What’s the Point?

The Democrats appear to be putting all their eggs in the pre-war intelligence basket, but why? Certainly not because they actually believe it’s a legitimate issue. Several investigations have already concluded that the Bush administration didn’t manipulate pre-war intelligence, and the Democrats, from Bill Clinton on, made all the same claims about Saddam’s weapons, etc., that the Bush administration did. Moreover, the whole idea that the administration would use Iraq’s WMDs as a “pretext” for war is stupid. If the administration knew Saddam didn’t have the weapons, then it also knew its “pretext” would be exposed as soon as the invasion was complete. No one would be dumb enough to go to war on the basis of a claim that was not only wrong, but would quickly be shown to be wrong. So the Democrats aren’t acting in good faith, they’re playing politics.

But it’s a funny kind of politics, isn’t it? The point seems to be to drive down President Bush’s approval ratings. To some degree the Dems’ slander has succeeded in doing that, although it’s hard to measure because so many of the polls are meaningless, like the new CBS poll I commented on last night.

But how does this strategy, even if it works, make sense? Bush doesn’t have to run again. The Dems should be focused on next year’s Senate and House elections. But it’s hard to believe the “pre-war intelligence” theme will be effective next November. For one thing, conditions in Iraq are likely to be better by then, with troops coming home. More important, while the war was rightfully a pre-eminent issue in last year’s Presidential race, it is at most a sideshow in any individual Senator’s or Representative’s race. None of the Republicans running next year bear any particular responsibility for the war, and there is unlikely to be much difference of opinion as to how the conflict should be handled going forward. If Democratic House and Senate candidates think they can win by running, McGovernlike, on an immediate withdrawal platform, they’re badly misreading the American people.

So I can’t see how the Dems’ strategy makes sense in the context of next year’s elections. If that’s true, why are they focused so single-mindedly on the Iraqi intelligence red herring?

I think perhaps the Democrats in the Senate are trying to distract their activist base from the reality of their own impotence. Vital events are, of course, transpiring in the Senate right now, including ANWR drilling–approved today–and, most notably, President Bush’s Supreme Court nominations. Nothing is more important to the Democratic base than preserving the liberal orientation of the Supreme Court. But the President has now dealt two hammer blows to liberal control of the Court–the only branch of the federal government still under liberal control–in the form of the Roberts and Alito nominations.

Democratic activists desperately want to block Judge Alito from ascending to the Court, but the reality is that Senate Democrats are powerless to achieve that goal. Alito’s qualifications are unassailable, the Democrats are a minority party, and the Republicans are united in the conviction that Alito deserves a vote. A filibuster isn’t out of the question, but if the Dems try it, it will fail.

So the Senate Democrats can’t come through for their party where it counts. I doubt that the timing of the Month of Valerie is a coincidence; I suspect it is intended mostly to distract the Democratic base from the reality of the Senate Democrats’ impotence.


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