May 26th, 2007

David Corn explains it all: the Democrats can’t count

I wondered here why the Democrats pursued a “withdraw the troops” strategy they knew was doomed to failure with a President who was bound to veto every bill they sent with no hope of override. This particular post-mortem on the Democrats’ “cave,” written by David Corn (a liberal himself), offers an explanation: he says they can’t count.

He writes that the Democrats tried to have it both ways—end the war and support the troops, withdraw and be perceived as not caving, a high-wire balancing act of oxymorons—and that it can’t be done, at least not with the “strategy” they mapped out.

True. But since I believe the Democrats actually can count (and of course Corn was being facetious–wasn’t he?), what really was behind this seeming obtuseness, which has left them looking weak and divided?

Well, as Corn writes, it’s the fact that they are divided. They never had the Republican votes needed to override the veto, but they never even had the Democratic ones, either. In the end, many of their ranks defected in order to avoid being perceived as weak on defense. And the Democratic leadership should have known in the first place that this was going to happen.

Of course, it might be that not only did those Democrats voting for troop funding not want to be perceived as weak on defense, they really wanted to not be weak on defense. I still believe that some members of Congress operate more on principle than on politics, although those who do risk becoming endangered species, for obvious reasons.

What’s behind the Democratic miscalculation, if not a literal inability to do the math? I have come to the conclusion that their leaders aren’t very good at understanding the limits of their own power in their own party.

Why they have this lack I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem to be a mathematical problem. Perhaps it’s the result of the hubris and pride that often comes to the powerful of all persuasions and all parties. It takes a certain skill to lead a group of legislators and keep them on board, and part of that skill is knowing how far you can take them before they will bolt. That’s more than a matter of arithmetic, it’s one of psychology, and I think Reid and Pelosi may be a bit tone-deaf in that department. They may be able to count heads, but I don’t think they can account for minds.

18 Responses to “David Corn explains it all: the Democrats can’t count”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Great article. I’d love to blogroll a converted neo-con. Mind if I do?

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    When your mind is compartamentalized Neo, like Reid and pillowCs’, are, then you are going to have trouble accounting for the personalities and thoughts of others. Even assuming that they could count how many personalities are compatible with whom that is.

    How can you understand other people, if you yourself have trouble figuring out all the inconsistent beliefs and ideas in your own head? Hard to do. And the Democrats were always a believer in the easy road.

  3. bird dog Says:

    It was all theater for the base. They never imagined it would be successful – and I suspect would have been terrified if it had been. You cannot be too cynical to understand politics, and you can assume everything is calculated.

  4. Ottavio Marasco Says:

    Exactly, how can you attempt to end the war but claim to support the troops. Corn is dead right, in fact the Democrat position presented a greater oxymoron than the title of a book I read recently, ‘Java is easy”, yea right.

    What Pelosi and her clan actually did is cave in and buckle under pressure. This does not stand well given all the bravado talk about changing direction post taking control of congress.

    It shows that they (Democrats) lack conviction and a President who is struggling at the poles and at his weakest at present, gets the funding he wants without surrendering to troop withdrawal timetables.

    It also demonstrates a great lack of foresight, as it was fairly obviuos that it was going to go this way. Neither Hillary nor Obama have been beacons of courage…

  5. Nobody Says:

      You’re missing the fact that every bit of a politician’s perception of reality is filtered and slanted relentlessly by their staff.

      The leaders of the Soviet Union were as surprised as anyone when it collapsed.  Their subordinates had been lying to them for decades.  (The underlings of those subordinates had been lying to them, ditto, etc. etc.)

      It’s the entourage effect so prevalent among movie stars.  “It’s amazing how much damage three press agents working 16-hour days can do.”  – Sunset Blvd

      These people have marinated in slant, spin, bias, mendacity and outright lying for so long they’ve completely lost touch with reality.  They’re incapable of recognizing reality even when it bites them on the face.

      Remember that after being shot and pursued Theodor van Gogh still asked his assassin: “Can’t we talk about this?”  Shot and bleeding he was still trying to negotiate as his throat was being cut.

      Compared to that spinning this crushing defeat into a moral victory is trivial.

  6. gcotharn Says:

    I agree with much in the post and in the comments.

    Democrat maneuvering is all about holding power: appease the base, gain money and votes, hold onto power.

    Neo says “some members of Congress act more on principle than on politics”. True, yet the Dems are acting, at all times, on this rationalization: It is best for the nation when Democrats hold power. They tell themselves, always, that they are acting on principle. They tell themselves, always, that they are doing what is best for the nation. They let their Dems in power rationalization trump everything. Witness their zeal for an Al Qaeda victory over U.S. forces in Iraq. Such would enable Dems in power, and would thus be what is best for our nation.

    I also believe, as neo hints, that Dems have lost some edge regarding how to govern. They’ve spent years contemplating ways to lob media water balloons at Repubs. They’ve spent years contemplating how to manipulate a majority electorate which doesn’t pay much attention. They have expended less mental energy thinking about how to govern inside our Constitution. Their ability to sharpely govern has been dulled.

    This occurance is in the same ballpark as what Tammy Bruce alleged: dependence on ad-hominem has dulled the left’s ability to argue effectively. In D.C., dependence on media deployed water balloons has dulled the Dem leader’s ability to govern effectively. The complicity of the media has not helped the Dems. It has only encouraged them to dull their intellectual weaponry. Dems expend their mental energy on faux scandals (remember the “school lunch program scandal”?) and real character assassination (pick any one amongst a dozen+). Dems have lost their edge in making principled arguments in order to win political allies to their side. They are further handicapped by having Dems in power as their organizing principle

  7. gcotharn Says:

    Dang it, I am not done. Lust for power, at the expense of eternal, higher principles, is a low-down human disaster. A nation cannot thrive when too many of it’s leaders act out of low-down instinct, rather than out of a sense higher calling.

    I wish I had clipped specific quotes, yet I can say I first noticed the pervasiveness of Dems in power when Terry McAuliffe ran around the nation as leader of the DNC. I listened carefully to Terry McAuliffe. At that time, I was looking for a reason to sometimes vote Democratic. Again and again and again, McAuliffe’s only message was: Dems in power. THAT WAS IT! McAuliffe had nothing else! I was repulsed.

    And my antennae were up. Since, I have heard versions of Dems in power from almost every big time Dem I can think of. Most of them have nothing, except Dems in power + anger at Repubs. Harry Reid is an offender. Nancy Pelosi is a terrible offender. She is, other than McAuliffe, maybe the most frequent purveyor of the Dems in power rationalization.

    Dems in power is low-down and base. If our nation is to thrive under Dem leadership, the Dems MUST adjust themselves, and act out of higher purposes. If not, I will be happy to see the destruction of the Dem party. Let them be reduced to rubble. I will shed no tears for Pelosi and Reid and Dean and Kerry and Kennedy and the Clintons. A group of more low down and base leaders could scarcely be found. Let another party arise to oppose the Repubs.

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  9. Dennis Says:

    Theater for the base/entourage, indeed.

    This is a kind of Masada for those of supreme faith.

    The modern/secular world is itself a kind of religion, as many have said in the recent past. Like the saying goes: religious believers must account for the existence of G-d and good versus evil, “non believers” have to account for everything else. They have to become super believers.

    Therefore there is more to defend for the secular, they who would be masters of irony, they who have also weaponized irony have also the hubris to assume that an ironic twist would not also twist upon themselves.

    The nutroots are the visible vanguard of this phenomenon, and suicide is not out the realm of their possibility for them. This is the soul of the Left/Liberal/Democratic Party. They would make of their own culture, a funeral pyre, and be happy for it as they succumb to the flame.

  10. Donald Douglas Says:

    opinionjournal.comInteresting post and comment thread. I’m pretty much in agreement with Bird Dog’s “all theater for the base” argument. I don’t know if I’m in full agreement with Neo on the savvy of the Dems or their familiarity with the reins of power. Provocative thesis, in any case.

    See WSJ’s editorial today on Hillary’s particular calculations — the editors argue her no vote for the bill destroys whatever foreign policy creds she’s built up these last few year licking boots in the Senate:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010126

  11. alphie Says:

    “Like the saying goes: religious believers must account for the existence of G-d and good versus evil, ”

    Are you talking about al Qaeda there, Dennis?

  12. Mark H. Says:

    I think Reid and Pelosi may be a bit tone-deaf in that department.

    Ya think? :-)

    Basically the two of them are good checkers players and with the help of the MSM they probably even think they’re playing chess; but when push comes to shove, they’re not capable of thinking more than one jump (or perhaps a lucky double jump from time to time) ahead.

    Al Qaeda is playing them for the fools they are. I’m quasi-optimistic that the American people will realize that before the ’08 election. If not, it’s going to get ugly stateside, and sadly, that may be required to wake us up again.

  13. jainphx Says:

    Trying to analyse the liberal mindset is in itself a full time occupation.Best advice! vote them out now and forever.

  14. Paul (Europe) Says:

    Neoneo’s writing and thinking is interesting as always, personally I think a significant Democrat problem is that they don’t truly comprehend, reflect upon, and compare consequences. I guess I just called them stupid.

    gcotharn said:
    “Let another party arise to oppose the Repubs.”

    I couldn’t agree more even though I would probably continue to cheer for the GOP.

  15. John F. Opie Says:

    Hi -

    It’s actually very simple. Pelosi knows that she is #3 in the list and the Democrats believe that she has been elected shadow President. Hence her foreign policy trips – she’s now heading over to Europe to tell the Europeans that the US will join Kyoto when Bush leaves office – and her insufferable arrogance in dealing with the minority party.

    It’s pathetic and will be extraordinarily destructive for her and the Democrats when it blows up in their face. There were reasons why there once was a principle of political disputes ending at the country’s borders. Internationally, they’re political baby seals, and the world is filled with people with baseball bats, hungry and mean.

  16. Teri Pittman Says:

    I have a slightly different take. It used to be that politicians understood that you had to cooperate to get along. You might disagree with someone else’s ideas but you were polite. “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Today’s politicians can’t do that. They are so convinced that Republican (and moderate Dems) are Satan’s spawn that they literally can’t cooperate even for the sake of a bill they want to pass.

  17. R Gordon Says:

    Pelosi is an idiot, and Reid is a crook. Neither of them actually cares what happens in Iraq, as long as they can just gain more power from whatever it may be.

  18. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Yeah, well, all good stuff. But they think they can get re-elected despite or because of this stuff.
    By definition, the big shooters in the dems have been re-elected.
    What we need are smarter voters.
    However, when the campaign is between dueling promises of pork, principle is lost, even to the voters.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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