The false Beltway script never changes

The same people who warned the Democrats they were going to lose in 2006 for opposing the President are saying the same thing now.

Published October 21, 2007 11:12AM (EDT)

From an absolutely brilliant front-page article in The Washington Post, by two absolutely brilliant and serious political journalists:

Democrats Fear Backlash at Polls for Antiwar Remarks

By Jim VandeHei and Shalaigh Murray

Strong antiwar comments in recent days by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have opened anew a party rift over Iraq, with some lawmakers warning that the leaders' rhetorical blasts could harm efforts to win control of Congress next year.

Several Democrats joined President Bush yesterday in rebuking Dean's declaration to a San Antonio radio station Monday that "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."

The critics said that comment could reinforce popular perceptions that the party is weak on military matters and divert attention from the president's growing political problems on the war and other issues. "Dean's take on Iraq makes even less sense than the scream in Iowa: Both are uninformed and unhelpful," said Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), recalling Dean's famous election-night roar after stumbling in Iowa during his 2004 presidential bid.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader, have told colleagues that Pelosi's recent endorsement of a speedy withdrawal, combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party, congressional sources said.

These sources said the two leaders have expressed worry that Pelosi is playing into Bush's hands by suggesting Democrats are the party of a quick pullout -- an unpopular position in many of the most competitive House races. . . .

Despite Pelosi's claims that she echoes the views of most members in her caucus, plenty of Democrats are cringing at her new high profile on an Iraq withdrawal. Not only did she back a position that polls show most Americans do not support, but she also did this when Bush is trying to move off the defensive by accusing Democrats of supporting a de facto surrender.

"We have not blown our chance" of winning back the House but "we have jeopardized it," said a top strategist to House Democrats, who requested anonymity to speak freely about influential party leaders. "It raises questions about whether we are capable of seizing political opportunities or whether we cannot help ourselves and blow it" by playing to the liberal base of the party.

That was from December 7, 2005. Jim VandeHei is now at The Politico saying these things. Otherwise, everything is completely unchanged. And then there was this, from "liberal" Joe Klein in Time in January, 2006:

How to Stay Out of Power

Most polls indicate that a strong majority of Americans favor the act, and I suspect that a strong majority would favor the NSA [warrantless eavesdropping] program as well, if its details were declassified and made known.

[L]iberal Democrats are about as far from the American mainstream on these issues as Republicans were when they invaded the privacy of Terri Schiavo's family in the right-to-die case last year.

But there is a difference. National security is a far more important issue, and until the Democrats make clear that they will err on the side of aggressiveness in the war against al-Qaeda, they will probably not regain the majority in Congress or the country.

And then there was this, from "liberal" Eleanor Clift in Newsweek from March, 2006:

Republicans finally had something to celebrate this week when Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called for censuring George W. Bush. Democrats must have a death wish. Just when the momentum was going against the president, Feingold pops up to toss the GOP a life raft. . . .

The broader public sees it as political extremism. Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can't be trusted with the keys to the country.

In June of 2006, in the midst of the Lamont-Lieberman race and as the debate over Iraq intensified, the political genius Mark Halperin -- then of ABC News, now of Time -- presciently announced: "If I were them [Democrats], I'd be scared to death about November's elections."

Also in July 2006, National Journal's The Hotline (via LEXIS) compiled still further warnings that Democrats would be in big, big if the sensible war-proponent Joe Lieberman lost his primary:

Bloomberg's Hunt writes that Dem leaders are worried "about the political fallout" of the CT SEN primary. Dem pollster Peter Hart: "A Lieberman loss is very bad for Democrats; it says we are one dimension on Iraq. Politically, Iraq should be a debate about the Bush administration. A Lieberman defeat detracts from that." More than a few Dems "think Hart is right."

And NPR's Serious Mara Liasson in July 2006 also brilliantly warned (via LEXIS):

LIASSON: Yeah look, this -- and even if Lieberman ends up winning the general election, I think a loss in the primary would be a very, very big deal. I was in Denver at the DLC meeting, which is this group of centrist democrats, and all of them are very depressed and pessimistic about the primary, they think he's going to lose, but also, they're worried about the repercussions. What message does this send to other moderate democrats running this year? What does it do to Jewish voters and Jewish donors, and the Republicans will have a field day if he does lose, to say that the McGovernites have taken over the Democratic Party.

Throughout 2006, Democrats loudly protested the occupation of Iraq and made war opposition the centerpiece of their campaign. They voted in overwhelming numbers against Bush's warrantless eavesdropping bill and the Military Commissions Act. They ejected Joe Lieberman from their party. In short, they did all of the things which Beltway "Wisdom" shrilly warned that they had better not do if they wanted to win.

As a result, Rove's entire campaign was based on the accusation that Democrats were "soft on terror" and had been taken over by the Far Left because they "obstructed" Bush's policies. And this is what happened:

Nearly four years of one-party rule came to an end Tuesday night as Americans touched their screens and scanned their ballots on Tuesday for historic change in Washington and state capitals around the country. Although the details of the final count are still hours, and perhaps days, away, voters resoundingly ushered the Republican majority to the door of the House of Representatives and turned a majority of governors' mansions over to the Democrats. . . . .

It was also the biggest defeat of Bush's presidency, depriving him of a governing majority in Washington and raising new doubts about his effectiveness and agenda in his final two years in office.

After spending the entire year doing everything the Beltway geniuses warned them not to do, not a single Democratic incumbent lost anywhere in the country -- not one.

This "wisdom" -- don't oppose Mighty George Bush on national security, repudate that angry anti-war "Leftist Base" -- proved to be as wrong as anything could be. So now what do we hear?

Democrats better not oppose the President on Iraq, warrantless eavesdropping, presidential powers -- otherwise they will look too weak and jeopardize themselves politically. They better repudiate the "inflammatory" statements coming from their angry "left-wing" or else they will alienate voters and it will serve as a "distraction" from all the great and important things they could be doing. They better go along with the eavesdropping and amnesty agreement cooked up by the Serious Jay Rockefeller and the Serious Dick Cheney if they want to win in 2008 because defying the Leader's orders will make them look weak.

It's the same manipulative, demonstrably false script, uttered by the same mindless purveyors of Beltway idiocy -- the "journalists," the "liberal" pundits, the cowardly Democratic "strategists" hiding behind their anonymity, the Steny Hoyers and the Jay Rockefellers (and it all emanates from the right-wing noise machine, eager to intimidate Democrats into full compliance -- "if you oppose us, you will lose"). What they say over and over is falsified, but they continue to say the same thing over and over and are listened to. And what is happening as a result is exactly what one would expect to happen when one follows advice that has proven repeatedly to be completely wrong, spouted by people whose record would remove them from the realm of credibility if (hypothetically speaking) complete wrongness actually mattered -- this.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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