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On Roberts, Who Is More Pathetic: The Media, or the Democrats?

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The former's reporting on some of the most important issues has become so silly and divorced from reality that you'd think you were reading/hearing/watching something that was deliberately fiction. The latter regularly spews such inane drivel that you'd think the Democratic Party was actually trying to lose elections and embarrass itself.

In trying to answer the "who is more pathetic?" question, we can look no further than the to-do over Supreme Court nominee John Roberts for clues. The media is today breathlessly discussing how Democrats - especially 2008 presidential hopefuls - supposedly have a big choice to make in their vote on Roberts: whether to vote no to supposedly pander to the Democratic base, or vote yes and supposedly play to "centrist" voters. Here's the third-grade-level question that the Ivy Leaguers in the Beltway media can't seem to even fathom, much less consider: what is "appealing" to centrists about voting for a guy as extreme as John Roberts?

The fact is, there are very serious questions surrounding Roberts record that go well-beyond just the fact that we are about to make a guy who has served less than 3 years on the bench the most important judge in America. For instance, he has very questionable and extreme positions on (among others) privacy, civil rights, and women's rights - and you can bet that if you polled Americans on these issues, Roberts' positions (or at least what we know of them) would be far outside of the mainstream, "centrist" view. This says nothing of Roberts' absolute refusal to explain any of his troubling views and the total lack of any investigation into his tenure as a hired gun defending corporate abusers.

Then again, you might not know about Roberts' extreme positions both because of the sad state of American journalism, and the sad state of the Democratic Party. Both of these big players have largely given Roberts a pass on these questions and billed him as a "moderate" because he is a smooth-talking, upper-class-emanating, Chamber of Commerce-oozing corporate lawyer from the Washington, D.C. suburbs, who really does have such a nice smile and such a gosh darn nice all-American family and boy is he just so smart and well-spoken...have you vomited yet? Probably.

But even after you think you have choked on that last stubborn chunk of regurgitated bile caught in your esophagus, the nauseating declarations just don't stop, do they? As anyone who has paid even a bit of attention knows, most analysis of Roberts - by both reporters and Democrats - continues to incessantly stress (as if some sort of repetitive torture) how Roberts' "intellect" is unsurpassed, how he supposedly has "impeccable" credentials, and how cordial he is in person - as if the qualifications for assuming the most powerful legal position in America is being a nice, smart careerist, no matter how extreme one's positions are.

And that gets us to the Democratic strategists et al whose whole strategy has been to go easy on Roberts and not focus on letting the public know about his extreme positions. This cabal of seemingly ever-present, ever-quoted unnamed sources has made a living off of spewing out the same "strategy" that has created, justified, and perpetuated the decline of the Democratic Party for the last decade. In the latest display, the New York Times today quotes "Democratic strategists" saying that "with Roberts widely expected to win confirmation, members of their party should vote for him in order to appear open-minded and save their ammunition for the fight ahead."

Yet, it was the same Democratic strategist class that helped create the perception in the first place that Roberts is "widely expected to win confirmation." If you recall, the very first day after the Roberts nomination was announced, Democratic strategists (most likely before they even gave a cursory review of Roberts' record) pitched a front page story to the Washington Post headlined "Democrats Say Nominee Will Be Hard to Defeat." Great strategy for a party that is perceived to stand for nothing: lead the biggest debate with an admission that you don't have enough guts to even make a fight of it.

That, of course, immediately led to television reports right after Roberts was nominated blaring to the world that Democrats were going to lay down and die. As CNN, for instance, reported that night, unnamed Democrats "admit privately that, barring some sort of political cataclysm, John Roberts is going to be confirmed easily." Wolf Blitzer soon noted that "the conventional assessment here in Washington that he'll have pretty much smooth sailing up on Capitol Hill" - exactly, thanks to strategists within the Democratic Party.

Thus, to review: the strategists saying the party now needs to capitulate are the same strategists who created the pro-capitulation circumstances/conventional wisdom in the first place. Wonderful - what absolutely brilliant, self-fulfilling "strategy," especially in light of President Bush being in the weakest position he's ever been in. Perfect! Let's give these strategists a raise!

Beyond the sheer gutlessness of all of this is the incredible fact that these same Democratic "strategists" who have run the party into the ground actually have the gall to tell reporters and the public they are "strategists" instead of simply rewriting their business cards to say "professional election losers" or "party destroyers." Remember, these are the self-important, first-ones-to-tell-you-how-smart-they-really-are dolts whose legacy is a Democratic Party that continues to lose elections, and a Democratic Party that has no official position on Iraq, energy, bankruptcy, trade, repealing the Bush tax cuts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and now the Supreme Court.

This last capitulation is particularly embarrassing when you look at the recent shenanigans. Hours after one Democratic leader tried to lead his party in a strong direction, other Democratic Senators were - as usual - undermining him. Meanwhile, still other profile-in-courage Democrats were running all over Washington publicly handwringing about how they will vote. And then, what do you know, come next election, these same Democrats will wonder how come America doesn't know what we stand for? For the love of god, they will bellow, how come no one thinks we are strong, and take strong positions? What a hilarious, laugh-out-loud, piss-your-pants joke it would all be - if it wasn't so sad.

Ok. In the course of writing this, I've found my answer. As pathetic and braindead as the media is in only being able to see their narrow, insulated little playground of Washington, D.C. in terms of inaccurate stereotypes that reflect nothing of the actual real world, the current state of Democratic Party affairs is more pathetic. And it is time for all of us to let them know it, or the party will never change, and never win another national election.

Media says vote for Roberts is "centrist":
Democrats have no party position on trade:

Democrats have no party position on repealing the Bush tax cuts after Katrina:

Hours after Reid announces he will vote against Roberts, Baucus undermines him:

Reid courageously says he will vote against Roberts:

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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