In old movies, either westerns or military, a common gag was to attract fire by putting a hat on a stick and see if somebody shot at it.
If Washington’s Brian Baird ever achieves a place in history, it may be as the Democratic Party’s mine canary. Except that, in the case of the Democrats, peril brought the bird to life. People who never heard of Washington Representative Brian Baird (D-Olympia), and I include myself in that fraternity, were suddenly confronted with the news that one of the most reliably left-wing Democrats in the United States House of Representatives had changed his mind on the Iraq war and was now against a scheduled pullout, because doing so would not be in the best interests of the United States or the people of Iraq.
Representative Baird stands out because, unlike many of his party brethren, he is not performing his second pirouette on the issue. He voted against the war in Iraq in the first place, but now supports finishing the job. This stands him in bold relief from most in his party who now demand immediate surrender, but nevertheless voted for the war when it was politically expedient to do so, and only changed their minds when public opinion polls and campaign cash dictated a shift in the opposite direction.
Since his epiphany, announced just over a week ago, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have indicated that their election as president would not result in an immediate surrender, contrary to their previously stated positions. Mrs. Clinton went so far as to concede that the “surge is working.” Other Democrats, some prominent and others as obscure as Mr. Baird, have hesitantly acknowledged that momentum has shifted in America’s favor.
These CYA maneuvers were chronicled in the Washington Post earlier this week when it published an analysis on how military successes in Iraq are forcing the Democratic Party to “recalibrate” their political approach to Iraq.
That most Congressional Democrats view the Iraq War through a purely partisan political prism was revealed last month when House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. worried that good news coming out of Iraq would present “a real big problem for us,” meaning the Democratic Party. How about that? What’s good for the United States is a problem for Democrats, from the perspective of the party’s leadership.
Democrats who bother to read have, with growing apprehension, noted that the military tide has turned in Iraq and we’re actually making progress. Captured Al Qaeda documents prove a direct link between the Iraqi insurgency and Osama Bin Laden. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. They are being defeated. Former enemies have thrown in their lot with the United States and against Bin Laden, drying up the swamp that previously fed recruits into Al Qaeda.
This news has become so distressing that some Democrats can no longer stand it. George Will this past week related that United States’ military successes in Iraq gave Representative Nancy Boyda, (D-Kansas) a severe case of the vapors. She stormed out of an Armed Services Committee hearing because retired General Jack Keane said that in Iraq, “schools are open. The markets are teeming with people,” all contrary to the narrative that Democrats have created over the last few years.
She found reports of progress unendurable. According to Ms. Boyda, this sort of good news will “further divide the country.”
"There is only so much you can take until we in fact had to leave the room for a while ... after so much frustration of having to listen to what we listened to," she complained after overdosing on positive news. Hearing her fellow party members echo General Keane’s upbeat reports after actually visiting Iraq must really have her swooning.
The Democrat’s 1988 presidential nominee Michael Dukakis predicts that a terrorist attack three weeks before the 2008 election will doom his party. A lost election, not the lives lost, will be the real tragedy in his eyes.
Representative Baird’s enlightenment has gained him ink on a few newspapers and pixels on websites, but last weekend passed without any manifestation of the Tim Russert Effect. Any Republican who wishes to gain national notice beyond his talent, influence or consequence only has to publicly pronounce a position contrary to that of the prevailing Republican stance and he will be invited to all of the Sunday morning talk shows to speak his puny mind. His Pavlovian addiction to such rewards essentially doomed whatever presidential aspirations Senator John McCain once entertained.
Watch this weekend to learn if the Russert treatment is reserved only for dissident Republicans.
Update: John Warner will be on "Meet the Press" this Sunday. Once again, the Russert effect is only for Republicans who stray from the party line.