In this election year, Senator Daschle has run an ad here in South Dakota showing him embracing President Bush. However, when Daschle was not facing a tough reelection campaign, he bemoaned the fact that Democrats weren't contesting President Bush's policies forcefully enough, according to a November 17, 2003 CBS Marketwatch story headlined "Daschle says Democrats were too easy on Bush." Here's the complete text of the story:
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said his fellow Democrats should've been more forceful in their dealings with the newly elected President George Bush after the 2000 election.
Daschle also said that he thinks that health care will turn out to be the Democrats' hot-button political issue in the next election. Privacy issues will also play a large role, he noted.
"Universal health care is Mount Everest," he said. "We can't quit until we conquer that mountain." Meanwhile, privacy "is a huge issue for the next generation."
Speaking at Newsweek's "Who's Next" event in New York, Daschle discussed the prospects for the upcoming campaign. He was joined on the panel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro, author of biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, and Anne Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Jonathan Alter, Newsweek's senior editor and columnist, served as the moderator.
Asked by Alter if the Democrats had been too nice or accommodating to Bush, Daschle said that "nice" was probably the wrong word. But he didn't necessarily disagree with that conclusion. Daschle said his colleagues didn't send their message forcefully enough to Bush to contest some of his policies, especially since Bush won a contested election and didn't emerge with a mandate from American voters.
"I don't think we sent it as strongly as I would have liked," said Daschle, referring to the Democrats' message. Daschle is also the author of a new book called "Like No Other Time."
Daschle said the Democrats' accommodating style in early 2001 was "a reflection of a division in our caucus."
With such Democratic hopefuls as Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the frontrunner at this point, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry blasting Bush for his handling of the Iraqi occupation and the U.S. economy, it's not likely that the Democrats will be so accommodating going forward.
In fact, Daschle wouldn't concede a Republican landslide in the southern states. There is "going to be real competition in the South," Daschle said.
Caro said the Democrats could learn valuable lessons from following the example set long ago by Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was the Vice President when President John Kennedy was assassinated 40 years and he was re-elected in 1964, before deciding not to seek another term in 1968.
Caro said Johnson was a "PR genius" in his ability alternately to charm and bully potential foes in politics and the press.
Daschle said Al Gore, Vice President under President Bill Clinton who ran against Bush in 2000, could have done things differently in his bid to capture the White House.
Gore "could've won Arizona," Daschle said, and offered that Gore was "probably premature" in giving up on other states in the election.
Daschle, who is up for re-election himself next year, conceded that money will continue to give Bush a leg up in the next election.
With Bush boasting a war chest of something like $200 million, he "can play wherever he wants," meaning he'll have no restrictions on being able to spend a lot of money.