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Saturday, November 15, 2003
 
Thanks, Mr. Brooks, but No Thanks

David Brooks has kindly come up with a strategy for democrats that will make everything better in Washington. It does involve us having our burnt and bloody asses handed to us, but he seems to think civility is worth the price.

Howard Dean is liberal aggression, and none of us have ever taken that on until today. But now I am relaunching my campaign around one simple slogan: Stop the War.

I don't mean the war in Iraq. I mean the war at home. I mean the partisan war between Republicans and Democrats that rages every day in Washington and produces behavior that would be unacceptable in any other arena of life. I mean the war that poisons our airwaves, clogs up our best-seller lists and stagnates our politics.

I've lived at the front: it's in Washington, D.C. This is World War I. Each party has its trench works. Each party has its heavy artillery. Anybody who dares wander from the predictable party lines and do something unorthodox gets his head blown off.

***

I'm opting out of the game of tit for tat. I'm going to get us out of the trenches.

If I do nothing else in the Oval Office, I will free people to build new coalitions, explore new ideas and talk to one another for the first time in a decade.

This is an evenly divided country. That is the political fact of our time. It is about time we had a president who understands that, who has a strategy for governing in such circumstances. Howard Dean and George Bush do not. They just want to pound away and pound away and ram things through. More artillery, more troops, more screaming and more hatred.

As for me, I say no more war. I'm for movement. I'm for progress, and if you are, too, come along with me.


Unilateral disarmament: we play nice, the other side goes for the jugular, stomps on our collective corpse repeatedly and wins. Color me unconvinced.

Republicans have lied to us repeatedly. They lied about what they would do with our money. They lied about how they would treat the environment. They lied about why they led us to war. When we questioned whether going to war was a good idea or not--let alone whether the reasons were fictitious--they angrily branded us traitors.

What is the proper response to a barrage of lies? What is an authentic response to a barrage of lies that one is certain are a flimsy veil covering naked, exclusionary self-interest? What kind of response will the audience believe? Let's explore a few hypothetical situations:

Your best friend lies to someone else about your personal life and you find out. How do you react?

Your teenager lies about his/her drinking. How do you react?

Your boss lies about your job security, and a pink slip arrives out of the blue. How do you react?

Your mayor lies, saying he'll fix the roads, but doesn't. How do you react?

Your spouse lies about cheating on you and spending all your money. How do you react?

The one common element of any authentic response to all of these situations is that you get angry.

However you choose to react afterwards is infinitely variable, but the first thing you do is get angry. Not getting angry is just not an authentic response.

If we don't get angry, independents may well conclude that there may be something to the republicans' message.

Dean is doing well because people believe him. He isn't taking being kicked in the teeth. He's fighting back. That's what one does when one is kicked in the teeth.

If we react calmly to the other side's lies and calumny, independents aren't going to believe that they were lies. And, as republicans go on twisting facts, spreading hate and ignoring the hard realities of our situation, they're likely to pick up a lot of votes over Brooks' calm strategy of bland righteousness. Sounds an awful lot to me like Dukakis trying to maintain his dignity while the other side beat him to death with Willie Horton. Nice doesn't win elections.

Yes, Pollyanna, this might not be the best of all possible worlds, but it's the one we're in. Maybe if we, you know, get some of our people elected, we can actually do some good for the country.

Update: Jesse tells it like it is.