Collectively, they convey an image of liberal elitism, disarray, and crabbiness.
In a classic "oh by the way" Weisberg utterly undermines his argument and evidences how little he knows about actual governance and politics in the very next paragraph:
Pelosi and Reid do deserve credit for getting the Democratic troops in line. Both are former party whips, and since their promotions they've continued to wield the scourge effectively. In Bush's first term, when the too-nice Tom Daschle and Richard Gephardt ruled the roost, Democratic defectors let the president pass his tax cuts. In the second term, by contrast, the congressional minority has maintained discipline, winning a few morale-boosting victories and forcing some uncomfortably close votes. Bush was not able to peel off centrist Democrats to negotiate with him on Social Security, which meant a well-deserved defeat for his half-baked privatization plan. But whip work, which emphasizes horse-trading and instilling fear in the rank and file, is poor training for policy-making and message-building. Those are the facilities the institutional Democratic Party sorely lacks at the moment.
What a maroon. As Matt Yglesias points out, the job of Congressional leaders IN OPPOSITION is to oppose:
It seems to me that Jacob Weisberg's bashing of the Democratic leadership is almost entirely undermined by his own to-be-sure graf which begins with the observation that "Pelosi and Reid do deserve credit for getting the Democratic troops in line." This is huge. In the wake of the 2004 election this was the single thing that most needed to be done. It's also very difficult to do. American political institutions discourage party discipline, and the institutional set-up of the Democratic Party further discourages it. The emergence of a highly-disciplined Republican Party in the 1990s was a historic achievement in the American context, and the Democrats desperately needed to find a way to match it even though doing so would be even harder for them.
In the end, Weisberg's argument is really the old GOP talking point "Dems need a positive agenda":
For a sweep big enough to recover both houses of Congress, the party will almost certainly need an affirmative message as well as a negative one. Democrats need to demonstrate they won't just cut and run from Iraq, that they see security as more than a civil liberties issue, and that their alternative to tax cuts isn't just more spending on flawed social programs and unchallenged growth in entitlements.
Thus far, Pelosi, Reid, and Dean have been literally unable to develop such a national message for the party's congressional candidates. Not just a good message--any message. Their "legislative manifesto," originally promised for November, has been delayed more often than a flight on Jet Blue. When it eventually arrives, expect something benign and insipid. In 1994, Gingrich had the Contract With America. In 2006, Democrats will have another glass of merlot.
This is now proven to be such a stupid refrain that it is subject to ridicule even inside the Beltway. I'll discuss it AGAIN on the flip.
It is now an ingrained journalistic habit: After a period of bad news for President Bush, media outlets invariably devote time and space to "balancing" stories that all say more or less: "Yes, the Republicans are in trouble, but the Democrats have no alternatives, no plans," etc.
The pattern began to fall in place this weekend in the wake of two truly miserable weeks for Bush.
The stories about the Democrats are by no means flatly false -- Democrats don't yet have a fully worked-out alternative program -- but they are based on a false premise, and they underestimate what I'll call the positive power of negative thinking.
The false premise is that oppositions win midterm elections by offering a clear program, such as the Republicans' 1994 Contract With America. I've been testing this idea with such architects of the 1994 "Republican revolution" as former representative Vin Weber and Tony Blankley, who was Newt Gingrich's top communications adviser and now edits the Washington Times editorial page.
Both said the main contribution of the contract was to give inexperienced Republican candidates something to say once the political tide started moving the GOP's way. But both insisted that it was disaffection with Bill Clinton, not the contract, that created the Republicans' opportunity -- something Bob Dole said at the time.
The Democrats' real problem is that they have failed to show how their critique of the Republican status quo is the essential first step toward the alternative program they will owe the voters in the presidential year of 2008.
Apparently incapable of an original thought, Weisberg parrots the Ad Nags line. Pretty pathetic. Oh, and as for the "wondruous" Contract With America? This is what it said:
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
* FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
* SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
* THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
* FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
* FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
* SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
* SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
* EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.
Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.
- THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS ACT: An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in- sentencing, "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION ACT: A S500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS ACT: Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance to let Older Americans keep more of what they have earned over the years. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT ACT: Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs and raise worker wages. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM ACT: "Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation. (Bill Text) (Description)
- THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators. (Description)
Hey Weisberg, that ain't exactly the Declaration of Independence. You know what it is? It is a press release saying "we have a positive agenda." With friends like you, what hope does a Democratic Contract With America have of being treated with the same adulation? Zero.
And there is the significant difference - our pundits work for Republicans inadvertently and are basically dolts. Their pundits are bought and paid for. I guess I like ours better, but it is a real "lesser of two evils" situation.