The Democrats won the midterm elections. To quote President Bush, they "gave the Republicans a'thumpin". While the degree of the country's discontent with Bush policies and incompetence would have suggested a larger tsunami, decades of bipartisan gerrymandering (a practice where the representative chooses his constituents, rather than conversely) stemmed that tide for the Republicans.
The radical rightwing media, whose purpose is to elect Republicans, helped them. Time and again, they magnified Bush's scurrilous assertions of how a Democratic victory would embolden the enemy. They showed an ad with a white woman beckoning an Afro-American candidate, Harold Ford, to excite racial stereotypes (the excuse: Harold Ford once attended a function sponsored by Playboy). They took John Kerry's flubbed joke, the omission of a single word, magnified it through the Drudge Report, to Fox News, and forced 3-time purple heart winner Kerry---who had campaigned for, and raised more money, for more Democrats than anyone---to the sidelines, and even Democrats chimed in.
That is power. But, it is nothing compared to what they are doing today. Despite nominal control of the microphone, Democrats measure their statements and policies and votes by how they will be able to withstand the inevitable scurrilous attacks by radical rightwing media, masquerading as "news". Hillary Clinton, who publicly "outed" this cabal years ago, is twisting and contorting her comments about her Iraq War vote to avoid the word "mistake" for which, she believes, the radical rightwing media would crucify her.
Today's most tragic exercise of that power concerns is preventing the electorate's will to be exercised with respect to Iraq. The ploy: if you vote for cutting funding for the war, you are not supporting our troops, not giving them the equipment and protection they need to reduce their risks to a minimum. Of course, this same radical rightwing media said nary a word when US troops were actually sent into battle with inadequate body and vehicle armor. To them, that was OK, or as Rumsfeld consoled, "you go to war with the army you have".
The Democrats---characteristically---have fallen prey to their tactics. Instead of shoving it back down the radical right's throats, they attempt to answer this ridiculous ploy directly. As the radical rightwing so expertly sets it up, the direct answer requires subtlety and has little emotional appeal compared to the (phoney) image of a soldier fighting without weapons, having not eaten for several days, all because Congress has stopped their funding.
The political elites are mired in this quagmire created by radical rightwing media tactics, developed by Goebbels, Hitler's communications guru. The big lie. Repeated. Attacking patriotism. As Johnson and Boyce have described it in this space, "they destroy our leaders".
Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would have been very simple to ask a few basic questions about, well, appropriations---if Congress cuts off funding, say, in 6 months, would you Mr. Secretary keep US troops in harms way with reduced armor, running out of food and drink, spending their final rounds of ammunition until all the money ran out? Would you, General Pace, play "chicken" with the lives of US troops? Let us hear what the Administration says in direct answer to those questions.
Did anyone ask these simple questions? The answer is implied by having to pose the question in the first place. Indeed, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin has already fallen for the media ploy, parroting the rightwing media line about the impact of cutting funding almost word-for-word on Meet the Press last Sunday. He should be ashamed of himself.
It is very sad testimony that the answers to those questions are not obvious from an Administration who sent the troops to Iraq without adequate body armor, that abandons them upon their return home, that accelerates their cycles of return-to-duty, and that has stated that cutting off funds would indeed endanger the troops.
It is even more pathetic that radical rightwing media has created such a myth of its power that its grip on political speech thwarts the will of the American people, expressed at the polls in November, and re-expressed in polling data since. If Members had even a scintilla of the courage they rightfully celebrate in our troops, that grip would be broken; and, once broken, it would be hard to resurrect the myth.
Or, perhaps as Chuck Hagel so aptly put it, they should go sell shoes.
Follow Paul Abrams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pabrams2001