What goes around comes around

Posted: Nov 15, 2005 12:05 AM

No point offering advice to the Democrats, who have the world, and also their chief Republican adversary, by the tail. So we gather, anyway, from the polls. Still, for the record:

 What goes around comes around. Or, as W.H. Auden phrased it notably 66 years ago, "Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return." Now evil is a strenuous word to use in the context of an indoor sport like American politics, but the enduring insight is worth attention. What you do comes back to bite you. When/if, as the Democrats plan, they go back to running America, they will find Republicans -- maybe a whole bunch of them -- acting out lessons learned at Democratic knees. Such as:

 1. Don't just assent to a federal judicial nomination. Question. Doubt. Fight. Don't let a putative enemy -- a Ruth Bader Ginsburg, say -- on the court without demanding to see all, meaning all, the nominee's papers, then fretting aloud over whether he or she will upset the court's delicate balance. Call the nominee, if you must, an "ideologue" who is "out of the judicial mainstream."

 We can't say yet that this approach has worked in the case of Judge Samuel Alito. It has worked well, nevertheless, at the appeals level, where Democrats, by glowering and threatening, have managed to keep off the bench various judges of excellent ability and repute, all of whom they would have confirmed 15 years earlier, before -- sigh! -- we all started hating each other.

 2. Don't work with the president on anything. Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate have perfected this approach. Everything George W. Bush says is -- to them -- suspicious and probably a violation of civil liberties.

 Democratic pooh-bahs don't even need the facts. The script says, Bush lied us into war, only rich people benefit from tax cuts, and who needs oil that comes from an Alaskan wildlife refuge?

 As for ending the Iraq war in a way congruent with American interests, and thus dignifying the American loss of life there, that's fine, but don't anticipate from the opposition party any whispered words of sympathy. Further, let's question every rationale for the war so that, if home front obstructiveness takes its toll on our effort, we Democrats can say, told you we shouldn't have gone in there. Let's hire some more special prosecutors, by all means.

 These are large and mighty lessons from the minority party. It might behoove Republicans at all levels of party life to keep rags and silver polish handy to make these lessons bright when, as they must some day, the Democrats retake control. What's the fun of minority status if not to make the majority miserable? I think that about capsulizes the present Democratic attitude.

 It never is fair to posit some magical time when politicians of different parties and large ambitions worked together large-mindedly for the common good. Politics, based as it is on the lust for power, is about as nasty as a trade as, well, pro football. Republicans, we may now have to admit, overdid the Bill Clinton thing -- indeed, showed the guy the same kind of visceral dislike many Democrats manifest toward George Bush.

 And yet those relatively recent times were unlike our own. Mainly, there was no war demanding the commander-in-chief's unimpeded leadership until victory. Even if every article of Sen. Joseph Biden's weekend knock against White House integrity proved Gospel true, where would that get us at the moment? What good would it do?

 Democratic rancor over the war and the high court makes it hard for members of the two parties even to talk civilly to each other. That's why this word to wise Democrats. What goes around can come right back and bite you in the hinderquarters. Likely the Republicans should have taken that advice to heart back in impeachment times, but you know what? That's gone. What's left is the ugliness and corrosiveness of 2005 -- of which, if you know human nature, you can bet we haven't seen nearly the last.