Democrats: A Portrait in Gutlessness

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I didn’t realize just how spooked congressional Democrats had become following the Massachusetts special Senate election until I read this recent E.J. Dionne column.

Dionne, who usually has his finger on the pulse of D.C. liberals, visited with congressional Democrats and found that many of them had reacted to the Massachusetts election by hiding in the corner.

Dionne writes:

“If President Obama gets to sign a health-reform bill, as I believe he will, one reason may be Rep. Jay Inslee’s difficult experience renovating his kitchen.

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He told his kitchen story at a House Democratic caucus after Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts sent Inslee's colleagues into paroxysms of dismay, chaos and fear. Brown's triumph reduced the Democrats' majority in the Senate to "only" 59, and this led many in both houses to want to give up on health reform altogether. Even Obama was sounding an uncertain trumpet."

Apparently, it took Inslee giving a pep talk about his kitchen to at least partially instill Democrats with some confidence:

And then [Inslee] recounted all the grief he and his family went through while work on their kitchen renovation dragged on and on and on. "During that time, I had blood lust against my contractor," Inslee said. "Six months went by, and he was still arguing with the plumber. Eight months went by, and there were still wires hanging down everywhere, and he was having trouble with the building inspector."

But eventually, the job got done. "And now I love that kitchen," Inslee recalls saying. "I bake bread in that kitchen. My wife cooks great meals in that kitchen. The contractor's now a buddy of mine, and I've had beers with him in that kitchen."

Inslee looked at his colleagues and declared: "We've got to finish the kitchen." His point was that Americans won't experience any of the benefits of health-care reform until Congress puts a new system in place.

And here's the part that will really turn your stomach:

I called Inslee about his kitchen oration after Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) told me it was one of the turning points in calming Democrats' nerves. "Now," Wu says, "people run into him in the hallway, smile and say, 'Finish the kitchen.' "

Oiy. Is it any wonder Bush rolled these people for eight years?

Obviously, this is just a single anecdote. But if it's any indication of congressional Democrats' thinking, you have to wonder if they have the political courage now—or ever had the courage—to pass a major reform of the nation's health-care system.

Because it shouldn't have taken Inslee's kitchen speech for Democrats to realize that the proper response to Massachusetts wasn't do nothing and hope for the best. (Which will likely lead to a well-deserved GOP rout in the 2010 elections.)

Regular readers have already seen my rants about Democrats' bumbling of an historic opportunity—one that may not come around again for years if Obama and his huge Democratic majorities fail to pass a health care bill.

No major policy reform has ever been passed in this country without members of Congress having the political will to do what they think is best no matter the political consequences.

And if Democrats can't realize that—and summon the guts and the votes to pass a health care bill in the next few months that will insure 30 million Americans—they shouldn't be running the country.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.