Who knew? Politics can be fun. Now I can boast to my students that my wife and I have reached the pinnacle of wonk-dom–we have watched C-Span online on a Friday night.
In case you missed it, the House of Representatives defeated a resolution for immediate withdrawal from Iraq tonight after several hours of debate. Democrats, who voted overwhelmingly against the resolution, are treating it like a “political stunt” (a phrase, I might add, that they repeated ad nauseam during the debates):
“A disgrace,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “The rankest of politics and the absence of any sense of shame,” added Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.
If the resolution is a disgrace, then it’s not clear at all what we should call the debates. They were captivating, but then again, so are train-wrecks. A few lessons:
1) Republican gains may have been minimized by not using Murtha’s actual proposition or a proposition that was more charitably formulated.
2) Republican strategy should involve lessons in rhetoric for potential candidates. It was fun to see many of the candidates give semi-prepared remarks, but many of the speakers were less than eloquent. If Republicans want to persuade, then they should deploy every tactic–sound argumentation, excellent rhetoric.
3) The Democrats lost a huge advantage to demonstrate their rationality. If submitting the resolution was a political stunt, the Democratic response in the debates was no better. There was hooting and jeering that, while occasionally fun to watch, was also semi-embarrasing. The best moment was when a Republican congressman (I can’t find his name right now, and I’m too tired to search longer) shushed the Democratic yelling. It seems much more prudent for the Democrats to acknowledge that this wasn’t the time to have a substantial debate, not engage in wild jeering, and then calmly and rationally vote with the Republicans and then say it was a political stunt. As it is, they come off as noxious as ever.
4) Similarly, someone in the Democratic party should have been kind enough to actually provide Congressman Murtha with some reasonable arguments. The Republicans weren’t much better in this way, but they didn’t have to be. Story after story, letter after letter–emotional appeals are great, but it gave the (potentially fairly accurate) impression that the Democrats have very little substance on their side.
Based on this: Republicans with the advantage, but only by a hair. It will take much more direct engagement to actually win the war at home in order to win the war abroad.