I always get nervous when my team is ahead and the coach decides to sit on the lead.
You know the feeling. For three quarters our passing game has been unstoppable, the running game pathetic, but with a big lead, the coach decides to the run the ball - every play. All he needs to do is eat up time. Suddenly the opponent scores, our fullback fumbles, our quarterback goes down with an injury, another score and suddenly our guys look confused and momentum shifts, but the coach keeps running the ball.
That's how I feel as we approach the two-minute warning for the Nov. 7 election. The Democrats are ahead, but they are afraid to say so or act like it. Republican policy is crumbling all around them. They face the most incompetent group of Republicans in my lifetime - from Katrina to Baghdad, from Afghanistan to the national debt - but they have opted to sit on their lead. Run the ball! No bold initiatives; no calls for troops home now; no filibuster to stop the absurd McCain torture bill.
Nope. Just sit on the lead until Nov. 7. If you say nothing while fuzzing over your positions, so the reasoning goes, you can't make a mistake and people will vote against the bad guys in power who have made plenty of big ones. So go along with the crazies to eliminate habeas corpus; detain people without charges; permit eavesdropping on Americans without judicial restraint; have the CIA run secret prisons - and maybe, just maybe, no one will "Swift-boat us." There apparently is no outrage the Democrats will not put up with while sitting on their lead. They can taste the champagne!
My advice: Look out! You don't have a quarterback and your running plays are too obvious to be successful. Go figure - a new poll found that 61 percent of Iraqis now approve of attacks on Americans. The New York Times reports that 78 percent of Iraqis now believe that the U.S. military presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing." And 71 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. out within a year. Hell, we can't get 71 percent of Democrats in Congress to call for a pullout within two years, let alone a year! Ah, but what do those Iraqis know, anyway.
What are the Democrats waiting for? Possibly they will do something when 100 percent of Iraqis want us out - but don't count on it.
All this while Bush the Delusional continues to urge us to "stay the course" despite an emerging Republican majority in favor of, you guessed it, "cut and run." The GOP candidates in 2008 will not "stay the course," they will change the plan and the corporate media will be their cheerleaders. Parents, spouses, and children of those who are on the front lines must cringe when the hear "stay the course" when there has never been a course to stay. Remember "Mission Accomplished"?
Even Republican Senate hawk John Warner has concluded that our policy is "drifting sideways." And that is a generous view of this fiasco. Warner said last week that if the Iraqi military does not step up to the plate within two to three months, we should adopt a new policy. Hint, hint - get the hell out of there. A new policy? What, may we ask, is the old policy?
James Baker announced that there must be a change. "It's not appeasement to talk to your enemies," said Baker on ABC. Take that, Rummy! Baker thinks we should deal with Iran and, yes, Syria and North Korea, for heaven's sake. Do any Democrats agree or is Baker too bold?
Where are the Democrats while the ground shifts below them? Answer: Sitting on a lead and hoping that no one notices. One can hear their plea: "Just get us to Nov. 7. Let us take over to demonstrate we are more competent managers."
But unless the Dems offer a clear alternative, why will the independents get out and vote to give them that opportunity? At the moment they are outflanked on the left by John Warner and James Baker. Whoa, Nelly! This is embarrassing. Yes, the get-out-the-vote effort will be important, and yes, the Iraqi quagmire is on voters' minds, and yes, the economy is in trouble and working families know W is no friend. But in addition to all that, voters must feel that there will be a sea change if Democrats win in November, not just a change in rhetoric.
Blow this chance, folks, and forget about 2008. Baker for president?
Ed Garvey is a Madison lawyer, political activist and the editor of the fightingbob.com Web site. E-mail: email@example.com
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