This was my personal favorite part of Meet the Press today, which came right after Russert let Howard get away with his “I don’t like that stuff” answer to the Michael Steele question:
MR. RUSSERT: Let’s talk about the Democrats and some of the polling data. Congressional Democrats have the same priorities as you: yes, 26 percent; no, 54 percent. So the Democrats aren’t perceived as the answer. And look at this, Chairman Dean. We asked independent voters: Do you believe that Democrats have a clear message, a vision for the future? Fifty-two percent of independent swing voters say no. One in four Democrats say you have no clear vision, no agenda, no clear message. Joe Trippi, your former campaign manager said, “Obviously, the results” from Election Night “are great for us Democrats. But given the GOP’s problems, the tightness of the results suggest that people aren’t happy with either party right now. Democrats have got to push an alternative agenda.”
DR. DEAN: We have an alternative agenda. We made it very clear. We want a strong national security based on telling the truth to our people at home, our soldiers and our allies. We want jobs in America that’ll stay in America, and we believe that renewable energy is one of the areas where we can do that. We want a health-care system that covers everybody, just like 36 other countries in the world. We want a strong public education system. And most of all, we want honesty back in government. I think that’s a pretty good agenda.
MR. RUSSERT: But those are words that will appeal to people. But when you go behind them, for example, what is the Democratic position on Iraq? Should we withdraw troops now? What do the Democrats stand for?
DR. DEAN: Tim, first of all, we don’t control the House, the Senate or the White House. We have plenty of time to show Americans what our agenda is and we will long before the ’06 elections.
MR. RUSSERT: But there’s no Democratic plan on Social Security. There’s no Democratic plan on the deficit problem. There’s no specifics. They say, “Well, we want a strong Social Security. We want to reduce the deficit. We want health care for everyone,” but there’s no plan how to pay for it.
DR. DEAN: Right now it’s not our job to give out specifics. We have no control in the House. We have no control in the Senate. It’s our job is to stop this administration, this corrupt and incompetent administration, from doing more damage to America. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re doing our best. Look at the trouble they’re having putting together a budget. Why is that? Because there’s still a few moderate Republicans left who don’t think it’s OK to cut school lunch programs, who don’t think it’s OK to do some of the appalling things that they’re doing in their budget. I saw a show last night which showed a young African-American man in California at the UC of Davis who hoped to go to law school. The Republicans want to cut $14 billion out of higher education so this kid can’t go to law school. We’re going to do better than that, and together, America can do better than that.
MR. RUSSERT: But is it enough for you to say to the country, “Trust us, the other guy’s no good. We’ll do better, but we’re not going to tell you specifically how we’re going to deal with Iraq.”
DR. DEAN: We will. When the time comes, we will do that.
MR. RUSSERT: When’s the time going to come?
DR. DEAN: The time is fast-approaching. And I outlined the broad outlines of our agenda. We’re going to have specific plans in all of these areas.
MR. RUSSERT: This year?
DR. DEAN: In 2006.
No wonder Dean wouldn’t go up against Mehlman. By his own admission, his party is leaving that whole, pesky idea thing for next year. On a purely PR level, it would seem that the answer to “will you have ideas this year?” should be “yes, of course, and here they are,” instead of “nah, that’s really not our thing.” I seem to remember another leading Democrat who had a lot of plans but no specifics. It didn’t do him a lot of good.
KERRY: I have a plan. I have a plan to lower the cost of health care for you. I have a plan to cover all children. I have a plan to let you buy into the same health care senators and congressmen give themselves.
I have a plan that’s going to allow people 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare early. …
I mean, seriously — labels don’t mean anything. What means something is: Do you have a plan? And I want to talk about my plan some more — I hope we can.