Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sometimes the only way to win is not to play

In the 1983 movie WarGames a young computer hacker narrowly averts WWIII by teaching a Pentagon war game supercomputer the futility of nuclear war. The moral: the only way to win is not to play.

In today's Washington Post, columnist Terry Neal seeks to make the case that, by refusing to participate in the incredibly ill-conceived vote for Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Democrats are somehow falling prey to political expedience.

Republicans face political risk in the actions they took in the Terri Schiavo case. For Democrats, the risk is in the action they didn't take.

Republicans bucked public opinion and opened themselves up to charges of hypocrisy, that they deviated from their support for states' rights and the sanctity of marriage and their opposition to judge-shopping. Democrats, for the most part, stood by and watched.
I know Washington columnists love playing the hackneyed "pox on both your houses" moral equivalency game, an "objective journalism" tactic only slightly more valid than the usual he said/she said sort of reporting.

But is it valid in this case? Let's see.

First, goaded by the MSM's own hysteria about the Schiavo family's plight (and strange is it not that the media's role in all this remains complete unexamined?), the Republicans sense a little red meat to toss to their furthest right constituents. Republicans on the Hill disregard medicine, science, the rule of law, the Constitution, and their party's own long held beliefs in state's rights, and pass a law requiring a Federal court to re-examine a case already litigated to death in multiple Florida courts. The CEO of BushCorp™ flies his taxpayer funded company jet (Airforce One) back to Washington in order to sign the bill. Sure, tsunamis and genocide, what's the hurry? But a chance to pander? That calls for immediate action.


So, the Republicans are exploiting an individual family's tragedy for perceived political gain.

And the Democrat's cynical ploy? Refusing to play.

So instead of rising in support of demonizing Michael Schiavo, calling into question the Florida judicial system (whose laws, in this case, are far from extraordinary) and further feeding the media frenzy (it was, after all, a slow day at the Michael Jackson trial) the Democrats largely refused to play.

The other Democratic option: (which was indeed chosen by 53 congressmen, including Pasadena's own Adam Schiff) to oppose the bill.

Now do not mistake me. I applaud the sentiments of those willing to stand up to the Republican slime machine by pointing out its obvious hypocrisy. But even by arguing and voting against this assault on the rule of law, Democrats are participating in, even by opposing, the Republican's demagoguery.

The Republicans were here breathtakingly successful in turning the floor of the house and Senate into matching slime-pits. And even if you're there trying to clean it out, it's impossible to avoid the slime yourself. With solid Republican majorities in both houses, no matter how many Democrats had opposed, the bill would've passed nonetheless.

By refusing to participate, Democrats have let the public see just what Republicans are like when left to their own devices. That may indeed be a political decision, but it is not exploitative, and the educational value for the American people may well be inestimable.

Sometimes the only way to win is not to play.

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