There has been a lot of talk about the Democratic Party defining itself, but the truth is that it has the opportunity to do that in the upcoming session of Congress — not with words, but with votes.
What is so wrong about the Democratic Party was illustrated once again by Sen. Joseph Biden at the confirmation hearings of Condi Rice for secretary of state. Biden, who loves to be on camera, made all sorts of criticism of Ms. Rice and then turned around and voted to confirm her. In other words, Biden wants it both ways. He wants to be seen as both a critic and a supporter of the Bush administration.
That was one of the principal defects in Sen. John Kerry's campaign. He voted for the war and then campaigned against it. That doesn't fly. Perhaps he learned something from the experience, because he joined Sen. Barbara Boxer in casting the only "no" votes on the committee. Naturally, Ms. Rice will have been confirmed by the time you read this, given the ratio between backbone and Jell-O in the U.S. Senate.
In fact, though, if any senator had serious concerns about Ms. Rice not having told the truth in the past or not having the competence for the job, he or she had a duty to vote against Rice. The Constitution did not create the Senate to be a rubber stamp of any president. On the contrary, it was created to provide a check and balance. Senators are under no obligation whatsoever to give the president the people he wants. Their obligation is to weed out any and all bad choices a president might make.
So here is what the Democrats in the House and Senate need to do if they want to save their party from extinction:
If they agree with the president on legislation or appointments, say so forthrightly. If they agree too often, they should consider switching to the Republican Party.
If they disagree, they should state that forthrightly and back it up with a "nay" vote. At the same time, they should propose a clear alternative.
That way, people will soon understand where the president stands, where the Republican Party stands and where the Democratic Party stands. Only then can people make a reasonable choice.
But for the sake of the country, cut out this mealy-mouthed, ambiguous, fence-straddling, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand bull manure. Talk straight. Take a stand. Live with the consequences. Every voter in America is entitled to know, without any reservations, where his or her elected leaders stand on each and every issue that comes before them.
Unfortunately, getting a straight answer from a politician is about as hard as doing dental work on a wide-awake tiger. What that tells us, of course, is that politicians are more interested in re-election than in honestly performing their duties.
Another point to keep in mind is that in a republican form of government, an elected official is not supposed to take continuous public-opinion polls and exactly reflect the majority's opinions. No, he or she is supposed to investigate, accumulate the facts and then exercise his or her own judgment. If, at the next election, the people disagree with the judgments, they can replace the official. But that official is supposed to be a leader, not a parrot reflecting whatever the ever-shifting public opinion back home says.
Try this: Buy a red felt-tip pen. The next time your representative or senator sends you a mealy-mouthed letter that says nothing, scrawl on it with the red felt-tip pen: "This is a load of manure. I expect a straight answer from you." And then send it back.
Remember, you are paying these nabobs more money than most Americans will ever see in a year's worth of paychecks. You have a right to demand that they deal honestly with you and tell you, without equivocation, where they stand on any issue you are interested in. Don't take "maybe" for an answer.
January 22, 2005
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.