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The Tentacle


November 21, 2005

Time to put 2005 behind us

Kevin E. Dayhoff

As the holidays approach, it is time to learn the lessons of 2005 and put it behind us. 2006 will be another long year. If the liberal media and the Democratic Party are setting their sights on the mid-term elections in 2006, they will need to do better than this fall’s bad polling numbers.

The last time this nation saw a sea change in political leadership was 1994. However, 2006 will not be another 1994. In 1994, the party in power – the Democratic Party – had had no vision and no plan except more of the same: big intrusive government and higher taxes.

Americans wanted a different approach and the Republican Party had a vision, a plan, were disciplined and well organized. They regained control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

The Arizona Republic published a column by Roll Call columnist Stuart Rothenberg on November 13, which laid out the numbers. In addition to a message and leadership challenge: “Democrats have a numbers problem. They need to net 15 House seats next November.” Few of the 15 seats needed are in play and almost all the seats in play are currently held by incumbent Republicans.

“The numbers in the Senate are even worse for Democrats. Republicans currently hold only 15 of the 33 Senate seats up for election next year, even though the party maintains a 55-45 majority in the Senate… That means Democrats would need to pick up six seats to get to 51 … to retake control of the Senate.”

To do this, the Democrats are going to have come up with a better strategy than the likes of Cindy Sheehan, Barbara Streisand, Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. The politics of today’s Democrats – whining, ranting and raving – is not a plan. The liberal media support is not sustainable. As the circulation numbers continue to decline and the mainstream media continues to discredit itself, Democrats are going to have to offer a solid plan and vision to counter the Bush administration’s initiatives. This seems unlikely.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, in this short space, let’s take a look at 2005. There is no better place to start than a poll released on November 8, by the Pew Research Center. It tells a story that clearly indicates that the Bush administration has its work cut out for it, in the face of a series of challenging events.

The only real silver lining in the poll is that only 50 percent of Americans believe that the Bush administration is getting a fair shake from the press. Since much of the polling numbers are dependent on the press’s portrayal of the presidency, this information may speak volumes in the long run.

So, where are we and how did we get here? First of all – when in a hole, stop digging. Remain calm and let the mainstream media and the Democrats hang themselves. The president needs to stay on message – not swing at bad pitches – and avoid over-reacting to Democrat hysterics and a period of bad polling numbers. Above all, learn the lessons of Michael Brown, Plamegate, and “Hurricane” Harriet.

First let’s take Katrina: There is no excuse for Michael Brown. Fortunately, once the president recognized that mistake, he took action. Beyond the lessons provided by avoiding cronyism over substance; as the public continues to understand the irresponsible role the press played in the Katrina saga, the president needs to continue to let the press and the reactionary opportunism of his acidic Democrat critics stew in their own juices. The public will eventually get it that the over-reaction of the Democrat leadership, based on media misinformation, was not the stuff of leadership.

“Hurricane” Harriet: President Bush made a terrible mistake by taking his base for granted when he nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Ms. Miers’ withdrawal of her nomination was good for the judiciary, the nation and President Bush. It is hard to believe that any nominee can do better in front of the Senate than Judge John G. Roberts, Jr.; but Judge Samuel Alito very well may and is certain to be confirmed. The lesson to be learned for the president is to stay on course and stick with his base. Chances are there will be more Supreme Court nominations in the future.

The White House over-reaction to Joe Wilson’s July 6, 2003, New York Times piece is a lesson for us all. The best thing that the Bush administration could have done would have been to ignore the guy.

White House insiders never should have swung at the bad pitch and now the reaction has caused more problems that Joe Wilson’s piece could have ever caused. Take this lesson to heart as the Democrats will try this tactic again.

Moreover, forget the technical arguments about whether or not Valerie Plame was undercover. It just doesn’t resonate with folks who believe that national security and the safety of our men and women in dangerous service for our country are off limits for politics.

According to numerous news reports, more that 3,000 administration employees, with security clearances, are currently taking mandatory “ethics lectures.” This is a good thing.

The White House’s amateurish response to Joe Wilson precipitated a prosecutorial fishing expedition. Jim Kouri said it best on November 1 in Intellectual Conservative: “In the days ahead the Democrat Party blowhards will repeatedly talk about the Bush Administration's ‘culture of corruption.’ The fact is there has been merely one White House staffer who's ever been indicted in five years.” How quickly they forget all the integrity issues in the Clinton administration?

Liberals have not really thought this one through. Mr. Libby has not been convicted. Next, Mr. Libby’s lawyers get to explore many issues surrounding this sorry state of affairs that the media has ignored. If indeed, Scooter Libby is found not guilty, how are the mainstream media and liberals going to spin that?

Then there is the issue of the so-called "16 misleading words.” This fabrication by the mainstream news media will play itself out. Let it be and concentrate on a successful conclusion to the efforts in Iraq. Many critical thinkers were not happy that the president used Veteran’s Day to address the political discussions of the war. Combat soldiers have never had a say in political matters. They just follow orders.

On November 13, Jonathan Gurwitz set out in the San Antonio Express News a long list of quotes in which many of President Bush’s critics “conveniently overlook the fact that if Bush lied, a long list of liberal icons have also been lying for a very long time, some from before the time he (Bush) arrived in the Oval Office.” As push comes to shove, this will increasingly come to light.

Last – but certainly not least – is the war in Iraq. The November 8 Pew Poll said that “the public also continues to view the war in Iraq as the most important problem facing the country.”

The same Pew Poll noted that only “22% report having heard a lot about the recent [successful Iraqi] referendum.” One wonders if the responsibility of removing the maniac Saddam Hussein had fallen upon a Democrat president, would we be witnessing the vitriolic liberal opposition? The American public will not tolerate politicizing American soldiers in combat in the long run, especially as the successes of the war effort continue.

On October 13 the Media Research Center reported that it analyzed all broadcasts by the three major television networks from January 1 through September 30 “and found 61 percent of the stories were negative or pessimistic while only 15 percent of the stories were positive or optimistic.” As the efforts in Iraq bring forth more successes, where is the spin for the mainstream media and liberals?

The reaction to any problem must never go beyond prudence. If the president starts chasing his tail reacting to the polls, he is doomed.

Andrew Jackson said "one man with courage makes a majority." The president needs to be that man of courage, learn the lessons from his mistakes, get past this period and continue to provide the leadership that this country needs.

As the approaching holidays provide a breather, hopefully the president will put 2005 behind him and bring his attention to bear on social security reform, getting the budget back under control, health care, seeing the Iraq effort to a successful conclusion and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org



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