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Election '06: GOP's culture of corruption vs. Dems culture of weakness

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The American Heritage Dictionary describes the term "weak" as "lacking firmness of character or strength of will, lacking aptitude or skill, lacking the ability to function normally or fully or lacking authority or the power to govern." Incredibly, even with President Bush at an all-time low, we are watching the Democratic Party in Washington fulfill all these definitions and more.

Let's just forget about the fact that congressional Democrats refuse to take a serious position on the Iraq War - the most pressing national security issue of the day. Let's forget about what a joke it is for the party to think it is going to compete on national security without taking a serious, contrasting position on the war. Let's even forget about the fact that the party is still too afraid to do this while polls have now shown for 3 years that the American public wants a change of direction on war policy. Let's just take a look at what's gone on over the last week.

First, you saw the House Democratic Leadership publicly pee down its leg in knee-shaking fright, removing a major report on Republican corruption from its website. Why? Because they feared the GOP would yell at them about it. Now, a sane person would say - that would be great! If the GOP did that, it would call attention to the report, right? Yes, you are right - but today's congressional Democrats are apparently so afraid of their own shadow, so self-absorbed and comfortable in the minority, that they are afraid even to bait the GOP into doing what they should want them to do.

Then, yesterday, you saw Democratic Senators run for cover when one of their own - Sen. Russ Feingold (D) - courageously asked the U.S. Senate to stand up and defend the Constitution by censuring the president for breaking the law with his illegal, no-court-order domestic wiretapping scheme. Again, polls show the public believes the president should have to get a court order, and should not be able to simply make up laws on his own. Yet, Senate Democrats - cowering in fear in the comfortable confines of the Senate cloakroom - refused to back up Feingold.

The specific reactions were predictable, but no less nauseating. The Washington Post gave voice to the omnipotent Democratic "strategists" - you remember, those are the professional political hacks who have run the party straight into the ground:

"Several Democratic strategists said surveillance issues are not Bush's most vulnerable spot, and they fear the party may appear extremist. 'It is more likely that a big censure fight would have the effect of rallying folks to his side,' said one Democratic strategist and former Clinton aide. 'While some in the Democratic base want retribution for what happened to Clinton,' the adviser said, 'I think there is a larger reluctance to try to remove people from office.'"

First of all, no one was "trying to remove people from office" - it was a censure motion. But more importantly, you just have to sit back and say "wow." What a way to back up a courageous move, huh? Send out the unnamed party "strategists" to torpedo any sign of strength. It's so predictably pathetic it's hard to even be outraged anymore.

Then there was Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) who the AP reports "said he had not read [the resolution] and wasn't inclined simply to scold the president." Now that's showing "strength" huh?

When you look at all this, you really think you are watching a Saturday Night Live skit about a political party. It's just so ridiculous, so pathetic, so inane that the people who are behaving this way just HAVE to be joking. It just HAS to be a comedy sketch.

But it isn't. Here you have President Bush at 36 percent in the latest Gallup poll. That is "a record low" with "the decline showing mostly among independents, with a substantial decline also found among Republicans," according to the Associated Press. Here you also have Vice President Dick Cheney with an 18 percent favorability rating, according to the latest CBS poll And yet, Democrats, like paranoid deranged totally-out-of-touch lunatics, are hiding in the shadows, afraid to do anything.

Look, I'd like to believe this is going to work as an election strategy, because I'd like to see Democrats win in 2006. But here's the thing: I live in the real world, not the Washington bubble. Expecting voters to be so stupid and so naive that they will vote for a political party that portrays itself as this weak is, again, something out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

E.J. Dionne put it best in a recent column: "Democrats are so obsessed with not looking 'weak' on defense that they end up making themselves look weak, period, by the way they respond to Republican attacks on their alleged weakness." The same could be said for all other issues. There are so many invertebrates walking around calling themselves Democrats in Washington these days - whether politicians, staffers, or consultants - that being weak and pathetic have become synonymous with the party label in our nation's capital. And while Democrats may rightly berate the Republicans' "culture of corruption," they have a lot bigger problems dealing with their own "culture of weakness."

The question, then, of the 2006 election is really simple: will voters support the GOP's culture of corruption, or will they support Democrats culture of weakness? Because, regardless of what blowhards like Charlie Cook or wishful-thinking Democratic consultants say, that's exactly what this election is going to be about. Democrats will air lots of commercials hammering the GOP for the corruption scandals, and the GOP will air lots of commercials hammering Democrats for having no positions at all on major issues. You can already see their strategy - just look at how House Speaker Denny Hastert recently aired this message loud and clear.

Frankly, that's an awful comparison for Democrats. People certainly hate corruption, but polls show most believe both parties are corrupt. And people would likely rather have a corrupt party running the show, then one that is so weak, so indecisive, and so needlessly frightened of its own shadow that it can't take the most basic stands. And unless Democrats start turning this around, all their righteous, and well-grounded indignation at the GOP scandals will sound like an infant whining and crying in its crib - not an effective call to remove the GOP from power.

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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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