. FLEISCHER: I assure you, this President will have no fatigue from courtship. He will continue it. It's what he did in Texas and, frankly, if it's a question of should Washington act more like Texas and be bipartisan or should state capitals around the nation be more partisan like Washington, the President will choose the path of bipartisanship every time.
"Particularly in the Senate, in the Senate, especially, does he think the right Democrats at least showed up today?"
MR. FLEISCHER: He thinks all Democrats are the right Democrats.
(God, I miss Ari Fleischer. Compared to him, Scott McClellan is about as exciting and entertaining as flossing. Here, you want some more? I know you do:)
"Did the President believe there were any actual tangible results from the lunch?"
MR. FLEISCHER: The President believes that every day that takes some of the partisanship and the poison out of Washington is a tangible event, a tangible result. He understands that this is going to be a slow process.
Ari goes on to explain at length how Bush was always an across-the-aisle kind of guy as governor of Texas, saying that the president understands that there are some issues that will attract Democrats and some that won't, adding that "since (Bush) got here a hundred days ago... you can hear the sound of gridlock breaking." It's very interesting, and the press sucked it up like gravy.
"Is this a one-time hundred days event, or will there be future lunches, annual, more than that? I mean, anything -- "
MR. FLEISCHER: I think in a variety of ways, the President is always going to look for ways to do the same thing. I don't know that he'll always be able to have an invitation extended to all 535 members of Congress. That's rather unusual. But, Mimi, very often, the President hosts dinner in the residence for members of Congress, that don't get announced. And very often those are Democrats who come to visit and spend a lot of time with him, or often they bring their wives. In a lot of ways, he reaches out and finds way to do this. One last point on this, then I'll end my filibuster...
Ari's last point was to repeat to Mimi and the others something that Bush had told him (after all, that's what a parrot does). The president wasn't used to the Congress being in a building separate from his office. In Texas, all that stuff was in the same building, and he enjoyed being able to "quietly drop in on people". He viewed such "as an effective way to help bring consensus about issues."
Today, Bush is going to have his henchmen, Dick Cheney and Bill Frist, open up the football and hammer on the red button. All the Democrats can do is stand up straight and tall and take it on the chin. And then they will retaliate, refusing to debate anything in the Senate, shutting down the hot-air factory where the nation's work gets done.
Then the Republicans will bring the football out again, and destroy the filibuster where it applies to legislation as well, ending forever the ability of the minority party in Congress to have any influence in making policy. They base this supreme arrogance on the idea that they have a mandate - earned by a three percent majority in a country of 300 million people.
And the rank-and-file conservatives who support a one-party dictatorship will cheer, for they will believe themselves victorious. The poor suckers, these decided un-Americans, will have suffocated democracy in its cradle.
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