Ken Mehlman: Democrats don't have a leader (either)

When a good offense is your only defense.

Tim Grieve
March 10, 2006 10:30PM (UTC)

Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman has just sent an e-mail message to the faithful. The theme: Don't worry if George W. Bush isn't much of a leader; the Democrats don't have one, either.

Mehlman's message introduces his fellow Republicans to a sort of "Hollywood Squares" parody with famous Democrats as the celebrity guests. "It's time to find out who the leader of the Democrat Party really is," Mehlman says. On one level, of course, he has a point: The Democrats aren't united behind a single party leader, in part because they disagree about a lot about things and in part because there's no president or presidential nominee for them to follow. But Mehlman's attempts to smear the contenders is, as you might expect, a little loose on the details.


Mehlman asks whether the Democrats' leader is Howard Dean, "who compares the United States to Iran." It's a reference to the Democratic National Committee chairman's recent appearance on "Good Morning America" -- the one in which he said he hoped the United States would never become another Iran. Here's what Dean actually said when Mehlman says he was comparing the United States to Iran: "Wiretapping is certainly necessary, and the Democrats certainly approve of as much spying on al-Qaida as we possibly can. What we don't approve of is breaking the law in order to spy on Americans. The present law is very adequate, and the White House itself said so four years ago. All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran where the president of Iran can do anything they want at any time. The reason the Constitution of this country has lasted as long as it has and this country lasted as long as it has as a real democracy is because there is a check on presidential power. Now, there's not a big check on this one. We just ask the president to go get a warrant after the fact if he thinks there is an emergency."

Next, Mehlman asks if the Democrats' leader is John Kerry, "who worries about American soldiers terrorizing women and children in the dead of night." Now, we're not sure what's so wrong with worrying about such a thing. But more to the point, the Kerry statement on which Mehlman is relying comes from a "Face the Nation" appearance in which the Massachusetts senator advocated -- just as the president does -- turning over more control to Iraqi security forces. "You've got to begin to transfer authority to the Iraqis," Kerry said. "There is no reason ... that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking ... the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not ... Iraqis should be doing that. And after all of these two and a half years, with all of the talk of 210,000 people trained, there just is no excuse for not transferring more of that authority."

Finally, Mehlman asks if the Democrats' leader is Hillary Clinton, "who has likened the Republican management of the House of Representatives to that of a plantation." He's got her on that one: Clinton did indeed say that Republicans have been running the House "like a plantation." What Mehlman doesn't mention: A once and future Republican "leader," Newt Gingrich, used to say exactly the same thing.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

George W. Bush Hillary Rodham Clinton Howard Dean John F. Kerry D-mass. Newt Gingrich

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