Someday, Democratic leaders are going to discover that the root word in leadership is "lead"; as in the infinitive, to lead, which my 1994 edition of Webster's defines as, "to guide on a way esp. by going in advance." Whimsical editors in Webster's Verbs & Political Reeducation Department must have anticipated the eventual return of a Democratic-controlled Congress, and added esp. by going in advance as a less than subtle but helpful clarifier.
In advance -- not backwards, sideways, or in circles, these latter three nevertheless being the only known Democratic-leadership direction of 2007, at least when it comes to the year's paramount issue, Iraq. But that last adjective means "superior to all others," which further means the successful guidance of legislation such as a minimum wage increase, which pretty much only Rush Limbaugh and the ghost of Milton Friedman opposed, was more a cosmic expectation than successful leadership.
At least the Democratic Senate has an excuse. Any minority of 41+ can be a powerful plug to the advancement of anything, and for my money the debating club's majority leadership would be better off if Joe Lieberman officially turned his coat. As the slimmest of all possible majorities, Senate Democrats will go nowhere on Iraq -- period -- and their demotion to minority status would at least be a convenient truth in explaining their cautious inertia to a parliamentarily befuddled and frustrated electorate in 2008.
But that leaves us with the already enduring question: What's with the House? There, the majority is king, and an absolute monarch at that. Yet its leadership cadre, though not ordering retreat, seems determined to line up in circular formation with muskets blasting. And it literally has no excuse -- not a Senate-like reasonable one, anyway.
Its latest snafu would be unbelievable, if it weren't for the truism that you just cannot make this sort of dreadful stuff up.
You will recall that the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense recently had an exceedingly good idea: link preparedness to deployment. Normally this would be considered standard operating procedure, but under the Bush administration its novelty qualifies it as strikingly brilliant.
But unfortunately, it seems that brilliant leadership is as oxymoronic in the Blue-Dog House as in the White House. For as the Washington Post reported yesterday:
The plan was bold ... but a botched launch by the plan's author, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), has united Republicans and divided Democrats, sending the latter back to the drawing board just a week before scheduled legislative action....
From the beginning, Murtha acted on his own to craft a complicated legislative strategy on the war, without consulting fellow Democrats. When he chose to roll out the details ... he caught even Pelosi by surprise while infuriating Democrats from conservative districts.
Then for an entire week ... Murtha refused to speak further. Democratic leaders failed to step into the vacuum, and Republicans relentlessly attacked a plan they called a strategy to slowly bleed the war of troops and funds. By the end of the recess, Murtha's once promising strategy was in tatters.
And with that, I'll leave you with these final, likely anticipated definitions: "generally incompetent: BUNGLING," which is Webster's take #4 on "inept"; followed by 5: "see Democratic leadership."