Kickoff or Flub?



The Times says “President Bush kicked off his general election campaign on Monday night.” Kicked off? Where has the Times BEEN, all these months?

Anyway, the Bush handlers gave him a good line. He said John Kerry was “for tax cuts and against them. For Nafta and against Nafta. For the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. In favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it.” Hard to quarrel with that.

A few hours earlier, John Edwards delivered just about the same message in his own behalf to the editors of the Times. “Nafta is important.” “We’re not going to save all those jobs.” .The Mayor of San Francisco shouldn’t give wedding licenses to gays, – and so on.

Clearly, the two remaining serious contenders for the Democratic nomination don’t sound as progressive as they did a few weeks ago. The fire storm raging against Ralph Nader must encourage them to go back to the approach that has dominated their party for so long — Republican lite. As Nader points out, it has been leading the Democrats to defeat after defeat.

It is wrong of him to describe his critics on the left as the liberal intelligentsia. True, they’ve given Democratic politicians a blank check — but so have the officials of organized labor — and their members have taken a terrible beating. A blank check — the question is, what can it buy? How can we rally people to vote for somebody who won’t bring back the jobs, or bring the troops home?

Nader has made the race more interesting. So has Kucinich, for whom I plan to vote next Tuesday. From outside the party and within it, they present a program that we can fight for.

JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.


JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.

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