January 31, 2005
The news becomes surreal...
It was a vain hope, really. Too much to ask for. I watched the news from Iraq, saw the long lines of men and women, the dancing of those who had voted, the defiant blue-finger salute, and I thought, "finally something that we all can agree on. For just a little while the red state and blue state factions can stop sniping at one another and enjoy the long-overdue happiness of a suffering people, and the first hints of a potential peace. After all, peace is something that we all are hoping for, right?"
I guess I was just naive. I should have expected that people who have been so consistently negative about the possibility of democracy, who mocked the Iraqi PM when he visited the US last fall, would find some way to be saddened by the sight of people peacefully queuing for their first vote in generations. I've been trying hard to maintain a centrist stance on this blog but this is getting to be too much. The Discerning Texan had a nice way of putting it.
What are the Democrats smoking?
Watching the Democrats react to the miraculous elections in Iraq is like watching a train wreck. Engaging, in its own way, but in the end tragic. Mostly it is just pathetic.
Pathetic and sad, really. The country needs a competent opposition on many of the domestic issues, but the Democrats are allowing their anti-war stance to drag them into an untenable anti-democracy stance.
Here's another way this could have been spun. Ascribe the success to the Iraqi people, not to the Bush administration. Crow about their incredible courage in coming out in the midst of a quagmire to pull themselves up out of misery. Tell the world about how you (the Democrats) are all about power in the hands of the ordinary folks, and that this is just the sort of zeal for enfranchisement that you want to see in American elections.
I'm not saying I agree with any of the above or would buy into it myself, but it would at least be a reasonably coherent position. There are lots of ways for Democrats to spin this somewhat their way, but that's not how its being handled. If they are trying to play to the Michael Moore fanatic crowd who cannot tolerate any good news out of Iraq, then shame on them. I said before the November election that I was disturbed by the way the Democratic party leadership had seeming lost control of their more radical or lunatic element. It seems they have been subsumed into them.
A few leaders in the party seem to have found a second way to handle this, they are just staying out of the news. There is plenty of time until the next election, and the best response for some Democrats is probably silence.
The Discerning Texan links to this OpEd by John Podhoretz in the New York Post:
Hillary? Hillary, are you there?
Wow, suddenly it's so quiet in here you can hear crickets chirping.
Yesterday's amazing human drama in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates changes the nature of the political bet on Iraq, and that's why you don't hear Hillary Clinton throwing her lot in with the skeptics.
I'm sure that Hilary is happy to sit back and watch other major figures in the party take themselves out of any future race. Just visualize the ad that is probably already been storyboarded by the Repubs. Images of Iraqi's voting, dancing, happily displaying their ink stained finger, flags waving, tears flowing. Under these inspiring visuals we hear Ted Kennedy declaring the whole thing a failure. Then we hear George Bush calling for freedom around the world, proclaiming freedom the birthright of all people. All those quotes and sound bites are being stored away for a rainy day. Hilary has at least denied Rove the sound clip he needs to drag her into the trap. She seems to have figured out that the anti-war platform was contested in the last election and it lost. The 2008 election (even the 2006) are not going to be about the decision to go to war. That's over and done. Leave it to the historians. Chances are good that the big issue in next election will be some other country not yet boiled over. Republicans will grab some approval points while they can, and the smart Democrats will lay low and wait for the situation to "ripen" a bit. The fools are out there still trying to argue the last election.
The NY Post is not my idea of a "thought-leader", but I like the way their editorial writer put it:
This was a stunning repudiation of the terrorists — and a signal moment in the eternal quest for human freedom. The Kerry-Kennedy failure to recognize that illustrates their personal moral myopia — while the Democratic Party's failure to celebrate it demonstrates its institutional lack of ethical bearings.
The party has no legitimate claim on the attention of serious people.
It's that simple.
There really are ways to oppose this administration and engage in constructive debate that would help balance the discussion and actually make things better. As a committed centrist I want to see a healthy debate and presentation of opposing viewpoints. But where are the serious Democrats? Is there nothing but bad news and nihilist fantasy in their vision? Is there anyone ready to at least try to make a case that they can make the country and the world better? (Is this where the centrists rush onto the field and take up the game? Is there where I stop asking rhetorical questions?)
The nuttiness isn't limited to the Democratic Party. Arthur Chrenkoff, who has been an absolutely indispensable read these last few weeks, has collected news reports that seems to come from some alternate reality. He comment on one story...
Bush's big win in Iraq puts him in a similar position to this famous personality: "Sistani emerges winner even without taking part in Iraq vote". Bush's excuse for non-participation is that he's Texan; Sistani, on the other hand is Iranian. Both are oil-rich fundamentalist states, according to the relativist left; the difference is that Texan Jews live in Dallas, and Iranian Jews live in Beverly Hills.
If Bush didn't get a mandate in his victory, it's hard to see how Sistani is a big winner here, even if he turns out to have the plurality of seats. These voters have only the vaguest notion of who the candidates are, let along the issues and how the candidates will perform. This was all about just showing up. SImple participation. The winning names will be at best a simple name recognition test, possibly a largely random thing, like votes in this district for the Port Commission (Eight people on the ballot and you've never heard of a one of them.)
Nobody wants to see this election for what it really is. A simple validation of the direction and the process. The real winner is the move from Saddam/Baathist dictatorship to a pluralistic democracy. The people clearly want that to work. The details? Who will be the eventual power? How will the factions line up and form coalitions? Expect lots of surprises. The next election is less that a year away and the people will be a lot more informed and experienced by then. If anything, guys like Sistani who have immediate name recognition now are likely to lose influence as the debate over the constitution brings new faces to the forefront. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the person who eventually becomes the established leader of the new Iraq is not on any political radar at the moment.
This is helpful for George Bush & Co. but it's not really their victory. The Iraqi leaders who have committed to the political process (rather than the terrorist process), certainly benefit by a strong voter turnout, but they aren't the real victors either. This is a big win for the "humble people" as Giraldo Rivera called them. Their chance, finally, to be heard. Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of the Ceauşescu in Romania, or the recent re-vote in Ukraine, this was a bottom-up victory. Let's give them the credit they're due.