The Democrats’ Urge to Lose

How do you help someone that doesn’t want help?

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Remember when the Democrats were keeping their powder dry for the fierce battle against the President’s still unknown second nominee to the Supreme Court — and so, during the Roberts nomination hearings, didn’t even ask the judge a question about his well-reported role in the Florida 2000 vote recount battle? They were, they swore, saving their “opposition” for the even worse candidate sure to come. Now she’s here — Harriet Miers, the President’s lawyer, who contributed $5,000 to his Florida “Recount Fund” in 2000 and was running political/legal interference for the President and Vice President that year. She may also rate as the single most sycophantic candidate for just about any office in memory. (According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum, “She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.”) In essence, having passed on a man who, in at least a modest way, helped George grab the 2000 election via the Supreme Court — not a Democratic senator even asked him if he’d recuse himself, should another such case ever reach the court — they are now in the process of topping themselves by sending courtwards a family retainer; or rather, as on so many other issues (count the Iraq War as issue number one in this regard), they seem to be preparing yet again to stand aside and let the President willingly commit suicide, or, in the case of Miers, the right supposedly take her down. It could happen, but don’t hold your breath waiting (despite all the recent press punditry about this).

Skip the social issues for a moment, the new Roberts/Miers Supreme Court will certainly be two things: the Unlimited Presidential Power Detention and Torture Court and the Property Court (or rather the Corporate Court). But what an interesting situation this would be if Miers were not confirmed and the President then had to deal with his base by nominating someone the Democrats are sworn to filibuster. You might find yourself with two nominations sunk, Sandra Day O’Connor still on the court, and deep into the 2006 election campaign. Now that could be something, but again, since it’s the Democrats, don’t hold your breath.

Opposition, as the Republicans knew in the Clinton era (and still know), is a habit. You don’t save it up for a rainy day or you find yourself up on a roof waving a white cloth and calling hopelessly for rescue. Paul Hackett, the impressive ex-Marine Iraq vet, who almost wrested away a solidly Republican congressional seat in a district outside Cinncinnati this summer, commented recently, “The Democratic Party is like an addict. They’re addicted to failure. I want to help the party. The question is, how do you help someone that doesn’t want help?”

This piece first appeared, as an introduction to Jonathan Schell’s latest “Letter from Ground Zero,” at Tomdispatch.com.

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