March 9, 2006


The Three Stooges: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean (Jacob Weisberg, March 8, 2006, Slate)

To understand [Nancy Pelosi's] politics, think Huffington Post without the flashes of wit. Here is a typical Bush-bashing, cliché-ridden quote of hers: "The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality? Pull this curtain back!" Pelosi dismisses people who disagree as hoodwinked or stupid. She's not exactly Hillary Clinton herself, though. A five-minute interview is usually sufficient to exhaust her knowledge on any subject. And she can flop around like a fish. When Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., proposed a pullout, or "redeployment," of U.S. troops from Iraq in November, Pelosi's first reaction was to isolate him. "Mr. Murtha speaks for himself," she said. But after taking a drubbing from left-wing bloggers and her anti-war constituents, she announced that she supported Murtha after all. This shored up her image as Washington's answer to Barbra Streisand, and set up Dick Cheney to paint the Democrats as defeatist and unsupportive of our troops in Iraq.

Reid's flaws are mostly a mirror image of Pelosi's. A Mormon convert who grew up in a working-class family in a small town, he doesn't dabble in Hollywood politics. Reid voted for the Iraq war resolution, and is anti-gun-control, anti-gay marriage, and—most shocking for a Democratic figurehead—anti-abortion. But as a leader, he's colorless and erratic. Most of the time, he's a study in gray, except when he livens it up with a spasm of random aggression. Reid has called Alan Greenspan a "hack," Bush a loser and a liar, and, in one off-the-mark, vaguely racist-sounding rant, charged that Clarence Thomas' opinions were poorly written. (You can criticize Thomas' opinions for lots of things, but Slate's legal correspondent, Dahlia Lithwick, tells me they are quite well written.) After calling for more Supreme Court justices as brilliant as Antonin Scalia, he recommended that Bush nominate his undistinguished flunky Harriet Miers. Moreover, Reid's own pork-barreling and lobbyist-courting suggest that making him majority leader would merely replace the Republican hackocracy in Congress with a Democratic hackocracy. Reid has declined to repudiate contributions from Abramoff-linked Indian tribes, and his own family includes so many lobbyists that after some nasty press coverage, he had to ban them from his office.

Howard Dean is smarter than either Pelosi or Reid and clearly stands for something. Unfortunately, what he stands for in the minds of most people is incandescent rage and upscale socialism. [...]

But more important than what the three stooges do wrong is what they can't seem to do at all, namely articulate a positive agenda for reform and change. Voters have grown disenchanted with Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq and the country's finances, and with the evangelical tilt of many of his policies. But there remains a baseline mistrust of Democrats on security, the economy, and values issues. For a sweep big enough to recover both houses of Congress, the party will almost certainly need an affirmative message as well as a negative one. Democrats need to demonstrate they won't just cut and run from Iraq, that they see security as more than a civil liberties issue, and that their alternative to tax cuts isn't just more spending on flawed social programs and unchallenged growth in entitlements.

Mr. Weisberg is one of those poor souls on the Decent Left who still doesn't get that what he's just outlined is exactly the Democratic agenda and that he's a crypto-Bushie. After all, if they had any interest in entitlement refom they've the perfect president to work with on it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2006 12:00 AM
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