The Magazine

Wesley Clark and Terry McAuliffe

From the August 25, 2003 issue: The Scrapbook on the general's imaginary friend and the DNC chairman's success.

Aug 25, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 47
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What conceivable reason can Clark have for protecting this joker? This is not someone he called for information. This is someone who called him--who wanted to use Clark--to plant a phony story. And why is this grossly irresponsible "fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank" privy to "inside intelligence information"? You would think Clark has a positive duty to expose the man. But that assumes he exists.

Terry McAuliffe, Mythmaker

Normally, THE SCRAPBOOK wouldn't bother to parse the statements of Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe. He's the man who "guaranteed" last year that Jeb Bush wouldn't be reelected governor of Florida (Bush won by 13 points). He supported campaign finance reform, then set out to circumvent it. Now he's waxing insanely optimistic about 2004: Recently, as he left a building near Capitol Hill, McAuliffe spotted a Fox News correspondent and shouted, "Bush is gone!"

But McAuliffe is pushing a new conspiracy theory that deserves scrutiny. In a nutshell: The Clinton impeachment, the 2000 presidential election, Texas reapportionment, and the California recall are part of a "pattern," says McAuliffe--a pattern of Republicans' undermining democracy.

Well, let's go to the videotape. Impeachment? That turned out to be a political loser for Republicans. And even if impeachment had succeeded in ousting Clinton, Al Gore would have succeeded him. Even worse for Republicans, had Gore been running in 2000 as the incumbent, he'd probably have defeated George W. Bush.

But what about the 2000 race? Sure, Democrats are mad the U.S. Supreme Court decided the outcome. They wanted the low-wattage Florida Supremes to make the call. Most independent surveys have concluded Bush would probably have won under any reasonable statewide recount in Florida.

Then there's Texas, now an overwhelmingly Republican state. All statewide elected offices are held by Republicans. Both houses of the state legislature are Republican-controlled. The only exception is the U.S. House delegation, which is 17-15 Democratic as a result of a Democratic gerrymander in 1991. Democrats naturally want to hold this advantage, though it's unrepresentative and undemocratic. To block a Republican redistricting bill, Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote in the legislature. Who's undermining democracy?

Finally, California. The recall provision was put in the state constitution in 1911 by Progressives, the liberals of the day. It was for use should special interests grow too influential with officials in Sacramento. Today they have, especially the government employees' unions. In the 1960s, Democrats failed to get a recall of then-governor Ronald Reagan on the ballot. Now, 1.6 million voters--Republicans and Democrats--have signed petitions for a recall of Democratic governor Gray Davis. This is democracy at its grass-roots finest, with more elections and more accountability.

McAuliffe has a problem, but it's not a Republican conspiracy. It's the decline of the Democratic party on his watch. A new poll by Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster, finds public identification with the party at its lowest point since before the New Deal. Good work, Terry.

Speaking of California

THE DAILY STANDARD's special correspondent Bill Whalen--a fellow at the Hoover Institution--will be providing regular (and excellent, if we may say so) coverage of the recall campaign at weeklystandard.com.