Bill Bradley for President

A Reply to Joe Conason

To read the pathetic piece of pro-Gore tripe that merited this response, click here.
My reply, along with several others, was published on November 9, 1999 here.
Mr. Conason's reply to my reply is at the bottom of this page.

What, asks Joe Conason in a piece so pathetically pro-Gore that it might have been ghostwritten by Marty Peretz, has presidential candidate Bill Bradley ever done to deserve the support of liberals?

Simple. While the Vice-President has tried to market larger labels on prescription medication and other micropolicies aimed at appealing to the affluent middle class as the future of progressivism, Bradley has brought back the Big Idea and dared us to question whether we as a nation are ready to return to an era of liberal activism and civic renewal. Clinton and Gore would have us believe that the era of big government is over and that free markets are the be all, end all of a democratic foreign policy. Bradley instead encourages us to think big, and to recall the time when an activist federal government rallied the nation against poverty, injustice, and intolerance.

In his bid to make race relations a dominant issue of the 2000 campaign, Bradley is appealing to the better angels of our nature. In contrast, by enlisting bean-counting rhetoric and conservative catch-phrases to evoke the usual anti-liberal paranoia in a desperate bid to retain his lead, Gore has appealed to the same Atwater-style leftist-bashing that has infected our politics since 1988. Are you telling me that GORE somehow deserves the support of liberals?

As for the "stay and fight" argument, I have yet to understand how any self-respecting liberal could say that Al Gore held the banner for liberalism during the Republican Revolution. To my mind, saying idiotic things like "the era of big government is over" and passing an atrocity like the 1996 welfare reform bill is much more of a recapitulation of progressive ideas than is Bradley's choosing not to run for another term.

Conason states that the gestalt of the times "has been marked by the struggle of Democrats and progressives to contain and defeat a powerful, ambitious and well-funded right-wing movement." He neglects to mention a concurrent trend marking our era - the consistenting weakening of progressivism by (a) Clinton-Gore attempts at electoral triangulation and (b) the damage done to our party by the frequent bouts of pathetically obvious Clinton-Gore obfuscation ("that woman" or "no controlling legal authority," for example.)

Conason once again trods out that pitiful Gore hail mary of an attack - the 1981 budget cuts - without mentioning that (a) Bradley was chosen by the Democratic party to publically refute the Reagan administration in the first State of the Union and (b) Bradley voted AGAINST the corresponding Reagan supply-side tax cuts - his deficit hawk position was one staked out by many Democrats of the time, including ones supporting Gore. To attribute the "devastating impact on poor children and minority communities" to Bradley's vote, and yet to say nothing of the effect of the 1996 Clinton-Gore welfare bill, smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

As a in-house writer and aide-de-camp for James Carville for the past two years, including throughout the pathetic Lewinsky imbroglio, I have dedicated my working life to this struggle against the Right that Conason deems our "gestalt." It depresses me to no end that such a talented and courageous progressive as Conason has joined the ranks of the Bradley-bashers and turned that struggle against his own party.


Joe Conason replies:

Dear Kevin:

Before you get too upset at my seeming tilt toward Gore, please go back to my column a few weeks earlier about Tony Coelho, Carter Eskew and the Gore campaign. It was pretty tough on Gore and his consultants. As I wrote in the Bradley piece, I like and admire some of the people with Bradley. If he wins the nomination he will probably do fine as candidate and President. I do think he has a lot to explain about his past political behavior. And I object to the naive and faddish view of him being propagated by a press corps that is deeply biased against Gore. Check yesterday's New York Times, which reveals that Mr. Authenticity has been working with a Madison Avenue ad agency on his image for more than a year!) As someone who has worked for Carville, you know very well what the Beltway press can do to distort reality. None of this means that Bradley is a bad guy or a bad candidate, or that Gore/Clinton are without fault. It only means that liberals should hold all of them to the same standard, without practicing selective amnesia.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best regards,
Joe Conason

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