2005-05-27 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

by Stuart W. Mirsky

After the recent rancorous presidential campaign in 2004, you’d have thought we’d gotten all the hard feelings behind us and be ready, as a nation, to move on. Not hardly. In the wake of a clear Bush win which also saw increased Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats and their allies on the political left have doubled down their bets on the use of anger, bitterness and obstructionism to get back into power. Instead of a renewed sense of pursuing the nation’s business, Democratic leaders have focused on stopping the Bush agenda, in spite of the fact that Bush led the Republicans to a convincing victory in November 2004. Well at least it was the sort of victory that we used to call “convincing.” No more.

The only thing the Democrats seem convinced of today is that somehow the last election represented a usurpation of their power by obviously illegitimate forces on the right. And if they can’t blame the Supreme Court or voter miscounts this time, as they did in 2000 in Florida, they imagine the Bush win must have been an aberration which just a little more tough talking resistance on their part will successfully undo.

From balking the president in his effort to fix a social security system that promises to derail American prosperity over the next 30 years if nothing is done now, to stonewalling-by-smear the nomination of John Bolton to represent the U.S. at the U.N., to continued use of the Senatorial filibuster in an unprecedented broad based attempt to prevent the president from successfully appointing more conservative judges to the Federal Appeals courts, the Democratic leaders have dug in their heels across the board. Their verbiage is no better. Howard Dean, the new Democratic Party chair has spent his time describing Republicans as evil and brain dead while Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Minority leader who replaced balker-in-chief Tom Daschle, tells school kids their president is a “loser” . . . even though he is president precisely because he won the last election. Indeed, the discourse has actually gotten worse, if that’s imaginable, since the recent, unprecedented sourness of the last presidential race.

But this isn’t limited to Democrats. The media, which at least on its face is non-partisan, has continued to relentlessly target the administration, its latest offering being Newsweek’s report of U.S. interrogators’ abusing a copy of the Muslim holy book . . . a report Newsweek has since had to retract for lack of substantiation. The anti-war left, itself, is still fighting the “should we or shouldn’t we” battle over removing Saddam Hussein, with no signs of letting up, and every report like Newsweek’s adds fuel to their endless fire. On the internet, at a site for academics and thinkers, a raging discussion now centers on the so-called British intelligence memo, leaked during the recent British parliamentary election, purportedly showing that Tony Blair’s representative reported to him, in a closed door session, that the Bush administration believed Saddam had to be removed even before they went to the U.N. for approval (gasp, what a surprise!) and that they were actually making plans along those lines.

Unmentioned in the discussion, of course, is that in the same memo the Brits report that the Americans were worried about Saddam using wmd in response to an effort to remove him, thereby confirming that the U.S. leadership did, indeed, believe Saddam had such weaponry. But hyperventilating over the possibilities that still another investigation into all this might develop for her side of the argument, one on-line poster, a self-identified Democrat, wrote breathlessly: “Oh....but that a light is shone so far up these guys’ rear that their eyes glow!” The lady in question could not contain her glee at seeing her Republican enemies undone.

National politics in America has never been so harsh and mean-spirited, at least not in my lifetime. But there’s a price to all this. When we hate one another, when we hope and pray for the destruction of those with whom we disagree, we lose the ability to work toward common goals. Today’s political opposition has coalesced around little more than anger and recrimination. As they have demonstrated with the social security issue, they don’t have solutions to offer, just relentless attacks and endless negativity.

Indeed, the Democratic leadership seems convinced that this is how they will find their way out of their current political wilderness. Continued atacks and obstructionism will, they hope, make the president and his party more unpopular and pave their way back to control of the White House and majority status in the legislature. But perhaps they’d be better off looking at what happened to their hopes in the ‘04 election. Then a relentlessly negative John Kerry scowlingly frittered away his early momentum and the goodwill of the American people by constantly adjusting his positions so that he was always seen as opposing the president. But no one can be against everything can they? It smacks of opportunism when you can’t find anything positive to say about your opponents. It means they are either the devil incarnate (which many Democrats do sometimes sound as though they believe) or that you are opposing them merely for the sake of opposing them.

The first possibility is unconvincing in a democratic society where we all have to reckon with the possibility that we’re not infallible. But the second is even worse as it suggests that you’re insincere in your opposition, that it’s all about putting chinks in the other guy’s armor so you can score enough points to grab what he’s got. But do we really want to elect people who are mainly out to get themselves elected without any real program or ideals of their own? Shouldn’t the Democrats do more than call for keeping everything as it is . . . except, of course, for endlessly adding more taxes so we can keep it even as costs rise? Shouldn’t they have something to offer us besides endless “no’s” and the disparagement of those Republicans who currently have what they want?



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