Time for the Democrats to put up or shut up

On Thursday, the new Democratic leadership of Congress must start proving it can live up to the promise that led to their return to power on Capitol Hill.

Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say they are "prepared to govern and ready to lead."

We’ll see.

The Democrats return to power at a low point in American history. The death toll of American military men and women in President George W. Bush’s illegal and immoral war in Iraq topped 3,000 just before the old year ended and violence continues unabated as that country sinks further and further into uncontrollable civil war.

Bush continues to delay any announcement of any plan, if indeed he has one, on how to change course in Iraq. White House sources tell me the delay stems from Bush’s stubbornness and unwillingness to admit things in Iraq are as bad as everyone else, including his senior advisors, knows.

This leadership vacuum from an increasingly ineffective President leaves Congress with a golden opportunity to step up and take a decisive role in responding to a national crisis.

If they can…or will…or even know how.

Leadership, true leadership, is a lost art in modern American politics. Bush confuses stubborn determination to pursue a failed course as leadership. That inability to separate fantasy from reality cost his party control of Congress and leaves him in political exile from his own party.

Yet the new Democratic leadership in Congress has yet to show it is ready to fill the void. Pelosi’s early missteps in backing the ethically-challenged John Murtha in his failed leadership bid and her backtracking from a firm Iraq withdrawal timetable show she is more cautious politician than strong leader.  Reid is so corrupt that some doubt he can finish out his Senate career without ending up in jail.

After winning control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, Republicans quickly fell under the spell of power and began backtracking on the promises that helped secure that power. They abandoned promises of term limits, forgot pledges to curtail pork barrel spending and walked away from other parts of their "Contract with America."

Democrats display the same symptoms. They quickly stepped back from any firm timetables for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and announced a lengthy schedule of hearings and probes into the war and the reasons for launching it – a time consuming process that will last easily into the 2008 elections.

The "moratorium on pork" announced by Democratic leaders applies only to the massive glut of taxpayer bennies the Republicans larded onto bills in the final days of Congress and both Pelosi and Reid already face a mini-revolt in their ranks from Democrats who say they will need that pork to stay in office and keep the folks back home happy.

I can hope the Democrats prove me wrong and start to deliver on the fragile trust from voters.

Perhaps they will surprise all of us and really do something to reform Congress, the election system and the out-of-control bureaucracy in Washington.

Perhaps they will bring the troops home before the death toll hits 6,000 or 12,000 or 25,000.

And perhaps there will be pork in the treetops.


  1. Calico_jack

    “Yet the new Democratic leadership in Congress has yet to show it is ready to fill the void.”

    Ok, but can we first let the new Congress get sworn in before we wonder why they haven’t taken any action? I mean, this is a mess that is going take long enough to fix anyway.

  2. Doris Crothers

    Re “Reid is so corrupt…” Could we please have some proof for this unsupported assertion? I certainly question most politicians, but I think we should question the press as well. If more readers and listeners would question the media, perhaps Rush and Fox News and anyone else who says things as if they were true, but without the proof, would be more accountable.

  3. talker

    The grassroots has thrown out a lot of the old school Democrats this time. Jim Webb is a good example of a netroots candidate, recruited outside of the party. We can keep doing this if these officials don’t perform. There are a lot of these different types of Democrats which have been elected this time.

  4. Barbara Peterson

    We had a very good candidate running for our Congressman’s seat, and when he asked his own party for their support, he was turned down. The party was afraid “their party of GOP and DEMS would lose out if a foreigner came in who was really there to do the job he was voted to do.

    I agree with those of you who say there is no two party system, only one for all and all for one. We are the losers.

  5. Doris:

    Harry Reid’s corruption has been well documented on this web site and by many other news organizations, including The Washington Post, New York Times, Las Vegas Sun and Associated Press. His shady land deals and failure to report earnings from those deals are violations of both Senate rules and the law.

    The man is a crook and we don’t like crooks around here — Republican or Democrat.


  6. Doris C.

    Thanks Fred and Doug. Perhaps I wrongly assumed that Republicans would be all over Reid if he had committed some illegal act or deal. Count me in on those opposed to crooks, Democrat, Republican or anywhere in between.

  7. SEAL

    Doug, I can tell you how to stop the carnage in Iraq. I laid it out for them in the beginning but, of course, they didn’t listen.

    I have the experience advantage of Vietnam and having spent almost 13 years off and on in the Middle East including Bush War I (the legitimate one). The nature of my service allowed me to actually “get to know” the people. What I learned is not unique and I imagine that someone told told these knotheads after “mission accomplished” that there is no way in hell you can establish a democratic government to rule Iraq in the model they have attempted. There are three primary ethnic/religious factions there that will never peacefully coexist as one governing body. Bring them together and they will continue to settle their differences as they always have, by killing each other. Therefore, the only thing they have accomplished is to create a civil war.

    I won’t go into the obvious mistake of disbanding the existing government, the police, fire, etc. necessary to keep the infastructure operating. All military commanders know the stupidity of that, but they weren’t making the decisions then or since. What I will do is describe a simple solution that would allow us to end the uncontrollable bloodshed and extracate ourselves with some sembalence of justification.

    First – disband the current Iraqi goverment. Then, create the United States of Iraq. Draw lines in the sand to create the Sunni state, the Shiite state, and the Kurd state. Let each state be soverign and create their own government of elected officials. Make Bagdad the national and free zone to house the central Iraqi coalition or government or pick a name with equal representation from each state to represent the counrty to the rest of the world, settle disputes, facillitate national services like roads and utilities, and so forth. The country’s oil wealth must be nationalized and would be divided equally among the states according to population. Each state would be responsible for policing themselves absent any interference from the others. There are many details that would have to be worked out but that would be the basic plan and it would work.

    A coalition army is not possible as is evidenced by the present condition. Each state could have it’s own if it desired. Agression against another state would be outlawed and enforced by the United Nations.

    To continue the present course, no matter how it is done, would eventually result in a Shiite strongman (probably Sadar) rising to the top, taking control of the country, and killing Sunnis until the resistance stopped whereupon a purge would ensue. The Kurds would undoubtably get into it with Iran and who knows what that would lead to. Contrary to popular view, Iraq would not align with Iran or anyone else. Iraqi’s are a very independent people regarless of their religion.

  8. SEAL, you’ve pretty much described a condensed version of the Biden Plan.
    As far as a tripartate Iraq goes, I hear it’s already pretty much a done deal according to the Iraqi Parliament and even if this government is disbanded I expect the vote to go the very same way again and again. Iraq is a false country created by the Brits in the early 20th century. A loose federation of states might work however. It’s probably the only thing that WILL work and naturally it means that the oil rich will suffer. Therefore it will be opposed tooth and nail by the administration now and until their sphere of influence begins and ends in Crawford Texas.

  9. Simon_Boudreaux

    What can we do as a people when our letters,emails,and phone calls to our state reps do nothing but fall on deaf ears?I have written those letters.I have written those emails.I however have not made those phone calls for fear of not keeping my anger in check while on the phone.
    When everything we do is not taken as what we the people consider our best interest for our country.
    What else can we do?
    Are there any websites that are organizing mass protest of the capital?If enough Americans march up to Congress and the White House and demand to be heard will it work?Will it be enough?

    Seriously folks when will we say ENOUGH!and do something about it other than sitting in front of our keyboards and griping about it?

    I mean what stops us?Is it fear of what they might do to us?Is it our thinking I’m only one person what can I do?

    Doug how many people read The Rant or Capital Hill Blue on a daily basis?Would it really be that hard for us to come together as Americans and tell these bastards we’ve had enough?

  10. Kent Shaw

    SEAL and Jeffery Haas make very good points. But we all know the U.S. will never stand for nationalization of Iraqi Oil. The fascist U.S. government believes that BIG OIL should have it ALL.

  11. Johnny Flatline

    A friend of mine has a certain relative who holds a certain position near the top of the Democratic Party apparatus. And he told me something that perhaps should be remembered here:

    “This Republican-Democratic thing is just a game. These guys are all on the same team. They hang together. They attend each other’s weddings. The party divisions shown in the media is just a distraction.”

    As I watched a documentary called The Great American Blackout the other day, which shamefully is not shown on TV, I was reminded what happens to any politician (i.e. McKinney) who dares to challenge our vast defense contractor industry – an industry that thrives off of quagmires, hidden budgets, corruption and indecision. Congress is not owned by the ‘people.’ So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking a new party is going to make a dime’s worth of difference. Optimism is a risky bet these days.

  12. Frank E

    Johny Flatline is 100% correct.

    It’s just a dog and pony show.

    Our politicians are simply the “A” and “B” teams of the same hidden political party – the Corporate Party aka The Military Industrial Complex.

    They start the wars and we pay them handsomely for it with blood and dollars.

    To save our democratic republic we must wrest the power away from these companies by voting out every single incumbent (corporate owned or otherwise) at every election cycle for the next 20 years.

    ~ Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue ~

  13. Anthny

    I have said it many times before and I will say it again.
    The Democrats and Republicans are a two party DICTATORSHIP………….
    The Bottom line is if we ever get a third party into any of the senate or congress they might have a chance to change things for the better.
    My dear old father used to say that no matter who got in office they would be corrupted by the powers that be. Money has a certain influence on the good people, when they enter with all good intentions to do the right thing they are done in by the huge connections they make and the thought of having a good life, that they never have to work for again, weather in office or in the board room afterward as a lobbyist……….Of course we can stop them all if we are united. But like any good political propaganda movement they will work there way into our organization and make in-fighting a thing that will divide us.
    Or just come out and shoot who ever gets in there way. And admit that they are a dictatorship and we can not do a thing about it………
    Except we as Americans have to stand up for what is just and honest and fight for the little man, we have the brains if it ever gets down to a

  14. David Rosenberg

    Backing out bringing the troops home is not all. The bigest backout was Impeachment. They gave hope to punish bush for his crimes but not a minute after winning back the power, it was taken off their agenda. It passed by the “Back Burner” and put in the trash. The Dems inherited a truly broken Congress, it would’ve taken bold moves to fix but, the Dems are not up for it. Oh, they will make small patches here and there and when time passes, it will be DDSS.

  15. David, at this moment I’m more concerned about stopping the carnage in Iraq but your concern that little, if anything, will happen is, I fear, spot on.


  16. I expect little from either party. The Republicans are the bad crooks and the Democrats have become the good crooks.

    The ruling elite decided to attack the American middle class in the 1970s. They have been entirely successful. The only way to get a handle on our problems is to get rid of the ruling elite by taxing it to death.

  17. Hank Thomas

    Democrats BETTER immediately cut all war funds and raise thr 1% taxes to restore trillions from the debt Bush screwed up so badly.

    Impeach Bush and sue to oil cos to repay the trillions in profit gouging and lower prices to 1.00 a gallon.

    Jsil Bush and execute him by hanging with his whole family including wife who conspired with him.

  18. Wayne K Dolik

    We are hearing some very good and astute comments from all of Doug’s readers today. I see much of the same as I’m just coming off of the recent election where I worked for a progressive House of Representatives candidate who did not win in California.

    Let me share my view of Democrats as I see the situation. Firstly, the progressive wing of the party, which closely lines up with the voter did not fare so well this last election cycle. You might ask the big power brokers in the Democratic Party why? To be blunt most Progressives were simply “stiffed” when it came to Party funds. This resulted in fewer Progressives being elected this cycle. I know from first hand experience the power brokers siphoned funds out of District’s for out of state races. The rest of the time the power brokers decide where they’re going to spend your money. Like handicapping a horse race or something. Quite frankly, there were many races where money was tight. We could have won more seats in Congress; period.

    If we want to see change in Washington we all must stay ever vigilant. Let’s weed out some of these incumbent losers in both Parties if they vote against our values. We need to demand that more Progressives get elected to Congress in the Democratic Party. And for my Republican friends we need to keep Republicans once again loyal to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    In respect to Pelosi and Reid I don’t expect much from this duo either. From my interaction with the Southern Ca. Democratic loyalists at a recent Christmas party, they are still fuming that Pelosi stated that impeachment is off the table. I tend to hang with the progressives and their mad as heck.

  19. Miss Grace

    When are Americans going to realize the terrible price they are paying for their apathy??

    My husband and I attended a holiday party. Most guests were college-educated fairly successful boomers — people who are active in our community. Several have draft-age grandsons. At one point during the evening, the topic of conversation turned to Iraq. One by one, guests loudly denounced the war. They angrily complained about the loss of life, unchecked spending by the Administration in general, our poor image abroad, and failure of Congress to address pressing domestic issues.

    During a lull in the conversation, my husband casually asked, “So, when was the last time you emailed your reps in DC to demand an end to the war?”

    There was complete silence for a moment. Then, one person summed up the prevailing thought — “Well, I donated $100 to the DNC and I voted Democratic in November. Now that the Democrats won, they’ll take care of it. I don’t need to do anything else –I’ve done my part.”

    Doug is right — the Dems are not going to start to deliver until we hold their feet to the fire. And, from where I sit, it’s seems awfully cold out there. True and lasting reform requires a lot more from us than trotting to the ballot box or pulling out a checkbook every couple of years. If we’re not up for it, we’ll continue paying the price.