December 31, 2003
Senator Kennedy on The Leadership of Senator Tom Daschle
BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
To my fellow progressives:
Regarding the recent commentary by "a Midwestern BuzzFlash reader" questioning whether Tom Daschle should step down as Senate Democratic Leader and "let someone like Ted Kennedy step into the breach" (December 9). As flattered as I am by your reader's vote of confidence in me, he or she is mistaken about Senator Daschle.
Civility is not timidity. Tom Daschle may speak softly, but few people are working harder -- or more effectively -- to stop the radical right steamroller. The White House knows this, and that's why Rush Limbaugh and the right-wing media have attacked him so viciously.
Robert Byrd voted against Daschle the first time he ran for Democratic Leader because, he said, he didn't think Daschle was tough enough. Two years later, Senator Byrd not only supported Daschle's re-election as Leader, he nominated him. He said,"I was wrong about this young man. He has steel in his spine."
That steeliness, combined with Daschle's ability to maintain unity among Democratic Senators in the face of relentless assaults from the Republican attack machine, is one of the main reasons that Democrats have succeeded in blocking four of the most conservative judges to have ever been nominated.
In November, when Republicans staged their 39-hour temper tantrum over four failed judicial nominees, Daschle organized a successful counter-offensive. While Republicans whined about four people who already have good jobs, Democrats re-directed the debate to the issues that really matter: the 9 million Americans who are out of work and the 41 million Americans without health insurance, the booming out-of-control budget deficits, and the disastrous economic, foreign and environmental policies of the Bush White House and its allies.
This year, with Tom Daschle at the helm, Democrats secured not one, but two extensions of federal emergency unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. We cut in half the Bush tax cut for wealthy investors. We rejected the Administration's planned deep cuts in veterans health care. We protected the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling.
Daschle has already introduced bills to repeal the worst aspects of the Republican prescription drug bill. When Congress returns in late January, Republicans will try to muscle through an obscene omnibus appropriations bill that they wrote in a backroom to reward their supporters. Among other outrages, it would end overtime pay for 8 million American workers and gut reasonable restrictions on media ownership agreed to, over White House objections, by both the House and the Senate.
I share the outrage "Midwestern BuzzFlash reader" feels about the dangerous agenda the far right is trying to impose on America and its willingness to do anything to win. But Tom Daschle is not the problem, and forming a circular firing squad is not the solution.
We progressives need to train our anger where it belongs: on the extremists who have hijacked the Republican party and our national agenda. No one man can defeat them, but all of us working together can.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
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Senator Edward M. Kennedy has represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate since he was first elected in 1962 to finish the term of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Since then, he has been re-elected seven times, and he is now the second most senior member of the Senate.
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