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Sealing the Deal 2006: What the Dems Must Do To Win Back the Congress

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Message Richard Rapaport
Forgive me for taking too much pleasure in watching the Republican Party "de-Foley-ate." For liberals, it has been one of those months in which television news has been continuously and blissfully whispering that change is at hand, as it did during Watergate Summer, 1973; Iran-Contra Summer, 1987; and Delay/Abramoff Autumn, 2005. Each day seems to confirm what the previous day's coverage hinted at: that the virus of scandal has taken on a life of its own, spreading across the nation as each putative Republican response falls a news-cycle short of getting control of the political discourse.

It is, of course, well past time that Republicans got a taste of their own medicine. Finally, after six years, the public seems immune from the propaganda stupid pills the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies have been successfully dispensing. It is suddenly impossible to ignore, let alone excuse, how disastrously wrong things have gone in Iraq, in Korea, in Afghanistan, in Congress, in our violence-ridden schools, and in so many other aspect of national life.

Nothing quite illustrates the sense that the Republicans are "whistling past the graveyard" than House Speaker Dennis Hastert's stumblebum performances earlier this month. In as bad a piece of scenery-management as the backdrop for President Bush's 2003 USS Abraham Lincoln "Mission Accomplished" speech, Speaker Hastert literally stood in front of an Illinois graveyard, and in essence, buried his own staff. This disaster followed Hastert's previous media-boner in which he lurched through the de rigueur "I take responsibility" apologia but was only able to reference "some politician in Washington" who once said something about 'the buck stopping somewhere.'

Please. Is it that Speaker Hastert is so addled without Tom Delay's tutelage that he doesn't remember the name of the author of that much-abused phrase? Or, is it that he simply couldn't bring himself to spit out the name of the arch-Democratic President Harry S. Truman for whom the "buck" did in-fact refreshingly stop at the Oval office.

The salty Thirty-Third President would have had something unprintable to say about Hastert and his "Do-Nothing Republican Congress," the phrase Truman used to good effect in his improbable 1948 reelection campaign. Truman would have been equally frank in comparing the current Republican leadership to Richard Nixon, a man, Truman once noted, who was not so much a pathological liar, as a man who simply couldn't distinguish between the truth and a lie.

Prevaricating features prominently in the Republican slash-and-burn electoral playbook. Other tactics include: Ignoring the real problems and stampeding the American public with the Korean, Al Qaida, and/or Iranian boogie-men; create a backfire by finding an earlier, if only tangentially relevant Democratic sexual scandal; attack the liberal media; and, if all else fails, blame Bill and Hilary.

As of today, it looks like those tried-and-trues simply won't work. Like a fever treated with an inadequate dose of antibiotics, the Bush administration has only managed to prolong the disease and make a cure virtually impossible prior to election. In this case, that disease is called "Power-Sharing."

In more-placid times, an administration could lose control of Congress and still function effectively through reason and compromise. Truman did it, Eisenhower did it, Reagan and George H.W. Bush did it. In 2001, even George W. Bush was able to hold his nose and deal with a Democratic-controlled Senate, at until 9/11.

No longer. After four years without any meaningful oversight this administration has grown so used to ruling by Presidential fiat that contact with an adversarial House or Senate, could be the political equivalent of H5-N1bird flu; as in "let the hearings begin."

The Democratic dilemma is equally problematic. Do they really want to begin what will be a poisonous two-years during which the authoritarian excesses of George Bush are examined, punished and exorcised? Might it not be better to give a Republican Congress two more years to destroy itself so thoroughly that by the 2008 Presidential election any Democrat, including Hilary, will be swept into power?

Don't get me wrong. It would be immensely soul-satisfying to put George Bush, Dennis Hastert, Mark Foley, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Carl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, et al, under oath and ask them what in God's name they were thinking. The fact is, however, that the country could probably stand 24 months of punishing Congressional hearings as little as it can tolerate two-more years of Bush-Cheney indifference to reality. Indeed, recognizing this critical conundrum could be a key to the Democrats successfully taking back Congress next month.

Which is why Democrats need to hit up major donors to buy television time on all major networks a day or so before the election. Such a "Demo-thon" would be designed to communicate that vengeance, however sweet, is not part of the party agenda. Such a political Demo-ganza would be hosted by an "A Team" including former Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Barak Obama, Hilary Clinton and others.

During that "Hour of Power," party stars would strive to give the American electorate a brief civics lesson about the importance of Congressional oversight and the disasters that have accrued without it. To seal the deal, the Democrats need to re-introduce Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durban and other potential leaders of the 110th Congress to show that they are not, as the Republicans insist, the spawn of Satan. Such a program will likely find an American public ready finally to listen to an unfiltered-by-Carl-Rove view of how American democracy might successfully begin function again beginning January 3, 2007.
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Richard Rapaport is a leading San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer.
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