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As Long as We Remember...

June 28, 2006

al-Zarqawi's Death and The Fall Elections

Edward Lulie III

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed and a chill went through the hearts of the left across the country. Not that they particularly liked the suicide bomber master mind, but that President George W. Bush scored political points precisely at the time they thought he had hit the bottom and was dragging the GOP down with him.

Even worse was that new Press Secretary Tony Snow had Mr. Bush immediately before the cameras; not claiming victory but stating that it was a chance for the Iraqi government to come together and make progress. There has been progress in Iraq, not that you've heard it in the old media's drumbeat of "more bad news tonight."

Mr. Snow may become the most reviled man in America if he keeps up his unrelentingly friendly and honest dealings with the media. The al-Zarqawi news didn't catch him sleeping; he'd already thought out how to handle the news and most importantly how not to give Bush's enemies a way to twist the news back and turn gold into slag as they have so expertly managed in the past.

That is great news for the GOP, but not helpful to the plans of Howard Dean and the left. With Mr. Snow managing the press, it is inevitable that President Bush will recover some of his popularity. It is already happening.

That the GOP was on the way out is an article of faith among the left. Yet reality still intrudes. For the GOP to lose the Senate the party would have to lose five of the 15 seats it is defending. It could happen, but the Democratic Party would also have to win all 18 of its seats on the ballot this fall.

Look at Maryland, where Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is making a strong showing in his run for the Senate. Mr. Steele is showing strength in black communities that have been long considered the exclusive domain of the Democratic Party. Should Mr. Steele be successful, it would be a Democrat loss in the Senate and make it much harder for Democrats to win back control of this august body.

Inside the beltway many Democrats look to narrowing the gap, but do not have a real hope of winning back control of the Senate. They are focused on retaking the House of Representatives; counting down the days until they might take back the control lost in 1994. Is that a realistic goal, or just a pipe dream?

Democrats under Howard Dean are completely introspective; they only see reality based upon what their inclusive group believes. While this unifies the group, it also prevents them from rapidly adjusting or changing to meet events. It takes time to form a consensus view of reality and that makes it difficult to communicate any message other than "we hate President Bush."

That the president was headed for impeachment before a Democrat controlled House and Senate is still a devout hope among the left, but the certainty of that is fading even with the hard left's true believers.

The House, as always, has all of its seats up for re-election this fall. The GOP has 232 seats, more than ever since regaining control in 1994. In 1992 Democrats had 258 seats; today that number has dwindled to 201. To regain control the Democrats would need to get to 218. (435 seats/2= 217.5). That is not impossible; but it is no easy task.

The furor over the immigration issue hasn't really helped Democrats; the vast majority of the country is to the right of both the GOP and the Democrats on this issue. Anger at the GOP is not likely to directly benefit Democrats (especially since a recent losing Democrat congressional candidate was caught telling an audience they didn't need to be legal citizens to be able to vote.

Democrats are mistaken when they think dissent with the GOP leadership for failing to deal with the issue helps them; the public is even more upset with their position on the issue and unlikely to reward a party which is even more out of touch with them than the GOP.

Of course, there is always that basic staple of political fortune telling - the economy. Democrats don't want to talk about that because - except for energy costs (or despite them) - it is booming. They well recall the Clinton mantra "it's the economy." and don't want this bright ray of sunshine ruining their political forecast for November.

With al-Zarqawi dead, the news in Iraq was positive for a change, possibly setting a trend as the Iraq government begins to work. If it succeeds in gaining legitimacy, the left here will lose energy - except among themselves.

Few in the media are discussing what might happen to the Democratic Party in November if it fails to regain control of either the House or the Senate. Might moderates regain control from the Howard Dean wing? Or has the new refined far left Democratic Party positioned itself where it might not recover?

Appealing solely to the far left, and not to moderates, risks everything. It may not be enough to regain power by merely existing as opposition to the GOP. A wiser plan might have been to court moderate voters in a genuine effort instead of the transparently fraudulent campaign to merely claim moderate positions with press conferences and web sites.

No one believes it, on the right, the left or the center. To sell that brand of political soap requires a masterful politician, and Democrats find themselves stuck marching behind Howard Dean. It doesn't say very much for Democrats that their hopes for regaining power are tied completely to bad news for the United States and voters' discontent with Congress.

Lacking any semblance of a new vision (or new ideas), it remains to be seen if voters will choose to change direction this fall. It is more likely that voters will hold their noses and vote for the GOP because it continues to reflect their values more than Democrats do under Howard Dean; no matter what slogan or ad campaign attempts to persuade them that the party of the far left "really" shares the values of most Americans.

It doesn't, and most voters, however upset with GOP spending, ineptness and failure to deal with oil price gouging, will be hard pressed to choose Democrats this fall.

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