Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dealing with the Genie

I'm with Atrios in thinking that, whether or not Feingold's censure talk was a good idea, once he started talking, the Dems needed to deal with it. But not just with this one bill either. It doesn't matter what the topic is. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you gotta deal with that genie. But it seems too often in these kinds of things that if faced with an off-topic or an unpleasant speech or whatever thing, Dems just want to talk about how they wish it had never happened; rather than taking a smart course of action. They did that several times when Howard Dean has said strong things that they wish he hadn't said. And I don't know, I can't really think of other good examples, but I know they're out there.

And this is also similar to the phenomenon in which Dems who see themselves as outsiders (ie, those who think we need to embrace the evangelicals, as well as those who think we need to show how "strong" Democrats can be), and how they'll always talk about what Dems need to do and how they need to position themselves; but seem incapable of actually doing it. They’ll write endless columns bitching about weak or godless Dems, but don’t bother as much writing about their plans and how they’re God-filled Dems or whatever; other than as a way to bitch about how the rest of the Dems don’t follow their lead.  And so the net result is that they weaken the Dems by loudly complaining about how someone else is weakening the Dems.And that's what's happening with the Feingold thing. Sure, maybe he should have coordinated this. And maybe he shouldn't have done it at all. I still don't see the problem, but I don't see how whining about Feingold will help anything. Sure, this is sort of the equivalent of a rogue running-back grabbing the ball and changing the play in mid-stream. But once that play has changed, the dumbest thing the team can do is to stop playing and bitch about the rogue running-back. And the smart thing is to understand that the play has changed and to make your own changes accordingly. That's not to say that you have to follow his lead, but to mindlessly undermine him doesn't help at all.And to me, the best way to deal with this situation would have been to say something along the lines that this isn't a coordinated thing, but that they are forced to admit agreement with Feingold's measure. That while they wouldn't have done this themselves, they've seen how dangerous Bush is and that they can't help but support the measure; even if it won't go anywhere.  Not only does it make Dems look like they’re unified, but if properly done, it would put the ball back onto Bush’s incompetence, deception, and how he’s imperiling our democracy.  And that can only be good.

And that's exactly how it is with me, and probably many others. If asked beforehand, I would not have recommended censure. But once it was out there, I certainly agree with the idea and stand behind Feingold. And that's exactly how it's supposed to be done. Unless they really are "siding with the terrorists" or demanding we all commit treason (or something similar); I think it's a mistake to attack folks on our team who might be a little more zealous than us. I have no problem with attacking the Lieberman-Zell types who attack and undermine Dems, as there’s nothing wrong with returning fire. But Feingold's a good Senator and he deserved our support, even if we wouldn't have made this move. To do otherwise in this case would only serve to undermine the party more than anything Feingold did.For the record, I should state that I personally don’t agree with censure, but that just might be because I have no earthly idea exactly what censure means, and that I'm afraid that it might get Bush off the hook somehow. Like that it's a slap on the wrist for something that should eventually lead to a slap of the handcuffs. But maybe it doesn't work like that, so I don't know.  But again, the point isn’t what I’d do had Feingold not brought-up censure; because he already did.  The point is to take the proper course of action knowing that he did it.  And the proper course is to stand behind him.  Hell, even if a Dem doesn’t support censure and won’t vote for it, they should still stand behind what Feingold did and admire his bold actions.  That’s how this is supposed to be done.  And complaining about how someone went rogue and changed the play only serves to help the Republicans.

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