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Precriminations

Still? Certainly. The blame-Gore movement, dominant during Bush's first term, has declined with the rise of the blame-Kerry movement. But there are still a number of Democrats, some Hillary backers among them, who think he makes the party look a bit too wild. His alliance with the liberal group MoveOn.org has alienated the centrist Democratic Leadership Council types who once favored Gore. "Happening now: Al Gore unleashed," was how CNN's Wolf Blitzer referred to Gore's recent speech, in which the former vice president and presidential nominee accused the Bush administration of committing a crime. "What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law -- repeatedly and insistently," Gore pronounced.

It's Dean's fault.

Yeeeeee-aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! Democrats knew they were rolling the dice when they selected the self-proclaimed man from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party to become the Democratic National Committee chairman. But few expected Dean would announce a game of "hide the salami" on "Hardball." Dean's mouth has been regularly thrilling and chilling Democrats, most recently when he told a Texas radio station that the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong." Though that may well be true, it played into Bush's hands by allowing him to paint the Democrats as the party of defeat. The centrists think Dean's rhetoric -- "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for" -- will make Democrats look like extremists in November.

It's Jefferson's fault.

No, not Thomas. The blame goes to Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat ensnared in a bribery probe. The scandals of Abramoff and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham could help Democrats portray a Republican "culture of corruption," but Jefferson complicates things. The FBI raided his home last year and reportedly found a large quantity of cold, hard cash in his freezer. The investigation, involving business deals in Africa, has already produced a guilty plea by one of Jefferson's former staffers.

It's Murtha's fault.

Nobody doubts that Jack Murtha, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, was acting on principle when he called for an immediate pullout from Iraq. The decorated veteran and longtime hawk has solid credentials on military matters. But his move allows Republicans to cry "cut and run" -- a dangerous charge in the swing districts where Democrats need to gain seats.

It's Pelosi's fault.

This is actually an extension of the blame-Murtha school. In endorsing Murtha's rapid pullout plan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put the Democratic leadership's imprimatur on what the Republicans' cry will certainly call a strategy of cut and run. Centrists in the party also fear that the California liberal makes them look too extreme; they worry about her boast that Democrats were able to "take down" Bush on Social Security, and her contention that "the war in Afghanistan is over."

It's Biden's fault.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, a dark horse presidential candidate in 2008, symbolizes what many rank-and-file Democrats say is a lack of focus for the party. Biden, the party's message meisters complain, is full of ideas but has trouble articulating them through his cluttered, self-absorbed rhetoric. During one 30-minute round of questioning Supreme Court nominee Alito, Biden managed only one question in his first 12 minutes, instead discoursing on his own Irish roots, his "Grandfather Finnegan," his son's college experience, his views about Princeton University and his thoughts on eyeglasses worn by his colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

It's Rove's fault.

Nah, that's too obvious.

milbankd@washpost.com

Dana Milbank is a reporter for The Post's National staff.


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