Saturday, October 8, 2005

Not Happy

I stayed up late to watch Bill Maher’s Real Time. The guests included Andrew Sullivan, Ben Affleck, Salman Rushdie, and via videolink, Ann Coulter.

What surprised the heck out of me was the vehemence of distrust both Ms. Coulter and Mr. Sullivan had for President Bush based on the events of the last month. Andrew Sullivan said that he had lost all faith in the president, and Ms. Coulter was equally harsh, saying that “trust me” doesn’t cut much ice with her any more.

Granted, that’s from two of the more outspoken and visible conservatives; neither of them are shy about getting in front of a camera or a keyboard. But, like people that call in to C-SPAN, I wonder if Ms. Coulter and Mr. Sullivan represent just the tip of the iceberg and that the rest of the right wing is feeling what they’re expressing and in larger numbers than we can fathom. And it’s not just the Miers pick; things have been snowballing since the beginning of the summer with Iraq getting worse, the investigation into the Plame case heating up, the indictment of Tom DeLay, the hurricanes…it’s just getting to be too much even for the Kool-Aid Kids who think that when George Bush farts they’re hearing the Oracle of Delphi.

It’s pretty easy for liberals and Democrats to grin and watch as the Republicans go through this time of trial for their party and their annointed leader; it’s a combination of both smugness and payback for the low points in 1998 and 1999 when they struggled to make sense of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. That’s a natural reaction, too — the Republicans felt it when they thought Monica Lewinsky was their payback for Watergate and Iran-Contra. It vindicated their take-over of the House in 1994 and they would show the world just how government should be run.

Well, fine. Everyone should allow themselves moment of self-satisfaction when their worst predictions of the other guy’s excesses come true. But it would be a mistake if we allowed that to become the way we govern or think of the role of partisan politics.

In the first place, the idea of impeaching George W. Bush is a non-starter. It won’t happen, and even if it could — if even the most conservative Republican and crony should throw in the towel and decide they’ve made a horrible mistake — all we’d get is President Cheney, or at the most, President J. Dennis Hastert until the Democrats take over the House, which can’t happen until January 3, 2007 at the earliest. Impeachment is a bald-face attempt at revenge for the Clinton impeachment, and that’s not how we progressives should do things, anyway. Resorting to the tactics of our opponents is the political equivalent of inflicting torture on prisoners of war, and we’re the ones who say we’re above that.

In the second place, we have too much to do to grind the government to a halt for the sake of exacting political revenge. This administration may have started a war on false pretenses, plunged our economy into tremendous debt, and exhibited the worst excesses of corporate corruption by buying up the votes of our representatives, but it’s our mess, too, and the world isn’t going to stop and wait while we squabble about whose fault it is. We already know that; now we have to clean it up, and the Democrats can prove that they have the right to win back the House, Senate, and White House by getting to work at every level to get the jobs done. We have schools to run, health care to fix, an infrastructure that is crumbling, hurricanes to clean up after, and a hundred other issues that are waiting for action. Most of them are not defined by political party; they are the needs of the people, and the sooner we get back to work the better things will be. And if the Democrats can prove themselves to to be the ones to do it, so much the better.

The polls showing the president’s approval ratings in the mid-thirties mean more than just disgust with his performance; it’s a reflection on all of our leaders. I’m not happy with how things are going, either, but I also don’t take pleasure in seeing the shit-storm falling on the Republicans. (Well….okay, I’m a little happy, but not over the moon.) I just want the work to get done. We will get our chance to express our disapproval in a practical way in 13 months, but between now and then, we have a country to run. I don’t know about you, but I have always believed that the best work gets done when the people who are doing it don’t care about who gets the credit.