At the 1984 Wimbledon, in one of the most dazzling displays in the modern history of tennis, John McEnroe dispatched superstar and arch rival Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in only 80 minutes. It was a time of sustained rallies and epic rivalries, and Mac's four unforced errors -- missed shots (like second serves or easy service returns) where a player should have been able to keep the ball in play but did not -- were a record low for any Grand Slam final since such statistics have been kept.
In the high-stakes match between the two major parties, it's do or die time for Democrats. Their storied lack of discipline and fierce infighting isn't inherently bad -- why should they all have to play nice and vote the same way? But the wobbliness of both the Obama administration and the Congress on such major issues as financial reform and health care -- on which the jury's still very much out -- are disheartening, though not yet cause for joining writer/activist Chris Hedges in abandoning the The President and the Dems altogether.
Some of us still believe there is a major difference between the parties -- that no matter how pathetic the Democrats, a Republican takeover is unthinkable. But when it comes to the chances of getting things done, just about the only thing keeping us from despair is the consistency with which Republicans commit unforced political errors.
The past few days have given us Jim Bunning's Scrooge-like turn demonstrating that he was a better Phillie than filibusterer; Sarah Palin's absurd claim -- on The Tonight Show! -- that she never got a chance to explain her nasty comments about the brilliant Family Guy episode which featured a character with Down Syndrome; and Mitt Romney's soporific turn on Letterman. Best of all was Michael Steele's pained disavowal of a leaked Republican National Committee presentation detailing -- in glorious Power Point -- plans for aggressive 2010 campaigning centered around "fear" of President Barack Obama and a promise to "save the country from trending toward socialism." Here the unforced error wasn't the document -- which is not atypical for either party -- but leaving it at a hotel where it could be found by a Democratic operative.
As first reported by the website Politico, the plan notes that "ego-driven" wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and "tchochkes." (The saving grace here may be that these donors' egos are so big they won't suspect the insult applies to them, even after hearing and reading about it everywhere they turn their heads) Small donors are described under the heading "Visceral Giving." Their motivations are listed as "fear, extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration and Reactionary." Major donors' "Calculated Giving" is motivated by "Peer to Peer Pressure (is that different than good old peer pressure?), Access and Ego-Driven."
Unforced errors aren't strangers to Democrats either, of course. The Clinton administration's financial deregulation led to incalculable economic hardship that will plague us for years to come. For all the great work Al Gore has done on environmentalism, he committed the equivalent of a triple fault when he coined the term "global warming" and gave Rush and Glenn a gag line every time it snows. And Karen Finney, a Democratic "consultant, strategist and commentator" reacted to the RNC memo with this out-of-bounds overhead smash: "This latest revelation about the RNC's fund-raising and message strategy is nothing short of treason." What's next: death panels for wayward conservatives?
Men's tennis Grand Slams are three out of five sets. As brought to life in Andre Agassi's compelling autobiography Open, when a match gets to the fifth set, it pretty much comes down to focus and endurance. While Republicans are double faulting by demonizing Dems, President Obama and the Congressional leadership should be keeping the ball in play and pounding away on substance. And when it comes down to the wire on health care, don't count on Joe Biden to break a 50-50 tie -- at Wimbledon there are no tie-breakers in the fifth set.