Sunday, September 25, 2005

I believe Lt. Gen. Russel Honore’s classic admonition to reporters, “Don’t get stuck on stupid,” was one of the best lines so far of the new millennium. Part of its enduring value is its uncanny applicability to politics these days.

Gen. Honore made the statement to reporters who insisted on asking about Katrina when he was trying to focus on Rita. He said there would be plenty of time later to sort through inadequacies in the government’s response to Katrina, but for now they need to deal with Rita’s impending wrath.

“Don’t get stuck on stupid,” thus became an instant metaphor — at least to me — for “Quit playing gotcha, quit dwelling in the past, and help us with solutions.”

Gen. Honore’s metaphor perfectly fits the behavior of Democratic politicians in Washington and caterwauling liberal loons since 2000 — that’s right, the entire millennium, so far. In their singular obsession with George W. Bush — “hatred” is probably more accurate — they have been “stuck on stupid.”

To clarify, I’m not calling Democrats in Washington and the whacko left fringe stupid. Far from it. I am saying, though, that their perspective has been tainted by their consuming antipathy for George Bush.

They don’t even deny their contempt for President Bush but wear it proudly. I think they would deny, however, its irrationality and poisonous effects. Many seem to think it’s a completely rational reaction to his “contemptible” policies, particularly the war with Iraq. They don’t tell you their ill will for him significantly predated our invasion of Iraq, which many of them, by the way, supported.

Their unhealthy hatred for Mr. Bush dates back to the 2000 election, which they — irrationally again — believe he stole from Al Gore. Mr. Gore was trying to steal the election himself and almost succeeded, through one of the most egregious perversions of the rule of law in U.S. history, by the Florida Supreme Court.

But the real source of their animus is even more basic. They resent him because he represents their expulsion from power over the executive branch, which the Clinton eight-year heyday should have ensured them in perpetuity.

You’ll recall that their “entitlement” to the legislative branch was stolen from them in 1994, which is on reason they consider Newt Gingrich another personification of evil. Adding insult to cumulative injury, they’ve also lost their monopoly on the media over the last 15 years.

The intensity of their blinding hatred for Mr. Bush compels them to view all problems through their anti-Bush lenses. How many of them could bring themselves to rejoice, for example, over the historic elections in Iraq and the people’s courageous embracing of self-rule and representative government there? And how about their unconscionable politicizing of Katrina? They are stuck on stupid.

Indeed, the real challenge for Democrats, politically, is whether they’ll be able to unstick themselves from stupid as we approach the 2008 elections — not to mention 2006. Are they capable of thinking clearly again? Can they offer alternative solutions to the nation’s problems, beyond carping at Mr. Bush — who won’t be running — and tearing down Republican ideas?

One great irony is that Hillary Clinton figured this out long ago. She realized she needed to rise above this pettiness and demonstrate an appreciation for the global evil we face in the War on Terror, among other things.

But just when she had almost extricated herself — opportunistically — from the Democratic “stupid” quagmire, she was jerked right back into it by the formidably powerful crazies that dominate the party today. Hillary just got trounced in an unofficial poll among the far-left kooks — hundreds of thousands of them — and she’s understandably nervous. Properly chastened, she has started hurling obligatory invectives at President Bush again.

If Republicans weren’t stuck on stupid as well — in an entirely different way — they would have nothing to fear from Democrats in 2008, notwithstanding the enormous problems we now face, foreign and domestic. But Republicans don’t seem to know how to stay true to the principles they champion. Though a majority of the country probably leans conservative, the GOP is still scared to death to govern that way.

President Bush should ignore the polls and the conventional wisdom that he has lost too much political capital to carry out his agenda. He must abandon all fantasies of placating the implacable left. He should appoint a conspicuously conservative originalist, like Judge Janice Rogers Brown, to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, then make his income tax cuts permanent, eliminate the estate tax, reform Social Security, reform immigration, cut pork and continue building up Iraqi forces. Let the other guys stay stuck on stupid.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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