2006: The Dems' Make-or-Break Year

01/02/2006 11:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Some Thoughts for Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Bob Schrum, Donna Brazile, John Podesta, Nancy Pelosi, and the Rest of the Shit-for-Brains So-Called Leaders of the Democratic Party, at the Start of 2006, a Year Which Will Either Restore the Party to Political Relevance or Witness Its Ultimate Humiliation and Extinction

My New Years resolutions are to stop smoking and finish my novel. Yours should be to cut the crap and start winning. Here are some suggestions.

- It's the Constitution, stupid. You'll never get a better Christmas gift than the NSA wiretapping scandal. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to let this one slide into the murmurs of committee hearings and "Washington Week," or are you going to stand up and insist -- loudly, repeatedly, unswervingly -- that this is a country of laws, that the President has admitted on national television that he broke the law, that he intends to continue breaking the law "so long as [he is] President," and that in order to preserve the rule of law, criminals must be punished? The public must be shown that this is a vitally important issue. If that means calling the Senate into closed session, if it means boycotting one-sided Congressional hearings, if it means shutting down the government with a party-wide walk-out, the Republicans must not be allowed to change the subject.

- Stay on topic. Republicans will want the hearings to focus on the question of whether what the President did was legal. They want the matter to appear as a "judgment call," critics as willing to sacrifice national security for an uptight and overly complicated reading of a vague statute. But this is sophistry. There is a clear, unambiguous law, and the President did not obey it. That equals illegal, whatever his reasons. The President's assertion -- that he is qualified and entitled to assess the applicability of the law and to ignore it at will -- is the only relevant question. The question of legality has already been answered. It's not a question at all.

- It's the crime and the cover-up. Here's a question no one is asking: Since Bush knew a year ago that The New York Times would eventually run the wiretapping story, was Samuel Alito chosen for the Supreme Court specifically because he had previously defended this practice? Did Alito have any conversations with the President on this topic prior to the nomination? (A follow up: As White House Counsel, Harriet Miers is implicated in the NSA orders. Was her otherwise inexplicable Supreme Court nomination an attempt to get her "out of harm's way" before the story broke?)

- It is time to start calling things by their proper names. Here are some words to add to your vocabulary: Lying: As opposed to "misleading," "finessing," "not being straight with," etc. The President has lied to the country, to the Congress, to the media, to the world. Abuse of Power: In addition to drawing useful connections to Watergate in the minds of voters, this term has the virtue of being absolutely appropriate to the President's actions. Money Laundering: c.f. Tom DeLay. Bribery, is the only word that applies to those who took money from Jack Abramoff. Insider Trading and Blind Trust: If the latter is not truly blind, then it's the former, period. Blackmail: As in a Medicare official threatened with loss of job if he tells Congress the true price of the prescription drug plan, and Political Retaliation: As in what happened to General Shinseki and Valerie Plame. Criminal Negligence: As in Mike Brown, Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, et. so many al. As long as we insist on finding polite euphemisms for these things, the public will assume they are minor infractions, not serious matters.

- Don't use the I-word. Yet. The 2006 elections need to be about whether the country will tolerate the President's abuse of power, not whether it has the stomach for another impeachment ordeal. Here's the line: "The President, by his own admission, has broken the law. We are looking into the appropriate consequences for such actions."

- If you really adopt "Together We Can Do Better" as the party slogan, you can cancel my membership. Fire whoever came up with this. We are running to lead the country, not the Student Council.

- Don't beat up on Joe Lieberman. What's to be gained? Sure, he's an unctuous, opportunistic schmuck -- just ask Bill Clinton -- but we are not the party that punishes free-thinking, nor insists on conformity at the price of integrity. Lieberman's entitled to his opinion, self-serving though it might be. Leave him alone and start talking more forcefully about what the Democratic Party wants to do in -- or out of -- Iraq.

- Filibuster Samuel Alito if necessary. Alito is avowedly anti-choice and has shown his intention to rule as such from the bench. Any pro-choice Senator, Arlen Specter included, has a moral obligation to use whatever means available to defeat his nomination. It is not a question of strategy, it is a question of conviction: Are you pro-choice, or aren't you? (And in any case, preserving from the "nuclear option" a tactic you never intend to use hardly seems a useful strategy.)

- John Kerry is a terrible standard bearer. His every appearance validates the Republican caricature of Democrats as smug, patrician, out of touch; his indignation about Iraq is not convincing. Somebody needs to sit him down and tell him he is not the 2008 nominee and get him off the television.

- No matter what Republicans want you to believe, Americans have not rejected liberalism. On the contrary: quality education, affordable health care, strong national defense, financial responsibility, checks and balances, Social Security and pension protection, equal rights, privacy, freedom of speech and religion -- these are American priorities, to be protected from Republican recklessness and greed. We should not be ashamed to be liberals who fight for these things. We should be proud.

- The Democrats are the party of financial responsibility. National debt when Reagan took office in 1980: $1 trillion. National debt when Clinton took office in 1992: $4 trillion. National debt when George W. Bush took office in 2000: $5 trillion. National debt when Bush leaves office in 2008 (projected): $10 trillion. Any questions?

- It's now or never. The 2006 elections should see massive gains for the Democrats. I say "should" -- because we "should" have won in 2004, but for the timidity and ineptitude of the Kerry campaign. This year, the party must commit itself to a vigorous, unrelenting, no-holds-barred discussion of what this country stands for: American integrity, American values, American responsibility at home and abroad. Democratic candidates must not shy away from full-contact politics, nor from pointing out the criminality, and consequences, of the Party of Bush. They must not take the high-road of compromise and complacency of the past six years. Our country is being destroyed by gangsters, bigots, and crooks. We don't invite such people for tea and polite discussion. We defeat them.

- I cannot support a party that will not stand up for what it believes in. If the Democrats in 2006 can't be bothered to make an all-out attempt to win back Congress, to hold the President accountable, to restore American values to government, I can't be bothered to vote on Election Day. I suspect that many, many frustrated Democrats are with me on this. That is my promise to you.

- Happy New Year.