Jewish World Review Feb. 1, 2005/ 22 Shevat, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Can't anybody here play this game? | What the country needs is a disciplined opposition, but all the Democrats offer is a mob of churls. (And maybe Howard Dean.)

Everybody else   —   even our dear friends in France and the odd Arab   —   toasts the successful elections in Iraq with gratitude and good cheer. But if you can find a Democrat lifting a glass in salute you can be sure it's wormwood on the rocks and gall on the side.

Teddy Kennedy did what he could to ruin the Iraqi elections. "Once Sunday's elections are behind us," he said on the eve of the voting, "and the democratic transition is under way, President Bush should immediately announce his intention to negotiate a timetable for a drawdown of American combat forces with the Iraqi government. At least 12,000 American troops, probably more, should leave at once, to send a strong signal about our intentions, and to ease the pervasive sense of occupation."

This would certainly send a signal, but not a signal that any friend worthy of respect would send: "Goodbye, good luck and the joke's on you, buster." Teddy comes from a distinguished line of brothers who answered the call to arms, one even offering the last full measure of devotion, but the only call Teddy has ever answered is "last call." Not for him to pull anyone to safety on a bridge over troubled water.

Two dozen House Democrats have sponsored legislation requiring immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq. Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who closed his office and fled Washington when he heard that terrorists might be on the way to town and sought solace with his teddy bear in a bed where he could pull the covers over his head, accuses the president and his men (and women) of "lying" about Iraq and everything else.

John Kerry is resigned, more or less, to good election news from Iraq, but he doesn't sound happy about it. He insists he disagrees with Teddy. Well, maybe. He's not sure. Sort of. Actually, not really. When Tim Russert, the interlocutor of NBC's "Meet the Press," asked him whether he seeks a specific timetable of withdrawal of American troops, he replied: "I understand exactly what Senator Kennedy is saying, and I agree with Senator Kennedy's perceptions of the problem and of how you deal with it." But he wants to turn everything over to "the international community." Whether that means France, Luxembourg, Upper or Lower Volta, or even the United Nations, he does not say.

Good news from Iraq means something, he's just not sure what. "It is significant that there is a vote in Iraq," he said, "but no one in the United States should try to overhype this election."

The actual leaders of the Democratic minority in Congress were eager yesterday to divert attention from the good news from the war front. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat in charge of her party minions in the House, doesn't actually consider it's a war that the rest of us are in. Mzz Pelosi mocks the idea that the deadly struggle with terrorism is "a real war," and often parades her contempt for the president (he's "an incompetent leader; in fact, he's not a leader"). She tried, with considerable difficulty, to sing the mellower tune assigned to her yesterday. Mzz Pelosi, alas, does not do mellow.

She and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, appeared together in what they call a "pre-buttal" to the president's State of the Union address tomorrow night. (It was not clear whether the term "pre-buttal" was meant to be wordplay or whether "pre-buttal" refers in some way to the widebottoms in the chairs on the Democratic side of the aisle.)

Sen. Reid, who once boasted that he studies Senate rules and since the Democrats are powerless to do anything else he knows how "to screw things up," yesterday manfully contradicted the Kennedy call for surrender to the thugs, which was the announced point of the exercise. Mzz Pelosi couldn't quite rise to the task. "It's not about a calendar," she said, "it's about performance." But what about Mr. Kennedy's demand to cut and run? She changed the subject. "If you have no plan, no road map, no standards, it's very hard to judge whether you have succeeded and whether it's time to come home."

Smart pols know that when you dig yourself into a hole, the solution is simple: "Quit digging." But the Democrats have lost their touch with the game they practically invented, and descend deeper into oblivion with each passing election. So they elbow each other out of the way to see who gets to use the shovel. Sad, but true.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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