Brazile Lays Out a Strategy for Democrats

In this fall's elections, the Democrats hope to cash in on public unrest with the situation in Iraq, as well as issues of privacy. Robert Siegel talks with Democratic strategist Donna Brazile about how the Democratic Party should approach the upcoming midterm elections — in terms of a basic policy platform and encouraging voter turnout.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

So, the Republicans intend to run on counterterrorism, on painting the Democrats as more concerned with the privacy of phone calls than with thwarting terrorists and as including many candidates want to get out of Iraq, too fast.

Donna Brazile is a Democratic political strategist who was campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000. Welcome to the program.

Ms. DONNA BRAZILE (Democratic Political Strategist): Thank you.

SIEGEL: Has Karl Rove pretty well summed up the Democrats in 2006?

Ms. BRAZILE: Absolutely not. Karl Rove is recycling his 2002 and 2004 playbook, where the Republicans were very successful in painting the Democrats as weak on terrorism. A lot has transpired since 2004. First of all, the administration clearly in the eyes of voters has mishandled the situation in Iraq. The majority of American people have not linked the war on terror to the war in Iraq.

And as a result of it, Democrats have an opportunity to present the American people with their own alternative plans in terms of Iraq and national security as well as domestic issues that most voters are concerned about.

So while the Republicans are trying to do their best right now in making this a referendum on who will make you safe, Democrats will make this a referendum on George Bush and the Republican rubberstamp Congress and what Democrats plan to do to change the status quo.

SIEGEL: George Bush isn't running. George Bush isn't running ever again.

Ms. BRAZILE: He's on the ballot, whether his name appears on the ballot on not. He's on the ballot because the policies reflect the Republican agenda, his policies in Iraq, where clearly the American people have grown very disenchanted with the way things are going. The American people don't trust the Republicans to help improve education, to help improve the economy, to lower energy prices, and as a result George Bush is on the ballot.

SIEGEL: Democrats have been criticized for failing to come up with some coherent theme that describes what it is that they offer that's an alternative to George Bush. What is it? Can you say, in a nutshell, what it is the Democratic Party offers in 2006? Or is it just a negative vote, a protest against Bush policies?

Ms. BRAZILE: Well when you look at the polls, the voters are clearly in the mood for change. And what Democrats must answer this fall is, change to what? What we're saying is that we want to change direction. We want to change direction on the economy. We want to put more money in the hands of the middle class. We want to change direction as it relates to our foreign policy.

SIEGEL: Does that mean more tax cuts?

Ms. BRAZILE: It means that we're going to direct resources to the middle class so that we can take a little bit of this burden off the middle class for, you know, in terms of college tuition, rising gas prices. We want to raise the minimum wage. We want to make sure that the middle class have what they need in order to take care of their families. We want to keep jobs here. We want to stop the outsourcing of jobs. Democrats, when we talk about change, we talk about change in everything from how we treat seniors to what we do in terms of making America safer in this so-called dangerous world.

SIEGEL: The issue that you hear people talk about, it seems nearly anyplace in the country, just ask what's on your mind, people will raise Iraq. Is there a Democratic position on Iraq that is different from the Republican position on the war in Iraq? Or are there just many, many different Democratic positions on Iraq?

Ms. BRAZILE: The Democrats called for a national debate and dialogue on Iraq several months ago. The Republican answer to that call was to schedule a series of votes in which the Democrats came up with basically two positions at the time. John Kerry wanted an immediate time withdrawal, with an immediate date, and of course the majority of Democrats voted for a responsible deployment after certain criteria have been met.

First of all, we're not going to abandon Iraq. We understand the American interests now in rebuilding that country. But we also believe that it's time for the Iraqi government to step up in the security forces. We've heard from the interior minister in Iraq, we've heard from the prime minister in Iraq. They're ready to step up. They're ready for our troops to come home.

SIEGEL: Donna Brazile, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. BRAZILE: Good to be with you.

SIEGEL: That's Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore's campaign in 2000.

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