Washington Monthly and the “Lame Factor”

I don’t expect the Reason-oids to be terribly sympathetic to either the plight of the Democratic Party or an article defending them from the Washington Monthly. (Note the “SmokingPenguin”‘s quip, which pretty much only demonstrates his/her ideological difference with the Party and not any comment about the supposed “lameness” of said party, and leaves out the tactical advancing of the ball against the Iraq War with Jack Murtha, which assuming he is a Libertarian of any purity is a stance he finds more conducive. I assume the “Davis-Bacon” rebuff just slid under his concious reading, a big deal for Liberals that Libertarians wouldn’t stand for.) I can also point out that their reading on the Paul Hackett race is a bit fuzzy, conforming to a certain whistful conventional wisdom advanced by Hackett himself: like it or not, Sherrod Brown was kicking Paul Hackett’s butt in that primary race. I’m a bit disappointed in that the focus of Tim Cavanaugh’s snark on the cover, which focuses on the words “Not Lame” as being faint praise indeed. My snark is that the cover shows the Democratic side of the aisle at the State of Union address, and has a grand total of FIVE arrows pointing to individual members of the Democratic side of the aisle from the words “NOT LAME”, suggesting… here are your five not Lame Democrats, and if we have to point out these five individual Democrats as being not lame, what does that make the Democrats NOT CIRCLED? Well… dare I say… lame?

I will point out one blip in the article, because it is a special focus on my blog and not many other political blogs, that Doc Hastings hovers in the background of this sentence:

She [Slaughter] almost single-handedly forced Republicans to back off on plans to tamper with the Ethics Committee in order to give Tom DeLay a break.

Very well then. Actually, I read a very funny article yesterday where Doc compliments the new interim Democratic Ethics head, thus knocking the ethically-challenged Democrat that is stepping aside for the moment, more of less claiming Mollohan was the man stalling the committee. A great kidder, that Doc Hastings.

There are two strikes against the thesis written within the very article. First of all, on the matter of Pelosi’s “brilliant” straddling to aid Murtha:

Consider, for instance, what happened last fall when Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.), a Vietnam veteran and hawk who initially supported the Iraq war, called for immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. When reporters asked Pelosi what she thought of Murtha’s statement, she replied that the congressman spoke for himself, not the caucus. Her response was immediately denounced by liberal critics and portrayed by reporters as evidence of Democrats’ lack of message, discipline, and shared conviction. In fact, as Howard Fineman would later report, Pelosi had worked behind the scenes to convince Murtha to go public with his change of heart and orchestrated the timing of his announcement. Knowing that the credibility of Murtha’s position would be damaged if it looked like he was the token hawk being used by “cut and run” liberal Democrats, Pelosi made the strategic calculation to put Murtha in the spotlight by himself for a few weeks before stepping forward to endorse his suggestion.

The strategy worked, and it allowed Murtha to visibly establish Democrats as the advocates of what now looks like the position toward which our Iraq policy is headed. A late February Zogby poll showed that fully 72 percent of American troops think that the United States should leave Iraq within the year; 25 percent say they should leave immediately. In addition, Pelosi’s party now holds the advantage on Iraq. As with Social Security, critics have charged that Democrats can’t win without a plan for Iraq, but a mid-March Gallup poll showed that voters think Democrats would better handle the situation (they hold a 48 to 40 advantage over Republicans), even though only one-quarter of them think that Democrats have a plan for dealing with the country.

Perhaps this is a brillaint tactical decision, but the very fact that that was the best tactical decision available does indeed show a certain “lameness” for the Democratic Party. That is to say, the Democratic Caucus has just over 50 percent of its members having voted against the Iraq War in the first place, and the majority of its rank and file base having always been against the war. But to have credibility in moving forward, you have to get the hawk of hawks to take the stand, and then stand out of his way.

Then there’s this:

Over in the Senate, Reid temporarily silenced his critics when he staged a showdown last fall, shutting down the Senate to compel Republicans to discuss pre-war intelligence. GOP promises to pursue inquiries into how the intelligence was gathered, interpreted, and used had gone nowhere, and Democrats had no institutional means to conduct their own investigation. So Reid forced the issue, invoking an obscure parliamentary procedure that sent the Senate into a closed session. Republicans were furious, but they were also backed into a corner. Reluctantly, the leadership agreed to restart the investigations, putting the issue of intelligence back in the national spotlight. The in-your-face move signaled that Reid had the inclination, and the electoral security, to push Republicans around in a way that his predecessor Tom Daschle never could.

Tom Daschle was lame, and had this impossible situation he should not have been put into: the terms of leading the Democratic Party and the terms of representing the state of South Dakota conflict with each other. I was, in the end, happy to see him lose, and this article does suggest why. That notwithstanding, when he forced the hands of the Republicans to commence with Phrase Two of these Investigations, as soon as the story faded from the news-cycle the Republicans simply silently squelched it. And the definition of lame?

I can think of something that doesn’t so much show the lameness of the Democrats as the lameness of Congress in the face of the Executive Branch claiming Powers and making the Legislative Branch irrelevant in important respects. Torture. Bush wrote a signing statement that made the Congressional’s passing a bill committing ourselves against it meaningless. In this face / farce, the wranglings of the thing: ie assigning the title of “lame”, (ignored when Democrats pushed for it, forced into view when McCain made it an issue) are purely academic.

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