Cal  Thomas

It cannot be pleasant to be on a losing track when you are used to winning. Ask the former Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins (4-9 so far) and their Hall of Fame head coach, Joe Gibbs.

Democrats, having started their decline in 1994 and losing more ever since, have announced plans for a set of "hearings" during which they will examine the policies and conduct of the Bush Administration.

This could be a good thing since individuals, like politicians, need people to whom they should be accountable. If the hearings are conducted properly, without rancor and in what seems to be in the best interests of the country, Democrats would perform a valuable service to their party and to the nation.

But if the hearings resemble those conducted on Dec. 8 by Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, which sought to portray the Ohio vote as wrong and, therefore, question the legitimacy of President Bush's re-election, it will be seen as another political ploy and be dismissed by the people Democrats need to reach.

The planned hearings are scheduled to begin next month and organizers say Republicans will be invited to participate (good luck getting any). Suggested topics look like more of the same we have come to expect from Democrats: contract abuses in Iraq, mistakes by the administration in its use of prewar intelligence and misleading cost estimates for the Medicare drug benefit.

(Democrats should be careful with the last point, since it was a Democrat president, Lyndon Johnson, who pushed Medicare through Congress with the promise it wouldn't cost much. Then, it was projected the health benefit would cost $9 billion by 1990. The actual cost was $67 billion. Today, thanks to President Bush's prescription drug benefit, projections for the drug benefit alone are $540 billion over 10 years.)

Senator Byron Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, pledges, "This is not about gotcha politics. . This is about oversight. If the majority party won't do it, we will."

A promise not to engage in "gotcha politics" in Washington has as much credibility as Scott Peterson's "not guilty" plea or Bernie Kerik's marriage vow.

For the sake of "healing" and bipartisanship, let's say Dorgan and company are serious. How should they approach their hearings in a way that would properly hold Republicans accountable, fulfill their role as the "loyal opposition" and benefit the country, if anyone cares about such a thing these days?

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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