In Washington, crazy is normal, and normal is crazy.
President Bush and his people adopt a lunatic theory about preventive war, conjure out of Saddam Hussein's non-existent nuclear arsenal a paranoid vision of an imminent mushroom cloud over an American city, start a real war with make-believe planning (and disastrous consequences), keep giving the war rosy prognoses unhinged from the grim reality and suffer delusions of monarchism in which King George has inalienable rights to torture prisoners and wiretap citizens without court oversight, despite laws to the contrary.
A lone lawmaker has put forth a modest proposal to counter this last excess. Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat, has asked his colleagues to censure Bush - that is, to pass a resolution rebuking him for illegally spying on Americans.
Now, guess who's drawn the verbal brickbats, such as "out of line," "overreaching," "irresponsible," "outrageous," "crazy." Amazingly, Feingold has.
Were the administration a car, it would be careening through city streets at high speed, getting into crashes, often fatal, as it went. But the authorities would treat this crazy driving as normal and the sane lawman who wants to issue the motorist a ticket as crazy.
How do Bush and his minions get away with turning reality so inside out? Surely, their misadventures would have sunk previous administrations - giving, for instance, the Republican Congress real reasons to impeach President Clinton.
No doubt, Washington's one-party rule gets much of the blame. Besides the White House, the Republicans own Congress and the courts - weakening the formal checks on presidential power. Hence, the Senate Intelligence Committee has dragged its feet on probing whether the administration misused intelligence in beating the drums for the Iraq war.
In a healthy two-party system, Congress would have held, if not an impeachment inquiry, at least sober hearings on a host of administration misdeeds, from stifling scientific data that don't fit its views to failing to plan for a postwar Iraq.
Another factor is that the party in charge is the GOP. Some of the undisciplined Democrats in Congress would have surely broken ranks with an administration as reckless as Bush's is. But the Republicans in Congress seem to put party loyalty above all else, including the nation's welfare.
A third factor is the weak-kneed out party, the Democrats, whom Republicans have learned they can cow simply by shouting "terrorism."
The Dems live in fear that if they don't support Bush, they would be painted as weak in the war against terrorism.
They must overcome that fear, which is ludicrous anyway, in light of how badly Bush has botched that war.
The prez fancies himself a Captain Midnight. But he's more an Inspector Clouseau - except that 1) Bush's team tries to keep his stumbles off-
screen and 2) the missteps are not funny because they are so herculean and consequential.
Al Gore, or just about any other president of either party, would likely have dealt al-Qaida a fatal blow and captured Osama bin Laden dead or alive with the help of America's friends around the world in the wake of the terrorist attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001. Likely, too, such an administration would have better heeded prior warnings about the attack.
But the Bush administration fell flat both times due to its obsession with Iraq. Much of the world had rallied around America after 9-11 - support Bush chased away with his fixation on invading a nation that had nothing to do with the attack.
Besides alienating friends, the Iraq war has fanned terrorism and distracted from the war we must wage against our mortal enemy, al-Qaida. Worrisomely, that group's ally, the Taliban, is resurging in Afghanistan.
Democrats ought to eagerly talk about Bush's mishandling of the war on terrorism. In being so meek on the topic, they are betraying their role as an opposition party. They strengthen the hand of the Bush administration, which they leave free to define the war in a way that makes crazy normal and normal crazy.
Sure, Feingold knows his resolution will get nowhere. But it has stirred up a debate, much of it healthy, in that it points to the dangers of one-party rule, particularly when the ins put party loyalty ahead of the nation's welfare and the outs refuse to fight back.
© 2006, Journal Sentinel Inc