Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Steve Benen, in response to Joe Biden's assertion on CBS this morning that "Washington, right now, is broken":

...what officials need to understand is the importance of taking the next step -- explaining why this is and who is responsible.

As much as I'm sympathetic to the vice president's entirely accurate concerns, his omissions make all the difference. For viewers who don't know what filibusters or cloture votes are, they're thinking, "There's a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. If the system is broken and dysfunctional, maybe it's Democrats' fault." ...

Biden ... needs to name names -- Republicans broke the American legislative process. They did so deliberately, during a time of crises, because they're desperate to undercut the Democratic majority, regardless of the consequences....

Right -- because, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, if Democrats don't assess blame, Republicans will. See today's Wall Street Journal editorial page:

...The real story ... is the failure once again of liberal governance.

For the fourth time since the 1960s, American voters in 2008 gave Democrats overwhelming control of both Congress and the White House.... Yet once again, Democratic leaders have tried to govern the country from the left, only to find that their policies have hit a wall of practical and popular resistance.

Democrats failed in the latter half of the 1960s, as the twin burdens of the Great Society and Vietnam ended the Kennedy boom and split their party. They failed again after Watergate, as Congress dragged Jimmy Carter to the left and liberals had no answer for stagflation. They failed a third time in the first two Bill Clinton years, as tax increases and HillaryCare led to the Gingrich Congress before Mr. Clinton salvaged his Presidency by tacking to the center....

Never mind the fact that the Clinton tax increases actually worked. And pay no attention to the weakness of the Obama stimulus or the total failure, so far, to reform the financial sector. Utterly ignore GOP and Blue Dog obstructionism that makes every bill worse (and less progressive). This is a much simpler explanation: everything that's being done is liberal. And if it hasn't succeeded yet, then it failed, and liberalism failed -- because liberalism always fails.

Note that this isn't just assessing blame -- it's saying that failure is an innate part of liberalism. It's what the right-wing message machine does so well: it doesn't just fight whatever battles are at hand, it carefully develops, and endlessly promulgates, an overarching narrative in which all evil is always on our side.

By contrast, Joe Biden won't even assess a little bit of blame in the circumstances at hand. To Biden (and his boss), this isn't even a momentary battle; to the GOP, by contrast, this is total war. And it's a long war.

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