Sunday, May 27, 2007

Editorial: The Party of Stella Toddler

Ever strike you that when it comes to the Democratic Party, there are a whole lot of people playing Stella Toddler?

Toddler was one Carol Burnett's many characters and the skit that stands out the most for us is when Stella Toddler visits the police station. She explains that rather than report one crime, she likes to store up a whole list so she's not wasting anyone's time.

Sound familiar?

The Democratic Party gets so many passes most critics on the left either have to be Stella Toddlers or assuming that the party is sleep walking and must not be called out for fear that they might wake up suddenly and give themselves a heart attack.

Here's reality. First 100 Days? Try 100 Days of Nothing.

That $7.25 an hour minimum wage proposal they're so proud of? Long overdue and won't kick in this year or the next.

The Iraq war.

It's not an issue of "what to say," it's an issue of "where to start?"

Let's start with the obvious. The ballyhooed First 100 Days didn't include the word "Iraq." Only when this was repeatedly pointed out (loudly) and Dems were under pressure did Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House) and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) suddenly remember the issue that swept the Democrats back into power.

Should have been a lesson there.

Instead, in March, when the Dems offered up their Do-Nothing-Dems' plan for Iraq (toothless, non-binding and, frankly, meaningless) they didn't get called out by many.

Party Hacks rushed out to try to silence the few who did. But it was a small group. Even Pacifica Radio appeared to live in fear of Dems (and of MoveOn). KPFA was the worst offender and check out Ruth's Report (Monday) for how well that worked out for KPFA. (Short answer, not very well at all.) The Nation, as always, took the centrist road, hand in hand with the Council of Foreign Relations, skipping down the path to eternal war.

The Dems thought they were cagey. They thought they were smarter than the public and that their attack dogs would frighten off a few (Chiuaua's rarely frighten -- not even when they speak in Taco Bell commercials). The original measure that Bully Boy vetoed wasn't going to do a damn thing to end the illegal war. But it might, and here's what they were hoping for, give the impression that the Democrats were trying to end the war. Oh what a boon that would be in the 2008 elections!

Now Russ Feingold, early on, held a hearing into Congress' power of the purse. It's a real shame that he had to but with cowards and chickens occupying the Senate, it was required. What did we all learn? What we already knew which is that Congress has the power to stop funding the illegal war. But that was off the table!

And some Dems now point to last week's CBS and New York Times' poll to say, "See! We were right! Look how few people support that!"

It's difficult to build support in the public for a policy that both major parties disown. Not impossible, but difficult. Instead of using their air time to push a meaningless measure (in March or now), they could have used that time to review the basics with the public. They didn't do that. Not only did they not do that, they made a point to sell the distorted view that defunding the illegal war would leave the troops in harms way! (The craven Barack Obama was but one of many peddling that lie.)

Back in March, everyone was supposed to put the brains on ice (some already had and some had no brains to ice or thaw) and pretend that the Pelosi measure or the Reid measure would end the illegal war or, in fact, do anything. That wasn't reality. The most generous thing that can be said about the plan Bully Boy eventually vetoed was that it was "symbolic."

Hate to break it to the Dems, but they weren't put in power to symbolic. Just as no one pays money for a live concert out of a desire to witness lip synching, no one votes a party into power to watch them mime out policies.

When they were out of power, the party argument was, "We don't have a majority. There's nothing we can do!" When the reality is there was plenty they could do. Now that they control both houses of Congress, the excuse is, "We don't have enough votes to override a veto!" And the pitch is, "Vote for us in 2008! Give us even more control! You'll see some action then!"

The belly crawlers want to pretend as if minority parties are powerless and control of both houses really doesn't mean "control of both houses." They're helped by an education system (and gas bags) that don't bother to note history. The belly crawlers want you to believe that when real Congressional leaders accomplished anything in the past, their party must have had 89 seats in the Senate and 400 in the House.

Harry Reid we expect nothing from. (Except possibly another lobbyist scandal.) Nancy Pelosi was the embarrassment of last week. When the Democrats caved, she sent out point man Steny Hoyer to explain to the press how it was. (Or rather, how they thought it was.) Pelosi, so important, so powerful, such a first!, wanted all the glory and perks of being Speaker of House but when it came time to deliver bad news, she hid behind Hoyer.

Don't feel sorry for Hoyer. The War Hawk was quite happy to announce that the Dems were doing nothing. (Only he announced it with sprinkles and candy coating.) Pelosi got called out on that and her 'answer' was to make noises about how she might not even vote for the measure. That would be the measure that she had the power to prevent coming to a vote. That's the measure she had the power to bury.

Her vote was meaningless. She's no rank-and-file Congress member, she leads the House, she determines the agenda, she controls everything. So her deciding to play the junior version of Miss Dianne Girl Senator was even more embarrassing.

Here's reality: the Dems aren't going to do anything they aren't forced to do.

They think Iraq is a "winner." They think it is just the thing to give them the White House in 2008. They think Iraq will put them in charge of Congress and the White House after the next election cycle. So they believe they shouldn't do anything to upset the momentum.

Momentum? Try Joe-mentum. And it's really funny how Democrats repeatedly think, "This is our time!" They thought that in 2002, they thought it in 2004. The only thing that swept them into power in 2006 was the public's disgust with the illegal war.

Now some of our lovely left (who dabble and pose) love to hop in right about now and say it was about economics! Or that it was about scandals!

It was about Iraq. The polling demonstrated that. There were other issues but the chief issue was the illegal war. Without it, Dems would still be playing the role they so deserve: Loser.

So now might be a good time for Dems to put away their Washington Monthlys (which was all hot for Lieberman as the 2004 presidential candidate) and their echo-pollsters (who determine what gets asked and how) and get their asses out and about in their home districts. There they might find out what will or will not get them elected come November 2008.

They'll find their districts are far removed from the illusion Yawn Emmanuel repeatedly paints for them.

They'll also find very quickly that when a GOP candidate for president makes the break from Bully Boy, rightly notes the war is lost and has been for some time, begs the public for forgiveness for not seeing it sooner, he (we don't know of any woman who's thinking of throwing her hat into the ring) will be embraced. He will be hailed as someone who has seen the light. The same mainstream press that has failed to editorialize that US troops should come home will rush to tongue bathe him.

And when that happens the Democrats will once again find themselves scrambling to catch up. The headlines will be about how "bold" and "innovative" the GOP candidate is. And some in his party, noting the headlines and the public's disapproval of the war, will follow suit.

When that happens, the public's going to see two things: a group now loudly denouncing the illegal war (that the press hails for "waking up" -- no "finally" in the narrative) and a group that was supposedly against the war but spent two years doing nothing to end it. That's when the Dems lose their edge.

Right now, Mitt Romney and John McCain are focused on taking each other out of the primary. By the time the primary's over, you better expect the candidate to publicly turn on the illegal war because there's little change of his winning the general election unless he does. Supporting an illegal war that has approximately 30% of the public's support doesn't win a national election.

Dems so often lose because they make up their battle plans ahead of time. They then stick to them. They're losing plans, to be sure. But they stick to them and along comes a Swift Boating and they run off to hide and ponder whether they should respond or alter course? Instead they do nothing. They have the edge, right? Why risk it? Why do anything? Just sit it out.

And that (and manipulation of the ballot count) is how the Republicans outflank them. They don't worry about charges of "flip-flop." They say and do anything to get elected and do so in a swirling, changing landscape. Dems, possibly still so scared after the Goring of Gore, think they're going to get bonus points in the end because their campaign is the same as it was six months prior. It doesn't work that way.

Nor should it. And instead of embracing Yawn Emmanuel, a real Democratic Party would run from him and anyone else who counts on the increasing number of dead Americans in Iraq to win them an election. (Listen to KPFA's Living Room Thursday for David Swanson's remarks on Yawn.)
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