Dems brimming with optimism, but Pelosi can’t answer agenda questions

Via this NYT puff piece this morning, we read that the Democrats are feeling pretty good these days about their chances for finally winning a post-Bush’s-election-as-President election, thanks to low polling numbers for the President as well as a general sense of frustration Republicans feel with their party’s elected officials:

WASHINGTON, May 8 — With Democrats increasingly optimistic about this year’s midterm elections and the landscape for 2008, intellectuals in the center and on the left are debating how to sharpen the party’s identity and present a clear alternative to the conservatism that has dominated political thought for a generation.

Many of these analysts, both liberals and moderates, are convinced that the Democrats face a moment of historic opportunity. They say that the country is weary of war and division and ready — if given a compelling choice — to reject the Republicans and change the country’s direction. They argue that the Democratic Party is showing signs of new health — intense party discipline on Capitol Hill, a host of policy proposals and an energized base.

The article goes on to discuss how Democrats are, essentially, hoping to move beyond the ‘centrism’ (?) that defined them during the Clinton administration to a more left-wing agenda because, let’s face it, left wing ideas are better for America.

Some interesting bits from the article: one, the sentence about “[…]how to sharpen the party’s identity and present a clear alternative to the conservatism that has dominated political thought for a generation.” I don’t know where the writer of the article gets that conservatism has “dominated political thought for a generation” considering we haven’t had a real conservative president since the days of Ronald Reagan. If the writer is referring to the ‘centrism’ of the Clinton years, the sentence about conservatism dominating political thought for a generation still doesn’t make sense, because centrism isn’t conservatism.

Secondly, inserted in the following sentence was a not-so-subtle jab at Bush’s tax cut policy… and the jab wasn’t made by the ‘analysts’ but the writer him(her?)self:

Many of these analysts argue that Republicans have pushed the ideological limits of the American people so far — notably, with Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for the affluent […]

“Tax cuts for the affluent”? Excuse me, but I’m not wallowing in money and I’ve rec’d tax cuts – and there are many more out there like me who are also not rolling in the dough but rec’d tax cuts. The tax cuts the reporter frowns on didn’t just go to the ‘affluent’ – they went to everyone but the poor, most of whom do not pay taxes in the first place.

Back to Democrats and optimism, while they may be optimistic, some of them do have trouble answering questions about their agenda – like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, via an exchange with Tim Russert on this past Sunday’s Meet The Press:

REP. PELOSI: We intend to send our energy dollars to the Midwest and rural America, not to the Middle East. We intend to focus on biofuels, we intend—on alternative energy, conservation and efficiency. As you said, Brazil is doing this. These cars are made by GM and Ford.

MR. RUSSERT: But this will be huge subsidies to bring it about. Would you be willing to roll back the Bush tax cut to pay for it?

REP. PELOSI: This isn’t—we are willing to put all of our, our initiatives on the table. We think they compete very well. One thing we’ll roll back immediately are the Bush subsidies and royalty holidays which are around $20 billion dollars.

MR. RUSSERT: But would you repeal the Bush tax cut?

REP. PELOSI: Well, what I’m—what we’re talking about here on energy independence is something that will save the American people money.

MR. RUSSERT: But it will take—it all takes money, Congressman. The Brazilian government has subsidized their industry.

REP. PELOSI: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you be willing to roll back the Bush tax cuts?

REP. PELOSI: I’ll tell you something, if we could bring the war in Iraq to a conclusion, we would save a lot of money and could declare energy independence and this is the, this is the OPEC countries’ worst nightmare, that we would be energy independent. The technology is there, the commitment is there, Democrats have a goal. We have a plan. We have a timetable to accomplish it and we intend to do so. And you know what? Do you know what we spend? Fifty billion dollars a year just protecting the sea lanes for the oil to come from the Middle East. That money can be spent to invest in this.

MR. RUSSERT: But why are you so reluctant to say you’ll roll back the Bush tax cuts? Most Democrats voted against them.

REP. PELOSI: Well, I, myself, am against them. But the point is, is there are choices to be made in our budgets, and, and I will tell you more the Democrats are going to do when we take over the Congress of the United States. But this energy independence is worth—it is a high priority and I think the American people would agree. Now, we have a national security issue, an environmental issue, an economic issue and an energy issue, all well served by—by our energy independence. We have put this in writing. We are committed to it and this week our rural caucus will roll out, roll out.

The complete transcript of that show can be read here.

So optimism abounds, but the Democrats can’t exactly tell us why we (or rather, those who are disgruntled with Republicans) should be optimisitic alongside of them going into the ’06 campaign season. Sounds like more of the same “vote for us, we’re not Bush” to me – but with the President’s numbers sagging, and Democrats seizing on that to gain momentum, will the tactic work this time around?

Related: Sen. Russ Feingold, who recently pushed for a censure of the President over the NSA wiretapping “scandal”, is urging Democrats to “stand up to Bush” on the issue of Iraq.

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