Like No Other Time : The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever
Tom Daschle, the Majority Leader of the historic 107th Senate, presents a candid insider's account of the workings of the U.S. government during two of the most tumultuous years in the nation's history. The 107th Congress faced a time like no other in the life of the nation. This was the era of the first presidential election to be decided by the United States Supreme Court, the fifty-fifty Senate, the horror of September 11, the anthrax attacks on media and the government (including Daschle's own office), the war on terrorism, corporate scandals that shook the economy, the inexorable move toward war with Iraq, and other dramatic events, all leading up to the historic midterm elections of 2002. Through it all, Senator Tom Daschle had, with the exception of the President, the most privileged view of these unfolding developments, both in front of and behind the closed doors of government. In Like No Other Time, Daschle offers a riveting account of his singular perspective on a time when the nation faced deadly and elusive external enemies and a level of domestic political contention rarely seen in American history.
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August 24, 2004
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Excerpt from Like No Other Time by Michael D'Orso
Setting the Stage
It is hard to overstate the disappointment and, yes, the despair that we ' my Democratic colleagues and I ' felt the morning after that 2002 election. Never mind the fact that of the seventy-seven million ballots cast across the nation that Tuesday, a scant forty-one thousand (nineteen thousand in New Hampshire and twenty-two thousand in Missouri) ' less than 6/100 of 1 percent of the entire vote ' determined the difference between our party retaining control of the Senate and the Republicans seizing it. Perception, as they say, is reality, and the perception of this defeat, reflected in newspaper and magazine headlines across the country in the days that followed, was of an unmitigated disaster. The headlines arrayed on that week's newsstands echoed the theme:
IT'S HALLELUJAH TIME IN THE WHITE HOUSE
FOR BUSH AND GOP: A MANDATE
A NEW LEADER IS NEEDED
The term "shellacked" was used more than once in these reports, and despite the narrowness of the results, that's just how we felt. I knew when I went to bed that election night that I'd awake to a barrage of blame and recrimination that was going to continue for some time, both from outsiders and, more consequentially, from my colleagues within the Democratic Party. And understandably so. I knew we were in for a period of soul-searching and self-flagellation the likes of which few of us had ever experienced. I had doubts and questions myself. As the saying goes, "Success has a thousand parents; failure is an orphan." The morning after that election, I felt pretty alone.
How had this happened That question kicked at us all in the wake of this defeat. Everyone, of course ' the press, the pundits on radio and television, my colleagues, our opponents-had their own answers and were eager to share them:
' We Democrats "had no message." We "ran without new ideas." This was a "Seinfeld election" ' it was about nothing.
' We offered "no difference between 'us' and 'them.' " We had become victims of "centrist caution." In the name of political expediency, we had "compromised our party's identity" and become nothing more than "Republican Lite."
' We had "pandered to the Republicans." We had "surrendered on issues of defense and foreign policy." We had "attacked the President's economic policies but offered no real alternative."
' Our campaigns had been marked by "caution, vagueness, niche issues, and sloganeering."
' We had lost our "soul."
' We were "leaderless."
I knew that we needed not to panic. But neither could we deny that the consequences of this defeat, as narrow as it might have been, were disastrous, not just for the Democratic Party, but for the American people in terms of where they might now be led. House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt shared my deep frustration and was shaken by what had transpired.