The success of Democratic obstructionism in a GOP hour

Posted: Aug 11, 2005 12:00 AM

The Democrats may be better at certain aspects of government when they're in power and better at obstruction when they're not.

Resistance on the part of the left to so much that the Bush administration does, or proposes to do, is getting old.

Think about it.

On nominations, hosannas went up when the Senate's newly dubbed Gang of 14 avoided the nuclear option by agreeing to act on three long-delayed appellate-court nominees. But other such nominees were dissed in the process, and no one knows whether the agreement will extend to nominees for vacancies on the Supreme Court.

The agreement obviously did not apply to John Bolton, the administration's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations. Insatiable senators wanted ever more records - a now-routine demand. Seventy-six of Bolton's 1970 Yale classmates, in the smug belief their opinion mattered, sent an open letter to the Senate urging rejection of his nomination. They and key Senators contended he has, among other things, the wrong temperament for the job - as if Kofi and Kojo and the U.N. generally did not greatly deserve a U.S. ambassador who can take the game to them.

Nominees to other posts are getting the stall-and-stymie treatment, too - such as:

- White House personnel director Dina Powell, nominated to be deputy undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

- U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore, nominated to be undersecretary of state for management.

- Career diplomat Eric Edelman, nominated to be undersecretary of defense for policy.

- Julie Finley, nominated to be the U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

- Lester Crawford, nominated to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (now approved for the post after making concessions to Hillary Clinton et al about the future salability of morning-after contraceptives).

Six months into President Bush's second term, the list goes endlessly on. The essential complaints about these people - recalling the complaints about appellate-court nominees and Bolton: (a) They're too conservative, even too moderate; or (b) still more records are required - records the administration refuses to provide. The left already has brought up the "more records" issue in the case of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

Negativism extends to policy and practice as well.

Listen to leftist Democrats and they're screaming less about how better to prosecute the terror war broadly and in Iraq, than about the need to bring the boys home - all the while demanding yet more explanation as to why the administration sent Americans overseas in the first place. Comparisons to Vietnam mount. Halliburton is the old kid on the block to kick around, and the Downing Street Memo the new. The Kennedy coterie calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's removal and repeats in the public ear, quagmire, quagmire, quagmire.

Oh, and Abu Ghraib was a torture chamber and Guantanamo is part of a gulag reminiscent of the Holocaust - or something.

Over at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, suggesting a lopsided leftism in public-affairs programming at PBS and NPR - bias and imbalance as obvious as a mallet in the face - takes a fusillade of withering fire and charges of "partisanship" for daring to bring the subject up. Sixteen Democratic senators, evidently seeing no disconnect in the planet's freest society annually providing many millions of taxpayer dollars for government radio and television, demand the president fire the offending chairman.

With her comments championing the rights of Middle Eastern women, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elicits from radical feminists cavernous yawns and hardly a cheer.

Tax Code overhaul and simplification, high on Bush's second-term domestic agenda, languish undiscussed and indefinitely postponed.

Social Security reform has rolled to a dead stop. The Democrats offer no cooperation, will not even talk about it, provide no ideas of their own. The Republicans, seeing no road to substantive Social Security reform, begin fashioning an exit strategy from the box in which they find themselves.

If the Democratic purpose is to deny the Republicans and the administration as many successes as possible, then the ideologized partisans on the left are daily demonstrating their considerable aptitude.

President Bush terms it "the path of obstruction, the philosophy of the stop sign, the agenda of the roadblock." And:

One approach (to government) is to lead, to focus on the people's business, to take on the tough problems . . . .

The other approach is to simply do nothing, to delay solutions, obstruct progress, refuse to take responsibility. Members of the other party have worked with us to achieve important reforms on some issues, yet too often their leadership prefers to block the ideas of others.

We hear "no" to making tax relief permanent, we hear "no" to Social Security reform, we hear "no" to confirming federal judges, we hear "no" to a highly qualified U.N. ambassador, we hear "no" to medical-liability reform. On issue after issue, they stand for nothing except obstruction.

If leaders of the other party have innovative ideas, let's hear them. But if they have no ideas or policies except obstruction, they should step aside and let others lead.

Unless, that is, they are doggedly trudging the road not toward bipartisan achievement but toward Republican failure - and national drift.