Thursday, December 13, 2007


We're all having a lovely moment of self-righteousness reading headlines such as "Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill" and "Dems Cave on Spending." Glenn Greenwald gave us a show-and-tell presentation of headlines that show the Democrats' weakness. Kos did, er, exactly the same thing. Atrios named Congressional Democrats the "Wankers of the Day," before making the following concession:

I understand that given the makeup of the Senate and the presence of a lot of bad Democrats in the House the Democrats are frequently going to fail to advance a decent legislative agenda. But could they at least make an effort to lose well?

And the difference in the actual outcome between "losing well" and "losing badly" is what exactly? How many fewer U.S. troops will die in Iraq, to choose just one example?

Yeah, I want the Democrats to fight, too -- but what path leads to an actual victory in one of these fights? Anyone care to explain?

An article in yesterday's New York Times, "Muscle Flexing in Senate: G.O.P. Defends Strategy," used the phrase "near-robotic efficiency" in reference to public statements by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, but the phrase might just as well have been applied to the Republican Party's entire strategy over the past year:

With the president warning repeatedly that he will veto any budget package he dislikes and the Democrats short of the 60 votes they need in the Senate, the Republican minority is in an unusually strong bargaining position -- and not just in the budget negotiations that are the top priority in Congress these days.

Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want....

Yup -- and what's the strategy for turning this around? I'd really like to know. These guys are dug in. They're robots. They're the Borg. As long as the filibuster rule is unchangeable and it's impossible to both impeach and convict the president (and the vice president), what the hell can Democrats in Congress do?


It's not germane to the present situation, I suppose, but I keep thinking of that Phil de Vellis parody of the old Macintosh "1984" ad. To de Vellis (a self-described "proud Democrat"), who looked like robots in modern American political life? Fellow Democrats who were choosing to support Hillary Clinton. Hunh? You have excellent video-tweaking skills that show you're capable of sharp parody, and that's how you decided to repurpose images of robotic group behavior for a twenty-first-century political viewership? Hey, Phil (and everyone who admired his work), you want some real political robots? How about the damn Republicans in Congress?

Nahhh. We suck. They don't suck. When we do something that sucks, it's our fault. And when they do something that sucks, it's also our fault.


UPDATE, FRIDAY: I see that Glenn Greenwald has taken a swat at me for this post (I'm the "elsewhere" link), in the course of talking about Harry Reid's maneuverings on the FISA bill. And a lot of commenters and most of the lefty blogosphere agrees with him.

Is it preemptive surrender to put forth the Intelligence Committee's version of the FISA bill (which gives the telecoms immunity from wiretapping lawsuits) as the main bill that will be considered, rather than the Judiciary Committee's version (which doesn't)? Well, the reason everyone's complaining is that, as a result of this decision, the immunity-free version of the bill will need sixty votes to be the one that's put forward. But if you can't get sixty votes to do that, how the hell are you going to get the bill to become law in the face of a guaranteed Bush veto of any bill lacking immunity? Aren't we -- again -- talking about losing well rather than losing badly? Again, what's the difference in terms of result?

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