January 12th, 2009
09:02 PM ET

Are the Democrats a team, or a Tower of Babel?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/12/art.obamaandkerry.jpg]
Barclay Palmer
AC360 Senior Producer

Here we have "No Drama Obama," elected by the biggest majority Dems have seen in oh-so-long, about to take office, focused on hitting the ground running with a bi-partisan plan to fix the worst economic crisis since the Depression.. So why have Congressional Democrats been giving him so much lip? And where's that famously bare-knuckled Rahm Emanuel– still warming up in the heavyweight changing room?

Take Durbin. Nice guy and all that. Against seating Roland Burris in the Senate, before he was for it, before he was against it, and now? Ready to seat him, saying "we want to be fair." One option might have been to avoid fanning the fire at the Burris side show - distracting the nation from the President-elect's efforts - and Durbin's other, perhaps more important job - of figuring out how to get the nation out of this mess? (Good job on camera, though!).

And then there's Diane Feinstein, against Panetta for CIA before she was for Panetta-for-CIA-Diane Feinstein. True, you weren't consulted like you should have been. One option might have been to take it up in private. Does taking a slight public make a public official seem a bigger force, or not? Any case, in turning around and saying she now supports Panetta because he will "speak truth to power,” makes one wonder what the fuss was about. But not for very long.

And then John Kerry and Tom Harkin, who unlike Obama ran unsuccessfully for president, and the not as well known Senators Ron Wyden and Kent Conrad publicly criticized the Obama team's proposal to include tax cuts in the stimulus plan.

Yes, there is often value in airing differences in public. That's democracy, right? Hey, next time you could go straight to the press conference and hold your next meeting in public. We'll even offer a CNN Town Hall forum.

But all the conflicting voices raise a couple questions. Are Congressional Democrats setting themselves up to look like obstructionists again? In focusing on their own immediate concerns, do they risk losing the bigger game? Do they think Bill Clinton's success in moving to the center and winning Republican votes offers a useful object lesson.

For that matter, do they think Obama's effort to present an at least somewhat bi-partisan solution to the economic crisis has value... enough value to compromise? Or maybe the bigger question is this: will the Dems in Congress focus on bigger, more difficult job of fixing the economic crisis, or on the easier, but potentially self-defeating, job of getting their opposing views heard as often as possible on TV?

Under Karl Rove, the GOP was famous for maintaining party discipline, staying on message, and winning with one voice. The Democrats, on the other hand, have been compared to the Tower of Babel.

Perhaps Clyburn offered the telling clue on Friday when he said, "Democrats are going to be Democrats. Don't you expect the Democrats to act like Republicans. We're creative thinkers. We don't believe in group think."

Fine. But can you imagine a quarterback saying that right before winning the Super Bowl?

Filed under: Barack Obama • Barclay Palmer • Economy • Raw Politics
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    The Democrats IMHO are neither. They are just a party of multi-dimensional American diversity. They fight with each other and argue and disagree but when it comes to what is truly best for our nation they compromise. Unlike the 2 dimessional Republicans who are composed of basically two groups. Fundamentalist Christians and Neo-Con backwater Red Necks. Both of which tend to have an extremely myopic, self centered view of the world in which we live. Unwilling to compromise and doggedly stubborn in their beliefs even when those beliefs prove to be failures when acted out in practice. This in turn seems to result in an extremely hostile and shallow reaction to anyone that disagrees with their beliefs. They are the true evolutionary inheritors of Machiavelli's dictatorial untrusting and violent vision of the human race.

    Bottom line is that the Democrats will not self destruct they will just make one heck of a lot of noise before eventually reaching a compromised solution to any issue. After all it is compromise that is the very premise behind the United States Constitution and the miriad of checks and balances that comprise our governmental structure.

    January 13, 2009 at 8:08 am |
  2. Monk Frost

    All I know is our leader for the past eight years described the pilot of
    a helicopter as a driver during his last press conference. Will he
    ever imagine how futile his efforts were !

    January 13, 2009 at 12:14 am |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    This kind of article is what irritates most Americans. You take unrelated issues, tie them together to create a non existent drama of a Party in overall dissent and it is nonsense.
    Whatever Feinstien said and Durbin said or Senators Wyden and Conrad say these are separate issues and not necessarily representative of a Party divided which you work hard to imply and support by highlighting the Republican tendency of almost total consensus, but fail to point to how many times republicans voted against party albeit in small numbers used in this article re The democrats.
    Frankly, democrats are demonstrating real democracy, and not the GOP we know best which is what got us in the mess we are in now.

    January 12, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  4. PA

    As my Momma always said, "You tellem pie face, you got the crust."

    January 12, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  5. Larry L.

    We the PEOPLE need one thing for the next four years-Congress to protect us from Obama and the Chicago mob.

    The Bush administration wanted to protect the country from terrorism,that was the focus and they accomplished their goal.

    The Obama administration wants to be friends with everybody and have them like us, and to get our defensive forces out of harms way,and to come home--Socialize health care-–raise taxes--increase government size by hiring more people and increasing government involvement in our lives-if they accomplish their goals,WE WILL BE IN A DEEP DEPRESSION FOR A LONG TIME.We need to cut spending and down size like the people and business is doing now.

    January 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm |
  6. JC-Los Angeles


    January 12, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  7. Neta

    The Democrats ar a Tower to Babel.

    January 12, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  8. Larry

    Today's Jerusalem Post reports: "Hamas on Monday raided some 100 aid trucks that Israel had allowed into Gaza, stole their contents and sold them to the highest bidders. " It also reports "For the first time since the beginning of the IDF military operation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas on Monday openly signaled its willingness to accept a cease-fire with Israel." Why aren't these stories reported on CNN or anyother American news source? In my view, reporters repeat what they hear from Palestinian sources without confirmation with predictable results for world opinion.

    January 12, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    Tower of Babel is a good analogy – their creative thinking is fine except when it gets in the way of getting things fixed or enacting new laws. Creative thinking is a liability when you can't produce results. I hope the Democrats will concentrate on helping Obama's agenda rather than getting in the way with their creative thinking and egos.

    January 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm |
  10. Hannah Marner

    I'll support the Tower of Babel theory, especially in light of Clyburn's seeming inability to string together a grammatically correct statement. For goodness' sake. If they were going to have someone talk, they should have at least made sure it was someone who could sound articulate. I'm sure Pelosi is intelligent enough to know that, so who on Earth let Clyburn say something that ridiculous?

    And here I was thinking that maybe the desire to head to Washington and offer my services as an editor and general English coach was going away. -sigh-

    January 12, 2009 at 9:17 pm |