A new dawn is rising for the Democratic Party! Fresh from their midterm election victories, their night of gleeful celebration is ending. The champagne has gone flat. The Party horns are soggy and worn out. The warm and fuzzy cooing of the hookers isn’t turning anyone on anymore, and the hangover has already started for many.
Like millions of Americans last night, I watched the President’s State of The Union address. I started watching on FOX, and then turned to MSNBC to see better coverage from less biased newsmen like Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman (yes, bourbon was involved in my decision), but the best comment of all the night’s pre-speech and post-speech punditry came from Brit Hume just a scant moment before I flipped the channel. He was referring to the video footage of all the Congressional political all stars lined up in like Presidential groupies. They were really just political panderers posturing for camera position.
The latest count has something like 30 people running for President, and over 20 of them are in Congress. Cameras tended to ignore 513 members of Congress, and instead they moved in a round-focusing on one candidate after another. We were still almost 10 minutes from the speech, and already I could tell that Senator Clinton’s faux smile was fading fast. The poor woman was getting worn out, and the big show hadn’t even started. She wasn’t alone.
Hume’s comment was, “It’s hard to swing a cat in Congress without hitting someone who is running for President.” I had an image of Brit grabbing Felix the cat fresh from a commercial, picking him up by the tail, and while the cat hissed, screamed, and clawed like mad, I envisioned the stinging furball getting smacked into the faces of different Presidential candidates. I had to laugh, but it was when I tried to imagine the sound that I really lost it. All I can say is Maker’s Mark hurts when it goes through your nose.
During the speech, I was confused. At first it looked like the President was actually doing a decent job. He seemed to be striking a genuinely bi-partisan chord that was resonating with both sides of the aisle. Then it happened. We got to the second half of the speech where he was talking about the status of America at war. The Simon-sez game of clap, stand up, cheer was over.
President Bush accurately described the intent and effect of Al Queda in Iraq, and what needed to be done to hold back the surging waters of violence that rippled from Al Queda’s actions. Some of the skeptical-looking Presidential wannabes put on their frowny faces for the cameras. He described the influence of Iran and Syria very well. A few more candidates for President leaned forward in their chairs to see if there was any sound bite they could use to oppose him and gain political points of their own. He described the inevitable consequences of premature evacuation from Iraq, and the room fell dead silent.
He went on to describe how Iran had become directly and actively involved in using proxy terror groups and their own intelligence services to kill American soldiers in Iraq. Scowling eyes from 20 or so doomed to fail Presidential candidates clearly showed denial, disdain, and disbelief in what the President was saying, but in the balcony, a one-eyed soldier with scar and bandage from ear to remaining eye knew the President wasn’t talking “tough” to the new DNC power. He was talking truth to power.
None of this was really news about the war though. It’d been reported by most media outlets since 2005. Those who follow the war knew it. Those who are in the war know it all too well, but for those who opposed the war, it was news. It seemed they were hearing for the first time what’s going on in Iraq.
Behind the President, Speaker Pelosi represented her party and the Congress well. When the President began talking about Iraq, she became stoic, and then appeared intently concerned, and as she inched forward in her seat to hear what he would say next (with a printed copy of the speech right in front of her). She too had that surprised look on her face. Then she began blinking. At first it was normal, but it rapidly became seizure level, and my wife cried out, “Man, if she blinks any more she gonna start fanning people! This is driving me nuts!” The DNC talking points of opposition for opposition’s sake were being picked off, and it was having an effect on the new Congressional leaders.
Then it happened. As so often happens with President Bush’s speeches, there’s a hidden right cross. While the leaders of the Democratic Party-the new leaders in Congress-were caught in shock and awe, or left shaking and blinking in denial at what national and international challenges they now had the power and responsibility to resolve rather than just oppose.
“This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you’ve made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way.”
One by one the President had addressed ALL of the DNC Presidential Wannabe Squad’s talking points, and one by one he’d thumped them all. Each sentence was a direct counterpoint to punditry. He did it by reminding them that the celebration is over; now that they have power, they have responsibility. Opposition for opposition’s sake wasn’t going to cut it now. Put up or shut up time has arrived. Having misled the American people that they had a plan for “A New Direction In Iraq,” Democrats were brought to an ugly, morning after truth.
Lacking the better plan that they had promised, the nation is now faced with only one of two choices instead of three. People can either support the war, or accept defeat. The long parsed claims of, “I oppose the war, but want us to win” are no longer options, and to make matters worse, defeat is not an option either as any Presidential hopeful has to now realize that they might inherit a war that they must sell to the American people, inherit a war that they will then take credit for losing, or worse, inherit a defeat and a Middle East in chaos that compels them to sell more expensive military intervention in the region in their administration.
I bet you could have heard a pin drop when he made that right cross.
The celebration of midterm victory is over. Now it’s time to stand up, and really support the war; to do something to help America accomplish its goals rather dance on fence posts of fake resolve and thus help the enemy accomplish theirs. The Republicans stood up and applauded at the call for unified support for success. So too did many Democrats, but most telling was the contrast between the Presidential candidates who remained sitting in a disingenuous silent protests based more in pandering to those who cannot or will not face these realities. It was a Congressional sit-in for the sake of gaining support, their money, their power, and their backing for personal bids at Presidential power rather than being patriotic.
Of all the exceptional and remarkable people in the room, at that moment one man caught my eye in the background of a fleeting camera shot. He was a Democrat-once, but he’d been driven out of the party for supporting the war, for supporting American success in the Middle East, and for opposing the politically expedient pipedream that, “If America just leaves, everything will magically be better.” Senator Joe Lieberman applauded while too many in his party literally sat on their asses rather than stand up to show confidence and support for those in combat at the very same moment.
On an icy, winter mountaintop somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan, American soldiers missed the speech as they were on patrol-looking for Jihadis. More Americans missed the speech because they were on patrol in Baghdad looking for Jihadis. In the jungles of the Philippines, American Special Forces were deep in 3-tier jungles looking for Jihadis instead of watching the speech. In the deserts of Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia, Americans were busy aiding local military leaders, warlords, and mercenaries in their fight against Jihadis. In the western Indian Ocean, sailors slept in coffin-sized racks surrounded by hot sun, hot water, and pirates as they boarded ships looking for Jihadis. In the skies over the Persian Gulf, airmen were locked on to their radar screens watching for the slightest sign of Iranian attack rather than watching the speech.
I’m glad those people are out there doing their jobs, but I can only imagine the deep respect, admiration, joy, and inspiration that they would have felt if they had seen the Democrats’ potential future President sitting on his or her ass rather than standing up in support for success in this global war on terror. Of course, in today’s age of instant internet communication, it’s not at all out of mind’s reach to think that perhaps they were watching after all…