10/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Passion and Anger Are Potent Weapons in the Hands of the Calm and Collected

All right. So the Dems have been swiftboated again. The Republicans throw out a series of outlandish lies worthy of a grade-school playground (whole-scale granny-cide, John Kerry ate human flesh while patrolling the Mekong Delta) and the Democrats try to just laugh it off. The Dems chortle, "Who would ever encourage such nonsense."

Um, how about every single possible news outlet?

Crazy sells. Crazy brings eyeballs to the flat screen. How hard is that to understand?

Even if it's against your nature, a rapid, vigorous counter-attack is the only logical choice.

But the most corrosive effect of Democratic leadership passivity in response to high-pitched lunatic right wing charges is to the Democratic masses. There is nothing more dispiriting than watching the people you've elected to lead you be bullied. Especially when the opponent stands at an historic level of weakness. It's like watching your big, strapping dad get beat up by your scrawny weasel of a next-door neighbor.

The President's poll numbers have fallen not because of policy but because he's being perceived as weak and that weakness scares us.

It doesn't have to be this way. This is health care we're talking about. Actual lives stand in the balance. Why is there only passion on the side of keeping things the way they are?

What we need right now is some fire.

If you're always angry and shouting, like O'Reilly or Beck, folks learn to tune out. However, as in Obama's case, if you're known for your calm, then anger, used judiciously, can be devastatingly effective. As a parent to young kids he must know that. When they're really out of line you have to shout. You have to discipline. Kids constantly test the boundaries of their powers and will take over a household if the parents aren't stern enough. Republicans are the same way. Republicans in the minority are cranky and thin-skinned and shrill. But they are not in charge anymore.

Senator Grassley's betrayal, for example, could have been an excellent, teachable moment. When he jumped on the death panel bandwagon the White House needed to immediately and publicly scold him and kick him out of the Gang of Six. He was given tremendous, unwarranted power and, wham! that power should have been instantly and ferociously taken away. If he wanted to come back and play he would have to say he was sorry and be a good, compliant boy from now on.

Other Republicans and Democrats unwilling to play nice would then be on notice. The President would be saying, "I'm patient up to a point, but if you get way out of line I will be stern and merciless."

Right now, nobody fears the President, and no change that we can believe in will come to policies favorable to entrenched and well-funded special interests without some passion and anger. When kids are acting up they have to know that there are consequences.

You can't well parent a household without a healthy dose of fear.

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