Diary: The "Curse of Shrum" Is That, Supposedly, I Have Worked for Every Losing Democratic Presidential Nominee in Six Elections, but Never for Bill Clinton. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
Shrum, Robert, New Statesman (1996)
On Cape Cod, where I'm writing my book on four decades of progressive politics in America, it's been raining for days, and parts of Massachusetts are flooding. In Washington, George Bush, weighed down by Nixonian approval ratings, is struggling to keep his head above water. Today he's being pummelled by his allies on the religious right. They are demanding that he make a gay-bashing constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage his top priority. But what about Iraq, gas--that is, petrol--prices, the budget deficit and healthcare costs? Americans want their government to focus on big issues. If Bush instead panders to the petty prejudices of his political base, he'll fall below Nixon's low water mark.
I go to Boston to debate immigration on national television. The show is called Hardball and my sparring partner is Kate O'Beirne from National Review, a magazine that opposed civil rights in the 1960s. Now right-wing Republicans are playing on the anti-immigrant backlash. They're kicking Bush hard because he's supporting the Kennedy-McCain approach, which includes not just border security but "earned legalisation" for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants already in the United States. I tell Kate that if Kennedy, McCain and Bush all agree on something, it must be a pretty sensible policy. As an ultra-conservative senator who co-sponsored a different piece of legislation with Ted Kennedy once said: "Either it's an idea whose time has come, or one of us hasn't read the bill." On this one, Bush has read the politics right: if the Republicans alienate Hispanic voters, they won't win another national election for a generation.
Over coffee at the Little Store in Sagamore Beach, the locals tease me about my emphatic hand gestures on television. Someone mentions the obits and those of us who are old enough to remember him mourn an actor who played Clarabell the Clown, a character on Howdy Doody, the best-loved children's show of the 1950s. But there's no shortage of clowns today. In the next 36 hours, the Senate will vote to make English the official language. …