Jonah Goldberg
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It's ironic. Republicans by most accounts got trounced in the last election because they "lost their way." The latest cover of Time magazine even has a picture of Ronald Reagan crying like that American Indian from the old anti-pollution ads of the 1970s. Instead of roadside litter, the Gipper is supposedly looking at the GOP's mess.

How did Republicans lose their way? The cliches runneth over. They grew comfortable in power. They forgot why they were sent to Washington. They became addicted to spending. They lost touch with their constituents, their principles, their souls.

Just because such statements are cliches doesn't mean they're not true. Indeed, you hear these complaints from the conservative base more than from anywhere else. The GOP grew sweaty and bloated like a fat man at an all-you-can-eat pasta bar, and voters were right to pry the Republicans' white-knuckled grip from the hot table's sneeze guard.

So here's the ironic part. Suddenly, it looks as if the Democrats are the Republicans on fast-forward. It's early yet, and the Democrats did finish their mini-Contract with America - the so-called first 100 hours - with mixed success on the substance but great fanfare in the media. Yet items like upping the minimum wage and shafting oil companies, although certainly not insubstantial, were primarily symbolic.

The most important issue in the November elections was the war in Iraq. The weasel words and euphemisms - "strategic redeployment," "course change," whatever - couldn't conceal the simple fact that the Democrats were elected largely to end the war. That was certainly how the party's liberal base saw it, then and now.

But look at how the Democrats are behaving. They've completely failed to stop the surge, and their latest efforts to derail the war are so convoluted - timetables on top of timetables - that even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a co-sponsor of legislation to withdraw troops by September 2008, can't explain them.

CNN's John Roberts played a clip on "Late Edition" from a news briefing in which Obey muddled nearly every detail of the Democrats' plan. Roberts then asked Sen. Joe Biden, "How do you pass or enforce something you can't even explain?" It's a good question.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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