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Jewish World Review
Jan. 25, 2007
/ 6 Shevat, 5767
Running out of ideas could mean running into trouble
Give Democrats credit. They campaigned on a legislative agenda. They won on it. They delivered it in fewer than 100 hours according to Nancy Pelosi's clock.
Lesson to Republicans: It really is that easy. Once upon a time, the GOP leadership understood that lesson. Forty years of wandering in the minority desert led Republicans to the political promised land in the 1990s. Perhaps a shorter sojourn will suffice this time.
But having completed their legislative imperatives before the month of January is out, Democrats now face an important question: What next? Not to diminish the importance of, say, halving the interest rate on student loans, but there are a few significant issues the Democrat-controlled Congress hasn't begun to touch.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last year, was the principal architect of his party's stunning victory in November. He is today chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
In a recent interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, Emanuel spelled out the Democratic leadership's legislative agenda for the rest of 2007: energy independence and better health care for children.
Yep, that's it. Not that there's anything wrong with these two ideas, though it's hard to believe that a new proposal for energy independence will be much different from all the other proposals that have been advanced during the past 34 years.
Where's the discussion about the nation's big political problems and some big ideas to solve them? Immigration reform and entitlement spending come to mind. And it sure seems like there was a war somewhere that had a lot of people upset, one that maybe even a few Democrats had talked about.
Emanuel, writes Ignatius, wants to avoid falling "into the political trap of chasing overambitious or potentially unpopular measures."
Entitlement reform? Fuggedaboutit.
Iraq? Here is Ignatius' paraphrase of the Emanuel strategy: "It's Bush's war, and as it splinters the structure of GOP power, the Democrats are waiting to pick up the pieces."
Not exactly a profile in political courage. JWR commentator Tony Blankley appropriately calls it "vulture politics."
No one should be surprised by the lack of big ideas from the Democrats' chief strategist. As it happens, on the eve of the November election, he co-authored a book with Democratic Leadership Council President Bruce Reed titled "The Plan: Big Ideas for America."
What's notable about the book is its glaring lack of big ideas. As they say, you can't judge a book by its cover.
Concerning the skyrocketing costs of Social Security and Medicare and its consequences for the economy, about which Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued yet another dire warning last week, "The Plan" has no plan. In fact, it manages to pile on even more entitlement spending.
Likewise, there's no plan for immigration reform. True to Emanuel's risk-averse strategy, "The Plan" even steers clear of policy prescriptions on mainstay liberal issues such as gay marriage, abortion and stem cell research. Too potentially unpopular. So it's no surprise that there's no plan for Iraq, either.
On a recent edition of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air," Emanuel identified a series of alternative policies for Iraq offered by Democrats in 2005 and 2006, from Sen. Joe Biden's call for partition to Rep. Jack Murtha's nearly almost immediate redeployment to somewhere else close to Iraq. The alternatives, notes Emanuel, came from Democrats in the minority, while Republicans were content to do more of the same.
That criticism only highlights the political timidity of Democrats, now in the majority, whose boldest assertion of policy on Iraq seems to be a vote on a symbolic, nonbinding sense of Congress.
After the GOP's first 100 days managing the 104th Congress in 1995, it took a few years before Republicans ran out of ideas and ran into trouble. After the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, Democrats seem intent on doing things faster.
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JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a co-founder and twice served as Director General of the Future Leaders of the Alliance program at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. In 1986 he was placed on the Foreign Service Register of the U.S. State Department.Comment by clicking here.
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