[Update: Read complete Krugman column here.]
Paul Krugman has advice for Dems (behind the NYT subscription firewall) — he says, don’t listen to advice.
There are those who say that a confrontational stance will backfire politically on the Democrats. These are by and large the same people who told Democrats that attacking the Bush administration over Iraq would backfire in the midterm elections. Enough said. …
…What the make-nice crowd wants most of all is for the Democrats to forswear any investigations into the origins of the Iraq war and the cronyism and corruption that undermined it. But itâ€™s very much in the national interest to find out what led to the greatest strategic blunder in American history, so that it wonâ€™t happen again.
Whatâ€™s more, the public wants to know. A large majority of Americans believe both that invading Iraq was a mistake, and that the Bush administration deliberately misled us into war. And according to the Newsweek poll, 58 percent of Americans believe that investigating contracting in Iraq isnâ€™t just a good idea, but a high priority; 52 percent believe the same about investigating the origins of the war.
Why, then, should the Democrats hold back? Because, weâ€™re told, the country needs less divisiveness. And I, too, would like to see a return to kinder, gentler politics. But thatâ€™s not something Democrats can achieve with a group hug and a chorus of â€œKumbaya.â€
The reason we have so much bitter partisanship these days is that thatâ€™s the way the radicals who have taken over the Republican Party want it. People like Grover Norquist, who once declared that â€œbipartisanship is another name for date rape,â€ push for a hard-right economic agenda; people like Karl Rove make that agenda politically feasible, even though itâ€™s against the interests of most voters, by fostering polarization, using religion and national security as wedge issues.
As long as polarization is integral to the G.O.P.â€™s strategy, Democrats canâ€™t do much, if anything, to narrow the partisan divide.
Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
There are those who believe that the partisan gap can be bridged if the Democrats nominate an attractive presidential candidate who speaks in uplifting generalities. But they must have been living under a rock these past 15 or so years. Whoever the Democrats nominate will feel the full force of the Republican slime machine. And it doesnâ€™t matter if conservatives have nice things to say about a Democrat now. Once the campaign gets serious, theyâ€™ll suddenly question his or her patriotism and discover previously unmentioned but grievous character flaws.
The truth is that we wonâ€™t get a return to bipartisanship until or unless the G.O.P. decides that polarization doesnâ€™t work as a political strategy. The last great era of bipartisanship began after the 1948 election, when Republicans, shocked by Harry Trumanâ€™s victory, decided to stop trying to undo the New Deal. And that example suggests that the best thing the Democrats can do, not just for their party and their country, but for the cause of bipartisanship, is what Truman did: stand up strongly for their principles.
Glenn Greenwald also speaks out for investigation:
In my view, more than anything else, this will be the value of a Democratic takeover of at least one of the houses of Congress. As much wrongdoing as we have learned about on the part of Bush administration already, it is almost certainly the case that there is much, much more that we don’t know about, but ought to.
Beginning even before the 9/11 attacks and worsening substantially since, the administration has operated behind an almost impenetrable wall of unprecedented secrecy. More than preemptive wars, tax cuts, or presidential lawlessness, secrecy is its guiding principle, its core belief (hence the incomparable hatred that spews forth at those, such as reporters, whistleblowers, and former allies who reveal their secrets). Their allies who have controlled Congress for the last five years have not only failed to fulfill their oversight and investigative duties, but have actively helped shield the administration from any real scrutiny. …
… It is difficult to overstate how crucial that is for exposing what the Republican Party has become and undermining those who control it. The administration has been able to ward off even the most incriminating accusations and disclosures because they control the primary sources of information. They can deny anything, selectively release misleading exculpatory information, and operate in the darkest shadows and behind the highest walls of secrecy. As a result, disclosures about what they have done are always piecemeal and easily obscured. But full-fledged hearings will shine a bright light on what the administration has really been doing, and that will enable the public to get a full picture of the true state of affairs.
I have to keep reminding myself the Dems haven’t won the midterm elections yet. Recent history has shown us that elections have a way of not turning out as expected (cough). But for a moment, let’s pretend —
At this point, whether investigations lead to impeachment seems to me a secondary consideration. If the Bush Regime were removed from power but the Radical Right continued to wage destructive partisan warfare, we might find in a few years that nothing much has changed. Further, I suspect the Dems would prefer to have an unpopular Republican president in the oval office when they campaign in 2008. However, if Bush continues to overreach his constitutional authority, Congress may have to slap him down to save the Constitution. We’ll see. But remember — it’s Bush isn’t the real problem. He’s just a symptom.
What’s most important is, as Glenn says, giving the public “a full picture of the true state of affairs.” I think a large majority of Americans would be appalled if they knew the whole story. The pseudo-conservatives have got to be so humiliated and discredited they crawl back into whatever hole they crawled out of and stay there. For a generation or two, anyway.