There's a cruel old joke that goes something like this - a wife asks her husband if a dress makes her look fat. "No", the husband replies, "it's the fat that makes you look fat".
The Democrats in Congress, according to this article in the New York Times, are still obsessed with the idea that fighting the excesses of this Presidential administration makes them look weak.
But with the Senate already in recess, Democrats confronted the choice of allowing the administration’s bill to reach the floor and be approved mainly by Republicans or letting it die.
If it had stalled, that would have left Democratic lawmakers, long anxious about appearing weak on national security issues, facing an August spent fending off charges from Republicans that they had left Americans exposed to threats.
House Passes Changes in Eavesdropping Program
In short, roll over and give a corrupt, mendacious, and criminal President everything he asks for as long as he couches it in terms of "protecting us" from terrorism, and the Democrats will look strong. Apparently, there's a trend in Washington these days that says if you stand up to people who have no power, your constituents, and cave to the people who do have power, you're strong.
Personally, I can't think of a sillier notion about image, except maybe that the clothes are what make you look fat. Apparently, someone at the ACLU caught on to this idea:
Democrats "have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word 'terrorism,' they roll over and play dead," said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Senate Votes To Expand Warrantless Surveillance
Christy Hardin Smith wrote this morning:
Democrats have got to stop trying to fit into the Mean Girl clique. The GOP is never, ever going to start playing by the rules.
Unfortunately, no one seems to have the patience to read things these days, particularly Congressmen. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate what's wrong with the Democrats' view of what it means to look strong is with pictures. So here's my attempt at explaining the obvious.
See the dog in the first picture? Does that look strong to you? I don't think so.
Most of us, at least those of us who have any real thoughts in our heads, respect people who are willing to act according to their beliefs. They also respect people who give real thought to what they do, and who are willing to stand by what they've done. We recognize that as real strength, even when we disagree with the action. Very little of either quality has been on display in Congress lately.
UPDATE: Via FDL, one Democratic Congressional candidate who understands.
UPDATE 2 (Aug 6): It appears that scarecrow agrees with my assessment.
UPDATE 3: Behind the wall at Salon, Glenn Greenwald gets it, too. Here's part of a question he asked Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT):
GG: But the reality was -- and this is what I find just so baffling about what just happened with the FISA vote -- most Democrats in the Senate did end up voting against the Military Commissions Act, and yet Karl Rove did make it a key issue in the 2006 election anyway.
What happens is -- you don't filibuster it and let it get enacted because you don't want it to be used against you, but it ends up being used against you anyway, so by not making the case for it, by not taking a principled stand -- while 34 Democrats did vote against it, most of them did not even announce their vote until the day before the vote was held because they had been hiding behind John McCain and John Warner and Lindsey Graham -- so the debate was never engaged by Democrats.
And that is what is so frustrating -- to see this same mindset over and over and over again -- where Democrats say they have to capitulate or else it will be used against them, and then it's used against them anyway, but it's even more effective because Democrats haven't fought or made the case for their position.
Chris Dodd on FISA, habeas corpus and Democratic capitulation
As Greenwald points out in his article, even Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post gets it on FISA. I just wonder when the Democrats are going to wake up and smell the coffee.