Monday, June 20, 2005

Democrats' delusions of relevance 

Dana Millbank reports in "The Washington Post":
In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.

They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.

The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session.

"At the next hearing," he told his colleagues, "we could use a little subpoena power." That brought the house down.
Why stop at the use of a little subpoena power in the aid of an imaginary impeachment inquiry and actually have a pretend re-run of presidential elections, so that the Democrats can become even more detached from reality?

In any case, I'm glad everyone enjoyed the joke, although Millbank doesn't say if the attendees were laughing with Conyers or at him - judging by the mixed media and Dem crowd, probably the former. If the Democrats would like to live in an alternative universe, most of the mainstream media would like to report from there, and they often do.

One could argue - although not at "The Washington Post" - that at least as far as foreign policy and national security are concerned, the Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe long time ago. Sadly for the Democratic Party, there are no electoral college votes there, or any other type of votes; the fact the Democrats discovered in 2002 and 2004, though stories like these suggest they still haven't learned anything from it.

Or perhaps have learned the wrong lessons - when the confused but, by comparison, relatively sane Kerry campaign went down in flames, for many in the Democratic Party it was an indication that far from not moving enough to the sensible and credible center, the mistake was not going far enough to the left. And so now, seemingly every day brings yet another bizarre and/or offensive outburst from Howard Dean, Charles Rangel, Dick Durbin or some other leading light of the Donkey Party.

But hysterics and play-acting in the Capitol basement are not signs of revitalization and enthusiasm; they demonstrate desperation and impotency of a party which has been consigned to opposition and which can't quite dig itself up from the hole. Politics is cyclical, and no doubt the Dems will make s comeback one day. Whether it will be in 2006, 2008 or later, remains to be seen; the timing will depend on the ability of the party leadership to square the electoral circle.

Polling after the 2004 presidential election showed that Bush's success owed much to being seen as more credible a leader in a time of crisis and more credible on issues of defense and national security. The Democrats will have to discover if it is possible to field a candidate who is seen as a safe pair of hands by the centrist electorate, but who doesn't at the same time - and because of it - make the large section of the crazy "Bush=Hitler" Dem base revolt and bolt. Bill Clinton could achieve this trick largely because he was the first post-Cold War president, the spender of the peace dividend during the "decade of nothing." Whether Hillary, or somebody else, can do it in the time of war will be a much more significant challenge.

(Another joker in the pack is the question if the American electorate will still by that stage want to think that we are still at war - the point made recently in different ways by Victor Davis Hanson and Daniel Henninger.)

Still, let us not minimize the challenge facing the Democratic Party. To find out just how bad it is on the left, you only have to read the latest column by Frank Rich, the centerpiece of which is the comparison of Bush's foreign policy with "The War of the Worlds." There you have it in the nutshell - the challenges of Islamofascism and Middle Eastern tyranny are as real to many on the left as invaders from Mars. To be fair to Rich, his argument is not quite as simplistic - though no more sincere for that:
Three years after his "War of the Worlds," the real nightmare that America feared did arrive. Yet some radio listeners at first thought that the reports from Pearl Harbor were another ruse. Welles would later recall in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that days after the Japanese attack, Franklin Roosevelt sent him a cable chiding him for having cried wolf with his faked war "news" of 1938.

Such is the overload of faked reality for Americans at this point that it will be far more difficult for the Bush administration than it was for F.D.R. to persuade the nation of an imminent threat without appearing to cry wolf.
The problem is trying to conceptualize what sort of a threat the left – which, after all, in the past appeased international communism - would ever consider imminent or significant enough to worry about, particularly during a conservative Presidency. The great divide of politics, both internationally and at home, is between those who think that America is the problem and those who think it is the solution. The problem for the Democratic Party is that a large section of its base thinks that the biggest threats facing the United States and the world are Republican administrations and global warming - a view not shared widely in the electorate.

The last word goes to Mark Steyn:
Throughout the last campaign season, senior Democrats had a standard line in their speeches, usually delivered with righteous anger, about how "nobody has a right to question my patriotism!" Given that nobody was questioning their patriotism, it seemed an odd thing to harp on about. But, aware of their touchiness on the subject, I hasten to add that in what follows I am not questioning Dick Durbin's patriotism, at least not for the first couple of paragraphs. Instead, I'll begin by questioning his sanity.


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