It happened in Florida

April 19, 2002

WE NEVER THOUGHT we'd say we were glad to see the beginning of another presidential campaign, especially 2 1/2 years before the election, but the Democratic Party pageant in Florida last weekend was a heartening event.

Al Gore and a half-dozen other potential candidates paraded before the party's hard core, and one by one they took their shots at the Bush administration.

Ever since September, Democrats have been keeping their heads down, seemingly terrified that any criticism of the Republicans would look unpatriotic. The time for that has long since passed, and Florida may have been the turning point. Finally, our politicians are getting back to politics, and it's a nice touch that the setting was the state that figured so infamously in the 2000 election.

The candidates attacked the administration for favoring the wealthy at the expense of the poor and for favoring corporations at the expense of the environment. No one took issue with the war on terrorism -- still out of bounds -- but the White House, remarkably, drew fire over Middle East policy.

We have two parties in this country for a reason. Let the Republicans respond. Let them make their case. Let the Democrats come back at them. Let's be clear -- or as clear as politicians can be -- about who stands for what.

By November 2004, we'll be heartily sick of the campaign excesses of both sides. But it was only six months ago that Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, was warning Americans to watch what they say, while everyone else ducked for cover -- and if that's the only alternative, then we'd opt for campaign excess any day.

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