DIRTY DIRTY POLITICS
With Democrat hopes to retake the House and Senate seemingly crumbling by the day, both Senate minority leader Harry Reid and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi have grown increasingly alarmed about the growing anti-Semitic and racist tone of their party's base, say House and Senate Democrat leadership staff.
"They have been monitoring the [Ben] Cardin and [James] Webb races and they are extremely concerned," says a Senate Democrat leadership aide. "On both campaigns' staffs and on the Internet we are hearing and reading an ugliness that we haven't seen in probably decades. It's embarrassing, but we're chalking it up to a small segment of young people who are frustrated at constantly losing and are lashing out. To think otherwise raises too many uncomfortable questions about our party."
Apparently the House and Senate leaders are more uncomfortable than their party's most visible leader, because according to Capitol Hill sources, both Reid and Pelosi have pressed Democrat National Committee chairman Howard Dean to renounce the racist and anti-Semitic language and campaign tactics employed by those most closely associated with Dean's wing of the party, but Dean has refused to do so.
"He doesn't think it's a problem," says a DNC source. "This is something dreamed up by desperate Republicans. If Dean were to speak out, it would undercut the morale of a party that is on the verge of a historic victory. He's not going to take that away."
In fact, the DNC may actually be encouraging it.
In the past two weeks, the DNC and Democrat Party have been embarrassed by racist and anti-Semitic attacks against Republican Senate candidates Michael Steele and Sen. George Allen. In the case of Steele, it was racist blogging posts. In Allen's it was planted questions in the media about his Jewish heritage. Within minutes of Allen's addressing the issue of his family's Jewish roots, popular Democrat-leaning sites, such as the Daily Kos, Daily DD, and MoveOn.org, were inundated with such posts as:
"George Allen's New Jew Revue"
"They seriously want us to believe that Allen never knew why his grandfather was thrown in a concentration camp?"
"[Allen has] something against Jews."
"... 1) he's an anti-Jewish bigot, or 2) he's afraid he'll lose the bubba vote if people think he's a Jew."
"George Allen has a nasty, sadistic, vicious, violent streak... "
"What did [George Allen's mother] tell her son all these years, that her father was imprisoned by the Nazis because he was gay or a gypsy?"
Supporters of Virginia Senate Democrat candidate Jim Webb apparently aren't satisfied with pushing the story to reporters about Sen. George Allen's Jewish heritage. Late last week they were trying to attack his children.
According to DNC sources, some Webb staffers deployed to the campaign by the party have been mentioning to reporters that it's "interesting" that Allen purportedly named his son, Forrest, after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a legendary Confederate general. But that isn't their only point.
"Bedford was a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan, and these Webb supporters were working reporters to push the KKK angle and link it to Allen's desire to have his son named after him," says a DNC source. "This is opposition research our own staff pulled together. Some of us are uncomfortable with it, others here aren't."
Allen, who had dealt with a series of controversies related to race, religion and family heritage, has never commented on whom his son was named after, if anyone.
Some DNC insiders have been monitoring the Webb campaign closely due to concerns about the influence MoveOn.org and other far-left organization have been having on some campaigns, Webb's included.
Recently, Ben Cardin, Maryland's Senate Democrat candidate, had to fire a relatively new, low-level aide, who posted racist and anti-Semitic remarks on her blog. She came to the campaign via MoveOn.org and the DNC.
Cardin's campaign disavowed the remarks, and has attempted to weed out other staffers on the campaign who might place the campaign in more embarrassing situations. "Anyone who came to us via the party of outside groups is being re-vetted," says a Maryland state party consultant. "It's an embarrassing situation for us."
Other Democrats silent on the matter are the two men responsible for recruiting House and Senate Democrat candidates, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Rahm Emanuel. Both men have thus far refused to repudiate the words of their base. "That they won't is embarrassing and perplexing," says a House leadership aide. "Both of them have been strangely silent on the matter, and there are some of us who would like to know why."
Part of their silence might be tied to their need to keep what they perceive to be their critical base happy and focused on victory. "Our party has changed," says a Democrat consultant. "It's not what it was five years ago. The Internet, and young people who can hide behind screen names online, have changed us. Dean ushered in the Internet age for fundraising for us, now we're seeing the ugly part of the Internet, but no one wants to talk about it."
With Democrat Party polls confirming that takeovers of the House and Senate were slipping away, both House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Harry Reid are steeling themselves for challenges to their position in January.
Just six weeks ago, Pelosi -- and even her potential opponents -- believed that her position was safe. But no more.
"She had a majority of votes locked in for her," says a House Democrat leadership aide. "People weren't thinking of anyone else, but you can sense that things are changing a bit."
For months, the office of House deputy minority leader Steny Hoyer has been denying that he has had his eye on moving up the leadership ladder. All the time, however, his outside consultants and allies have been fundraising and meeting with Washington lobbyists, impressing upon them that Hoyer would be a more receptive leader to their interests if he were leader of the party in the House.
Now, according to House Democrat insider, there is talk of Hoyer attempting to line up support from Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who serves as head of the House Democrat campaign committee.
Reid is in a slightly better position. Beyond those who would like to see Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton take his seat, he doesn't believe there is a legitimate challenger to his position. But both Sens. Dick Durbin, his deputy, and Chris Dodd have expressed interest in his job.