Wednesday, May 17, 2006

For once, inspire me

Digby has a suitably curious post about Democrats debating themselves in circles once again with "If we win back Congress, should we actually hold Republicans to their illegal acts, or should we just forget about it?" Six months before they even get the opportunity to win, and they're already chickening out.

Beyond the fact that, as Digby points out, when a President is at 30% (or lower), it's not a "political loser" to hold him accountable for his misdeeds (unlike getting a b.j., this president's decisions actually cost money and lives). He also says that, beyond whether it's good or bad politically, it's their constitutional duty as congressmen to investigate possible wrongdoings by the executive branch. But it's another point that I'd like to focus on:

Second, as a matter of long term political consideration there is the moral hazard of letting the Republicans skate again on what they've done. After three Republican administrations out of the last four were revealed to have ignored the will of the congress and operated imperial presidencies, I think it's pretty clear that they do not believe in a neutral system of checks and balances between the branches; they believe that Republican presidents have unfettered power to do whatever they wish and that Democratic presidents must submit to non-stop harrassment by the congress. This is not a matter of opinion. This is how they have behaved when they have had power, either executive, legislative or both. To let these actions go unexplored, undebated, unchallenged by the congress is to validate this premise. It will happen again --- and why shouldn't it? The Republicans know that the only thing they will suffer from doing this is a temporary loss of power (time for them to catch their breath and count their profits) until things improve and they can go back in and experiment, consolidate and plunder some more. This has been the pattern for the last 40 years. There has been no price to pay. The Republican party is not going to have a "come to Jesus" moment and recognize that they have been on the wrong track lo these many years and they need to clean up their act. This is how they do things and will continue to do things unless the country calls a halt. They cannot do that if they are not informed of the scope and meaning of these actions.

Now I realize that this is not an argument a politician can easily make in his stump speech. But it is a valid argument that Democrats should be making to themselves. And I mean making to themselves, not on the front pages of the New York Times using named surrogates to carry the message that top Democrats don't want to make publicly.
Seriously, 40 years. And it's the same people. It's not like new names emerge every time with the same wrongdoings (okay, there are some new names...Frist, for one, but still...). They overstep their bounds, they disappear for a while, they step back into the limelight, they're embraced by 100% of the party, and the media follows in kind. Arlen Spector's been pulling his same "I'm outraged, and I will get to the bottom of this. Or not," routine for 40 years. Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld have been corrupt for 35 years. Karl Rove made it well-known what his theories about government and rule were 30 years ago, and that only made him more respected within the party. If the Democrats win back Congress (and let's be honest, that's still a big Jon Stewart said to Howard Dean the other night, "It looks like things are going very well at the how are the Democrats going to blow it this time?"), and they don't cut the head off of this corrupt machine, it will just come back. I'm all about having reliable routines in my life, but "Republicans take power, they abuse their power, the public turns on them, Democrats let them off the hook, Republicans take power again" isn't what I signed up for.

Speaking of Howard Dean, he's been on TV a lot lately, and I must say...I still really like the guy, but I've been pretty disappointed. He goes on Daily Show, Jon Stewart asks him a couple of tough questions about whether Democrats will actually have balls this time around, and he pulls out a door hanger with talking points that they stick on doors when people aren't home? Really? As Digby points out, he goes on Hardball and says that Democrats aren't even thinking about impeachment? Really? Come on, Howard. You're the "maverick"...people expect you to say pointed stuff. If you don't say it, nobody will.
I can understand him punting a bit on the impeachment question, but why not use that opportunity to make a case for congressional oversight? Democrats need to focus on those things that are emblematic of the administration's failure and incorporate the need for investigations of them into their platform, not try to pivot away from the issue and look frightened of the prospect. Running from a direct question like that is transparent to any viewer; politicians fool nobody with a "change of subject" on such a loaded question. Frankly, it feeds directly into the widely held impression that "they all do it." By hedging on the question of accountability, Dems are perceived as either weak or corrupt themselves. Big mistake.
Digby also slaughters the media, which is deserved as well. Of course it is. But it's been made pretty obvious that the media's not going to change. Chris Matthews and Norah O'Donnell and everybody else are going to be around, like it or not, and they're not going to change their ways, so it's just going to be part of the game. However, the sooner Democrats realize, "Hey, wait a second...I give very cordial, bland talking points, and the media still allows Republicans to call me crazed and hateful. If that's going to happen anyway, why don't I actually say what I think for once?", the better.