The lost Congress and the party of crushed hopes
Democrats need to find their mojo, brutally enforce some unity and take some political risks.
This moment of beautiful intoxication, after the Democrats regained control of the House in the November 2006 election, lulled the populace before a December hangover came on like a jackhammer at dawn.
By Max Talley
In November 2006, there was a brief glimmer of optimism in America. After six years of corruption and lemming-like adherence to Bush administration policies, the Democrats took back the majority in the House and evened the score in the Senate. Thrust into power by a tidal wave of anti-Iraq War sentiment, then further helped along by the gland-handling of hypocritical perverts like Larry Craig, Mark Foley and the Rev. Ted Haggard, the Democrats promised change. The people had given them a specific mission and they knew what it was: End the disastrous Bush war and bring our brave troops home.
After the votes came in, even George W. admitted he’d taken a “thumping,” and as an early Christmas present to Democrats (and many Republicans) he served up the head of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a silver platter. This moment of beautiful intoxication lulled the populace before a December hangover came on like a jackhammer at dawn.
Rejecting the sober findings of the Iraq Study Group, Bush announced his plan for a “surge.” And for those with short memories of what the surge was supposed to accomplish, or those with early senility (“McCainus Syndrome”), let me be perfectly clear: The addition of U.S. forces was meant to tamp down the anarchy and violence long enough for the Iraq government to become a stable working model, and for Iraqi forces to be trained to take over security, enabling American troops to return home forthwith.
Typically, the Bush administration shifted its goals midstream with, “The violence is down, so the surge must be working.” Yes, as long as we spend 12 billion dollars a month for decades to come and let the U.S. slide into a recession, we can sustain an “acceptable” level of deaths in a broken, shattered Iraq that is neither ours nor theirs: A limbo of the lost. Imagine what that money could do for the rotting infrastructure of America.
After the jubilation in January 2007, when Democrats actually took over, some bad warning lights started flashing. Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi promptly stated: “We’re taking impeachment off the table.” (Had she received an anthrax love-letter like Tom Daschle?) It was an idiotic move. Whether intending to impeach Cheney, Bush and their whole gang or not, why would anyone take the option off the table? This is an administration that only capitulates, only bargains, when there is a dire threat to its offshore bank accounts and to its political future. Dennis Kucinich, Robert Wexler and very few others were the only heroes through this abject surrender.
On the Senate side, Harry Reid raises his voice to a barely audible hoarse whisper to say (more than once), “I will not rubber-stamp the president’s request for more military funding.” But as soon as he utters it and sends a Senate bill with timetables for withdrawal, you can be certain that within days of a presidential veto over strings attached, Reid will be rubber-stamping the request.
Harry Reid seems like a decent guy, and as far as Mormons you’d want to have a drink with, he comes in miles ahead of Mitt “game show host” Romney. However, as leader of the Senate, Reid is seriously lacking in the demeanor, the stentorian voice and the brass gonads to stand up to the Republican minority — much less to Bush. I do give Reid credit for holding the Senate in session over recent vacations to block the kind of disastrous John Bolton appointments that Bush likes to sneak through during breaks. But Harry is in way over his head: A goldfish thrown into the shark tank. The Senate needs a tough leader who can call in favors, bend or break arms, and walk the walk with balls the size of coconuts. In short, Hillary Clinton should abandon her doomed and desperate attempt for presidency and instead take over for Harry Reid. As Senate leader she would wield immense power and could put all of her grandstanding and character assassinations to good use.
As it stands, because this weak and ineffectual Democratic Congress gets so little done, their ratings have sunk even lower in the toilet bowl than the president — one of the least popular leaders in history! Puzzled voters are left with an abysmal choice between a Republican majority that will force a lot of bad ideas through as quick as possible, or a Democratic majority that will talk a big game, maybe start a few oversight committees, but essentially sit back and watch in silence as the ship goes down. At least the Republicans deliver for the richest, most rabid and moral-less minority of their party. The Democrats end up pleasing no one and come off as “Republican-Lite.” They are too cowardly to stand up against the administration on the war lest they be painted as “unpatriotic” and “appeasers of the terrorists.” Sadly, their ongoing soy milk resistance to Iraq policy is a rerun of the Democrat majority fighting Nixon over Vietnam. At the time, many pushed timetables for withdrawal, but would not dare cut war funding. Even their spoken dissent caused Nixon’s pit-bull Spiro Agnew to accuse them of “sticking a knife in the back of our troops and providing sympathy for the Communist enemies.” Sound familiar?
On political news shows, Democrat whiners say, “We need 60 votes to accomplish anything,” or “We have too slim a majority.” Scumbag that he was, Tom Delay made his Republicans march in lockstep on a slim majority. Democrats need to find their mojo, brutally enforce some unity and take some political risks. Otherwise, continuing under Pelosi, and especially Harry Reid, they will remain the party of impotence, the party of compromise verging on surrender, and the party of crushed hopes. What a legacy.
Has Pelosi accomplished anything? Yes, she raised the minimum wage and her first hundred days were impressive. But it’s the year since then that has revealed the flaws in her leadership. Congress needs a Tip O’Neill, a flat-footed Irishman who’s bought everyone in town a drink, knows who is screwing whom, and who is being screwed, you know, a big lug with a lump of dough for a face and an Idaho potato for a nose. Lightweights like Harry Reid and Tom Daschle are too polite, too mellow, too medicated. If they ever shouted or pounded a fist down on a table, their freaking hearts would give out! We’re in the big leagues, where you need someone who wields power with ease, someone who is feared and respected, not the guidance counselor-type who asks, “How are we all feeling today?”
On the primary front, Hillary Clinton is splitting the party into two rancorous sides. Her plan seems to be to stay in the race until Obama self-destructs, or until she or the Republican character assassins can find a way to discredit him completely. At that point she hopes to lure the superdelegates to her corner to save the day.
Brief history lesson: In 1972, a certain maverick outsider named George McGovern won the Democratic primary. Because he beat out the Democratic establishment candidates, Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie, they and their supporters held a bitter grudge. Instead of the party coming together to defeat Nixon, the selfish rat-bastards let McGovern dangle in the wind alone. Without the support of his own party, McGovern lost in a landslide election to Nixon. Democratic leaders blamed McGovern (and not themselves) for the crushing defeat and created this stupid superdelegate system. The idea was, if the people ever elected a weak-kneed, peace-talking liberal for president again, they could override the popular vote and install their establishment candidate. True democracy.
I mention this as Hillary’s only hope to win is through the superdelegates overriding the will of the people. However, that outcome will alienate the black vote, the educated vote, the liberal anti-war vote and the white male vote, and her legacy will be the politician who installed McCain for yet another term of Bush diplomacy. §
Max Talley is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.