Monday, November 20, 2006

Piss in the Punchbowl: Unfinished

My previous unfinished post went so well that I decided to do it again. And just as a clarifier, unfinished doesn’t just mean that I don’t have an ending. Much of this post needs a rewrite, and isn’t nearly at the level that I’d feel happy with. But again, I wrote this last week and just can’t work up the gumption to finish it, so here it is.

Why criticize Pelosi? And I don’t just mean the guest-poster at that link, but all of the more mainstream liberals criticizing her? I mean, sure, they might not think she made the right decision on Murtha. Or maybe they don’t like her choice of Hastings over Harmon. So fucking what? Why make it personal? Why denounce her decision-making instead of focusing solely on the decisions. That’s not to say that they can’t disagree with her, but why make it about her? And why adopt the same smears that the Republicans are using against her?

This is the same triangulating that Republicans used against Clinton, and while it never worked on the average American; it worked gangbusters against the same type of hand-wringing “moderates” who are already getting worked into a lather over Pelosi. Because this once again totally plays into the hands of the Republicans and they’re just eating it up.

That’s not to suggest that I think any of you are doing anything so stupid. After all, you’re my readers, so you clearly have enough commonsense as to avoid doing such a thing. But what’s up with the others? I don’t know if there are a lot of Dems doing that, but it doesn’t take a lot. Just a handful of Dems pissing in the punchbowl is enough to ruin it for everyone.


But it’s not just that it’s Dem-on-Dem action that’s hurting us, but that personality politics is a Republican game. They’re the ones who trump character over policy, and insist that any schmuck with a family and a bible is good enough for public office. Even if he’s cheating on the family and using the bible for target practice.

But Dems are supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be about policy and making government work. It shouldn’t matter who said something, but what they said. And so all criticism should be directed at what the Dems are doing, not about the person doing it. Because all of the criticism I’ve seen so far focused far more on Pelosi’s poor decision, and only used the Murtha and Harmon issues for the backdrop to explain how Pelosi was screwing up. And that’s entirely backwards. Explain the decision, but leave the mind-reading to rightwing hacks like Novak and stop legitimizing it.

But too many Democrats are forgetting that and immediately gunning for Pelosi. Sure, they don’t want to. But they think she’s screwing up and have to bad mouth her for it. Because that’s the form that the initial criticisms were taking, and they don’t see a good defense of this. But rather than repackage the complaints into the right format, they give it a “You’ve gotta admit” air about the whole thing that’s just totally wrong.

And again, that’s an old anti-Clinton trick. They weren’t criticizing Clinton. They were merely unable to defend him and their integrity compelled them to describe their complaints using the same terminology of his enemies. Not that they were trying to. They were just using the parlance of the day, which happened to be invented by Clinton’s Republican attackers. Because they felt the need to distance themselves from Clinton, in order to more firmly establish their objectivity and to prove that they weren't knee-jerk Clinton supporters. And somehow, they failed to register what those words really meant or that the Republicans didn't really give a damn whether they were knee-jerk supporters and would label them as such anyway. And so you had people who didn’t hate Clinton using attacks that fed Clinton-hatred.

And again, it’s fortunate that the typical American doesn’t suffer from that need to use the Republicans framework to criticize Dems, and in fact, usually don’t even notice that kind of thing. As I’ve said before, the Beltway pundits’ biggest influence is on one another and the only way they have a bigger influence is when they goad politicians into screwing up and making the issue have wider resonance.

And the secret is to give a good stiff-arm to the Beltway chatterers while staying on-target with the regular people. Which is what Clinton did quite well, for how much the chatterers were out to get him. But too often,

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