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Holes

The Democrats keep digging bigger and bigger ones.

2:00 PM, May 9, 2003 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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GIDDY WITH FAILURE, Democrats are breaking new ground in political strategy. Deep in a hole, they are digging still deeper. They have found a new method of dealing with setbacks: They find out what caused them, and do it again.

Having unexpectedly lost four Senate seats in the 2002 midterms because of their obstruction and carping, they decided they hadn't attacked and obstructed enough. With a bare majority in the 107th Congress, they used a technical loophole to keep Bush's judges from reaching the floor of the Senate. In the 108th, with a bare minority, they are using a technical loophole--concurrent filibusters--to keep Bush's judges from reaching the floor of the Senate. Meanwhile, polls show that support for Senate Democrats and their leaders has been steadily falling, and they could lose four more seats in the upcoming contests.

Behind all of this looms the mother of all errors, the just-over war in Iraq. Has anyone, ever, played something so wrong? A few brave Democrats did vote on their principles, but these were the few among many. What hurt most Democrats--more than the votes they cast--was their reasoning: to preserve, in Clintonesque terms, their own viability, before trying to change the subject back to domestic issues. Which of course did not work. While Bush put his job and his neck on the line, Democrats were derriere-shielding. They voted for the war resolution, barely and grudgingly, and quickly went back to attacking the war and the president. They made charge after charge--which were later proved baseless:

They kept calling Bush a unilateralist long after he had assembled a 40-plus-nation coalition and repeatedly gone to the United Nations; they blamed him alone for the troubles with France and with Russia; they called him a bully and bungler after it had become clear that the real bully and bungler (and loser) was Jacques Chirac.

Then came the war and the worst of all happened: Democrats were drowned in a flood of good news. There were no wider wars, no more terrorist attacks, no strikes at Israel, no burning oil fields, no destructive Arab-street uprisings, no street-to-street fighting, and mercifully, very few deaths. After arguing that Iraq was a diversion from the war on terror, major al Qaeda figures were captured. After dismissing ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, links are now being uncovered. Even the Democrats' best worst hope--the looted museum--turned out to be useless. It was an inside job, it was unpreventable, and most of the missing artifacts have been found.

With so much good news going against them, the sight of Bush on the Abraham Lincoln was destined to drive the Democrats up walls. A politician connecting himself to a success he created? How unheard of! How lowdown! How crass! So the party wheeled out its most charming and plausible spokesmen.

Robert Byrd took to the floor of the Senate to call it the most disgraceful thing he had seen since he gave up his KKK membership. Maxine Waters seemed obsessed with the fit of the president's flight suit. Henry Waxman wants the GAO to investigate the whole event. Why did the president zoom in on a fighter when he could have been helicoptered in from the mainland? Why wasn't he rowed out from shore in a dinghy? For that matter, why did he take Air Force One all the way across the country when there are buses?

Waxman and Waters seem giddy with failure; failure has gone to their heads. Each time they complain, the footage of Bush is shown over and over and he gets to say how proud he is of the troops. Some people think the Democrats are afraid that the Lincoln footage will show up next year in campaign spots and are trying this tack to preempt it. I'm not so sure about that, but if the Republicans run ads featuring Waxman and Waters, they could stay in power for the rest of their lives.

How much is Karl Rove paying these people? Nothing would be quite enough.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.