Delusion and Illusion Worthy of Dickens
By MAUREEN DOWD
The Democrats will never win the White House as long as they're stuck in Bleak House. They're slipping and sliding in the same crust-upon-crust of mud and caboose-creeping fog and soft black drizzle and flakes of soot that blacken the chamber of law in the opening of the terrific Dickens novel (now an irresistible PBS series).
The lumbering pace of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce will pale compared with the time it will take the cowed and colicky Democrats to yank back power from Republicans skilled at abusing it.
The party simply seems incapable of getting the muscular message and riveting messenger needed to dispel the mud, fog, drizzle and soot emanating from Karl Rove's rag-and-bone shop on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As the White House drives its truckload of lies around the country, it becomes ever clearer that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore are just not the right people to respond to the administration's national security scare-a-thon.
We got mired in Iraq in the first place partly because Dick Cheney and Rummy thought that, post-Vietnam and post-Clinton, America was seen as soft. One shock-and-awe session, one tyrant stomped on, they reckoned, and the Arab world would no longer see Americans as wimps. That reasoning turned out to be dangerous, flying in the face of warnings from our own intelligence experts.
But Karl Rove is still dishing out the same line, and it's still working: those who want to re-evaluate the strategy in Iraq are soft. Those who want to rein in the Patriot Act are soft. Those who question the Alito doctrine of presidential absolutism are soft. Those who don't want to break the law and snoop on Americans are soft - not just soft, but practically collaborating with the terrorists.
"Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview" on national security, Mr. Rove said last week, "and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong - deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."
But you only need to check the paper daily to see that this administration has been deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong on everything: from the promise to rebuild Iraq and the consequences of deploying a strained Army this long in an insurgent war to the failure to respond to the aftermath of Katrina, after dissembling about pre-storm alarms.
The bumbling Bush team that ignored the warning "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" also ignored one that went something like: "Katrina Determined to Attack New Orleans." And now the White House is trying to inhibit Congressional questions on Katrina, just as it did for the 9/11 inquiries.
The administration's p.r. offensive on warrantless - and questionably effective - snooping is so aggressive that it has even risked exposing the president to an occasional unscripted, but still not tough, question. So he rambles on about steering clear of "Brokeback Mountain" and the therapeutic value of mountain biking. And he calls Barney, the Scottish terrier, "the son I never had." (Barney's dad is all bark and no bite.)
The White House is as skittish about bilked Indians as it is about billing-and-cooing cowboys. It admits it has pictures of the president with Jack Abramoff, but won't cough them up.
While he was out defending his scofflaw behavior, W. had to address the fact that the real nuclear threat (Iran), as opposed to the fake nuclear threat (Iraq), is embarrassing him. He told the Iranian people: "We have no beef with you." (State Department reporters puzzled over how that might be translated into Farsi: "We have no cow with you"?)
You couldn't turn on a TV this week without seeing Torture Guy Alberto Gonzales give all-purpose legal cover to Dick Cheney as that Grim Peeper ravages the Constitution. At a Georgetown University speech, W.'s legal lickspittle ignored a few student protesters, but he might have learned something from their banner, emblazoned with words of Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."
In their usual twisted way, the Bushies are reducing their abuse of the law to a test of testosterone - knowing that the Democrats will play Judy to their Punch.
The Dems need to drum up a decent message so they look as if they know what the Dickens they're doing before the November election. Otherwise, they'll look like bowed supplicants holding out gruel cups to Karl Rove and pleading, "Please, sir, I want some more."