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Republicans are in tumult and the Democrats are in hiding

By DIANE ROBERTS
Published October 15, 2005

Let's review: On the Hill, Tom DeLay, erstwhile majority leader of the House, has been indicted for alleged money laundering. Bill Frist, majority leader of the Senate, may have had a Martha moment; the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the mysteriously prescient sale of stock in a hospital company his family founded, just before the price went south.

At 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby are up to their Brooks Brothers collars in the Valerie Plame affair, though the White House spent months denying they had anything to do with the certainly spiteful, possibly felonious, outing of her as a covert CIA operative. David Safavian, procurement officer for the White House Office of Management and Budget, has been busted for lying about his ties with lobbyists, such as Jack Abramoff.

Over on K Street, Abramoff - who is so tight with Tom DeLay that he took the Hammer on a posh golfing trip to Scotland - has been charged with fraud.

Out in Iraq (you remember Iraq: the place where weapons of mass destruction aren't) civilians and soldiers keep dying in bomb blasts. The "democracy" we've installed there keeps changing the rules on voting. Clearly they've studied the 2000 Florida elections.

In New Orleans, survivors of Hurricane Katrina are still wondering, over a month later, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help them. Yep, "Brownie" did "a heck of a job."

And everywhere, George W. Bush's approval ratings are in the tank.

For the loyal opposition, this panoply of Republican incompetence, arrogance and criminality ought to be Christmas every day, the political gift that just keeps on giving. So where are the Democrats? Under the bed? Hiding in a hotel in Oklahoma? Windsurfing?

Sure, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi muttered something about the Republican Party "crumbling," and party chief Howard Dean has called the Republicans "corrupt." The usual suspects of punditry show up on the usual cable news shows, clucking, carping and sniping. The "blame game" hasn't been this fun since Iran-Contra.

But pointing out Republican venality - while richly satisfying - isn't enough. A plan would be good. The Democrats used to be the party of the Big Idea: the New Deal, voting rights, civil rights, the War on Poverty. And now? Where's the plan for managing the train wreck that is Iraq? Where's the plan for rebuilding the Gulf Coast for the benefit of its people rather than for the benefit of the fat, happy and well-connected recipients of no-bid contracts? Where's the plan to deal with Americans' absurdly wasteful consumption of energy? Our addiction to fossil fuels? Our health care system, rigged to garner big profits for Big Pharma? The growing chasm between rich and poor?

You'd think the Democrats could at least address the epidemic of stupidity, aided and abetted by the government, that threatens us. More than a third of Americans believe Noah took dinosaurs on the Ark, the earth is only 6,000 years old, and they ain't kin to no monkey.

Polar ice is melting, sea temperatures are rising (hurricanes love warm water - helps them grow big and strong), yet the administration is in denial. Sen. James Inhofe recently called a hearing to attack climate change science. His big witness was novelist Michael Crichton, who thinks environmentalists made up global warming. Note to the senator: novelists make stuff up. It's their job.

Our unpopular, underbriefed, incurious president keeps trying to force the conversation back onto his one strong subject: terrorism. But Katrina, cronyism, the deficit, bad employment numbers, and what the Daily Show aptly calls Mess-o-Potamia won't go away. Maybe it won't matter: The only Democrat who seems to have two ideas to rub together is John Edwards. He's out of office, out of town (in Chapel Hill, N.C.) and talking about poverty, so I guess the party power-boys can ignore him.

Meanwhile, Washington is getting downright surreal: Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers describes George W. Bush as "the most brilliant man" she's ever met. Congressmen keep coming up with risible revenue-enhancing ideas such as repealing the estate tax while selling off national parks. The late Hunter S. Thompson reminds us that "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Alas, there's no sign of that.

Diane Roberts is author of Dream State, a book about Florida.

[Last modified October 15, 2005, 01:15:22]


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