Jewish World Review Jan. 31, 2000 / 8 Shevat 5761
The Real Pat Caddell
PAT CADDELL is not quite breaking ranks. Even if he now counts many ex-friends among Democrats.
The former Jimmy Carter pollster ruffled feathers within the Democratic Party for his steady attacks on Clinton administration ethics. In the thick of Monicagate, Caddell even told the New York Times he wished more people would pay attention to the controversy. "This really does say something serious about the health of the body politic that the American people are not more engaged in this. I think people have just had to deal with too much information all year and they think nobody listens to them anyway."
Big mistake: If Caddell had simply race-baited like Al Sharpton or perhaps even mocked Irish Catholics there would have been plenty of room for him in the Democrats' big tent. Instead, his unforgivable sin was to question Bill Clinton's ethics. He thereby helped discredit the Conason/Blumenthal spin that the only folks who could possibly object to Clinton's problematic relationship with the truth and obstruction of justice are right-wing crazies. Presto: the longtime Democrat Party hand became an instant apostate.
The curious thing, though, is that Caddell is anything but a budding neoconservative. On economics he remains an unreconstructed leftist. Caddell, a frequent guest on the cable television show "Hardball," still rails against the moneyed interests with all the bluster of William Jennings Bryan. But that counts for little if you questioned Clinton's character.
Interviewed on January 24, Caddell was equally contemptuous of Clinton and the rich folks who he says call the shots for both parties. His analysis, of course, contradicts recent talk that the Democratic Party has drifted further leftward -- and that the Florida election controversy further emboldened the party's McGovernite wing. But Caddell is dismissive of such lefty stalwarts such as Minneota Democrat Sen. Paul Wellstone, saying they're probably just "happy if they get their phone calls returned." The problem, as he sees it, is that the Democratic Party has no central vision. It's become an ersatz Republican party. "The party gets its money from the same places the GOP does, other than unions."
Ah, Big Labor -- a key Democratic source of money and manpower (such as helping with get out the vote drives on election day). But Caddell says the unions don't get much bang for their buck. "I'm not sure what they got out of this" unquestioning support for Democrats. "They got NAFTA," he jokes. The Clinton administration, helped ram the trade agreement through Congress despite vociferous opposition from organized labor. "I guess [big labor] thinks the Republicans are somewhat worse."
Caddell is not so sure. "I got out of policy to preserve my principles." The Democrats "went along" the GOP's draconian drug policy "to prove we're tough on crime," he laments. They even helped the GOP curtail civil liberties and tighten immigration policy, he adds. Caddell is also miffed that Democrats colluded with the GOP to pass the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act loosened federal restrictions on mergers and cross-over service (cable companies are now allowed to offer telephone service, etc.). The legislation, "cheered on by President Clinton," promised lower rates and more competition but produced the opposite, he contends.
In Caddell's view, Democrats today talk like economic populists to deflect attention from their corporate slumming. "They get into trouble like the 1996 fundraising. You get Al Gore trying to run as a populist . I thought the hypocrisy of it was outrageous. The same guy is raising a huge amount of money from DNC [donors] -- the same people he's attacking."
Caddell, in short, is not your average Clinton-Gore critic, which is why he's no longer your average Democrat either.
JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
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© 2001, Evan Gahr adapted from The American Spectator online