(updated below - Update II)
In the world of the Beltway pundit, Bush Dog Representative, and Democratic strategist, this is how Democrats prove how "strong" and tough they are and avoid being demonized as "weak" and "soft"; this is all just from today:
From The Hill:
From The Washington Post:
From The Hill:
And this passage from the CNN article -- in which Democrats try to explain that they didn't completely capitulate in every single way possible -- is one of the most pity-inducing of the year, and there is a very healthy competition for that distinction:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic lawmakers and staffers privately say they're closing in on a broad budget deal that would give President Bush as much as $70 billion in new war funding. The deal would lack a key provision Democrats had attached to previous funding bills calling for most U.S. troops to come home from Iraq by the end of 2008, which would be a significant legislative victory for Bush.
Still, Democrats are trying to sell $70 billion in new war funding as a partial victory for them. They point out that while the final numbers are still in flux during intense private negotiations, Bush is likely to get far less money than he originally requested.
"What is for sure is he will not get all $200 billion," said one senior Democratic lawmaker. "Whatever number it is, it is much less than what the president asked for. For the first time in this war, he has received less than his request."
But senior administration officials privately say they expect to be able to get at least of the rest of the president's $200 billion request passed through Congress next year.
For Congressional Democrats, the "victory" they are touting is that they are only giving Bush $70 billion for the war now, and they won't give him the other $130 billion he is demanding until they return in a few weeks. They really showed him.
But all of these complaints are extremely naive and unsophisticated. You see, all of this behavior by the Democrats is absolutely necessary. They have no choice. Otherwise, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News will attack them for being weak (as though there is some circumstance under which they wouldn't) and that would be terrible. Nothing exudes strength, courage, toughness and resolve like having your behavior continuously described -- accurately -- as "bowing," "capitulating," "backing down," "caving" and "surrendering." Those are the verbs Americans love most when looking for the party to lead them.
UPDATE: To be fair, the Democratic-led House was able to pass an extremely important bipartisan resolution yesterday -- by a vote of 372-9 -- which "recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world"; proclaims that Christmas is "a holiday of great significance to Americans"; decrees that "Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization"; explains that "on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ"; and "expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world."
So it's important to temper the criticisms of the Congress with an acknowledgment and appreciation for these brave and important achievements -- one of the bravest and most consequential acts of Congress since they solemnly banded together to condemn MoveOn.org's newspaper advertisement.
UPDATE II: In comments, El Cid makes a vital point about the behavior of Congressional Democrats:
The Democratic leadership's Beltway peers, the pundits they appreciate, and the consultancy class see it as a victory whenever the Democrats defy their own base to support some hawkish initiative.
It's these opinions they care about, and those people only make fun of the Democratic leadership when they give in to their dirty fringe crazy unsophisticated 'base'.
Defying their own base / majority of US public to favor hawks: Strong, Bold, Unconventional.
Acting for their own base / majority of US public to defy hawks: Timid, Yielding, Controlled By 'Interest Groups'.
In Beltway World, Democrats are "strong" and "principled" only when they repudiate that most hated species -- the base of their own party (now even dirtier due to the fact that it coincides with popular opinion generally). Scorning their own base is how Democrats get their head-pat from the Beltway Establishment, which is, far and away, what they crave most.
All of this led Jane Hamsher favorably to quote a Red State poster who pointed out:
There is no Democratic Party in Congress. There are, instead, a bare majority of Congressmen and Senators who have banded together in order to gather power, influence, and money. Which is fine, as far as it goes -- except that they are not actually using any of the resources that they are gathering to benefit the groups and causes who worked to put them in power.