A friend and I were joking the other day about the comedy of errors, and failures, that has come to define Democratic control of Washington. Of course the collapse of health care reform was the spark for this conversation; it is the most obvious and overwhelming failure of the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress, but there are so many others. Start with foreign policy -- Obama hasn't even been able to get the Israelis and Palestinians to the bargaining table, let alone begin talks on final status issues. It is increasingly obvious that the "reset" in relations with Russia has produced not a single tangible success (unless one counts the 5 flights of materiel into Afghanistan, and only the U.S. ambassador to Russia is clueless enough to make that case). The administration once threatened "crippling" sanctions on Iran unless the Iranians showed a serious commitment to negotiations by the fall of 2009, then it was the end of the year, now it's targeted sanctions some time later this year, maybe. Either way, no one seriously believes the Democrats will prevent Iran from going nuclear, or even that they want to.
And those are just the big issues. Obama has gotten nothing from the Chinese out of the administration's new "strategic reassurance" policy -- no one did more to scuttle the Copenhagen climate talks than the Chinese. Then there was the other collapse in Copenhagen when Obama sought to secure the Olympics for his hometown of Chicago. There's engagement with Burma, which has produced exactly zero concessions from the junta on human rights issues. North Korea? Those "unprecedented" sanctions Susan Rice got through the Security Council didn't really have much effect, did they? Gitmo is still open and will be for a very long time -- which at least explains, to Obama's mind, why al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is booming. And while the Democrats have done the right thing on Afghanistan, well, they can't exactly rally the liberal base with that.
Domestic policy is the same story. Cap and trade is going nowhere fast, health care -- only the "reality-based community" still labors under the delusion, foolishly kept alive by the administration, that some kind of deal will be struck to salvage the bill. The stimulus is a bad joke, as are the millions of imaginary jobs "created or saved," to the millions of Americans who really are out of work. And the spending freeze...same story as the Afghan surge, it ain't going to rally the base.
So, back to my friend, who jested that the Democrats could run on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which did something to rectify some horrible sexist atrocity or something. And wouldn't you know it, that's all they've got! Per a White House official in the Playbook this morning defending the record of master legislative strategist Rahm Emanuel:
'Rahm is not an ideologue; he is a pragmatist. And he has led this administration in accomplishing a series of important progressive achievements that languished for years before President Obama was elected: expanding SCHIP, tobacco regulation, credit card reforms, the Ledbetter Equal Pay Act.'
This is the list of achievement Democrats can run on right now. It is so pathetic that not even the most wild-eyed true believer could be convinced on the basis of this record to go to the polls in November and vote for the Democrats. Tobacco regulation? Seriously? So, maybe Obama throws them a bone and calls for the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in tomorrow's State of the Union speech, but in this environment does anyone really think the president will be able to convince congressional Democrats to move on gay rights before making the "hard pivot" to jobs (or that a huge push by the administration on gay rights is going to stop the downward spiral rather than accelerating it)?
The Democrats have 8 months to earn some serious legislative victories -- a task made much harder by the election of Scott Brown -- and to show some kind of progress in the realm of foreign policy. If they can't do that, well, get ready to hear a lot more about Lilly Ledbetter and how Republicans would bind her feet if they ever took back Congress.