WASHINGTON – Unveiling their new rallying cry for the 2002 election, Democrats have concluded that it is now safe for them to challenge President Bush and the Republican Party on domestic issues, and they have a new theme for their agenda.
"That agenda is subsumed under a heading, and the heading is 'securing America's future for all of our families,'" House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt announced Wednesday.
The Democrats' agenda — healthcare, entitlements, education and the environment — has been consistent for years. As it turns out, their new slogan has been in use for a while too, by Republicans, who staged a rally on the Capitol steps to complain.
"They've stolen our slogan," Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., complained.
Since 1999, the GOP has been holding regular "Securing America's Future" rallies and even Vice President Dick Cheney took part in a rally recently outside the Capitol.
"We were securing America's future long before they stumbled on to this rhetorical hijacking," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said Thursday.
Republicans said Democrats are ripping off the GOP message because they have no ideas of their own. It was former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta who convinced both Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Gephardt to adopt the new slogan and they plan to incorporate it into town hall meetings, rallies and ads across the country.
Gephardt denied any political petty larceny and said he had no idea it was a GOP slogan in the first place.
"They haven't done a very good job of getting the message out, because I didn't even know that was their message," Gephardt said.
Perhaps Gephardt missed all the GOP rallies, but he cast votes recently against a budget called "A War Time Budget to Secure America's Future," and the two budgets before that had the same slogan in their titles too.
Republicans ridiculed the Democrats for trying to imitate them.
"We are flattered obviously. You have to accept this as a compliment that they want to be just like us," Armey said.
While the slogan battle may seem small, to many it is symbolic of the Democrats' search for a message against the GOP's popular president. Bush is polling at a 75 percent approval rate, according to the latest Fox News poll.
Republicans say they're okay with Democrats using their slogans but they'd much rather have Democrats embrace their ideas. Armey actually joked that Democrats should note that Republicans are against cloning, particularly when they are the ones being cloned themselves.