Democrats Seize the Day
I was stunned to see that Harry Reid used an obscure procedural technique to force the Senate into executive session to discuss pre-war intelligence. As a result, the Democrats were able to cut through the clutter of Avian flu, the Alito nomination, and Scott McClellan's credibility problems to put the spotlight on the Bush administration's incompetence and failures.
For once, maybe the first time since the 2000 election, the Democratic leadership seized the day.
It's worth highlighting the qualities associated with this manuever. INNOVATION, POLITICAL COURAGE, PUSHING THE ENVELOPE, CONFRONTATIONALISM, BRILLIANT TIMING--all of these qualities are much more readily associated with Tom DeLay, Mitch McConnell, and the Republican right than House and Senate Democrats. Equally stunning is the fact that the Democrats were able to take the offensive on an issue where most people agree with them. More people oppose the Iraq War, support abortion rights, support broader environmental protections, and support greater aid to the poor than the opposite. Nevertheless, the Democratic leadership has lacked the political vision, rhetorical skill, and policy ideas needed to turn public opinion into votes for Democratic candidates. Today's action is a hopeful sign that the Democrats can start competing with the Bush administration on the war issue.
The Democrats still have weaknesses. Anybody who read the daily newspapers (I get a Knight-Ridder paper in Kentucky) knew that Cheney's Iraq claims were a particularly thin tissue of lies. So, it's not like the Democrats shouldn't have figured out the Iraq intelligence issue before the invasion. Likewise, the Democrats still haven't come up with a alternative to the Bush administration's failed policies. So Bill Frist is right when he says that Senate Democrats "have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas.” After today, however, it is not as easy to say that the Senate Democrats are "gutless" and "inept" as well.
So, there's no reason to get over-optimistic. Perhaps the Senate Democrats won't be able to sustain today's aggressive posture. Perhaps, they're only fitfully capable of carrying out these kinds of manuevers. However, I'm perfectly willing to take "fitful effectiveness" from the Senate Democrats. It's a definite improvement.