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When Will They Learn?

The Democrats who won control of Congress last year, riding a national wave of disgust with the Bush presidency, are beginning to find themselves as helpless as the rest of the nation, and the world, in the face of President Bush’s implacable stubbornness. They have passed an increase in the S-CHIP children’s health program three times now, each by a healthy majority, only to discover that Bush will keep vetoing the bill as long as they keep passing it.

They’re unable to stop or even slow the bloody war in Iraq, which was the main job they were sent to Washington to do. They can’t pass a carbon emissions bill that the president will sign.

Whenever they try to outmaneuver him — as they did when they combined the health budget and the veterans’ budget, assuming that the president wouldn’t veto the veterans’ bill — they found him ready to meet them and call them, to accuse them of doing nothing and neglecting the nation’s needs, ready to poke a stick in their wheels at every turn and then blame them for falling off the bike.

Still worse, the public keeps buying it. The latest polls show that Congress’s approval ratings are even lower than the president’s historically low numbers. After all he’s put the nation through in the last seven years, the next election is still Bush’s — and the Republicans’ — to lose.

Republicans long ago learned the secret of politics in the television age, which the Democrats refuse to learn. When the camera moves in close, the voters will be drawn to a candidate who can smile brightly, crack a joke and make them feel safe.

Democrats are still nominating candidates who make sense, who grasp the issues and offer plans that voters ought to favor, even if they put the television audience to sleep. The Republicans have moved past Ronald Reagan into the era of Ann Coulter and Jeri Thompson, while the Democrats are still nominating Adlai Stevenson over and over and over.

That’s why the voters are mad at the Democrats: because they never learn. It’s a hard lesson to absorb, but time is running out.


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