Throw a bone into the woods and watch the dog chase it.

It is so sad. We need leadership, leadership, leadership in this country, especially now in the sunset days of our current confused and misdirected despot. But the Democrats are failing once again. Or, at least, so it would seem so early on in their moment in the congressional sun.

For years the Republicans have realized that the way to deal with the fragmented, all-inclusive Democrats, so prone to infighting and multiple agendas, is to set a hard position on something singular, then lure the Democrats into an argument about it. Right now it is Iraq. “We’re going to add troops — make a Big Surge.”

Do the Democrats redirect the issue, or at least link it to something real? Do they say, “Surge against global warming instead,” or “Surge against an unworkable health care system” or “Surge against Katrina’s devastation”? Of course not. Instead, they argue the size of the surge, the legitimacy of the surge, the concept of the surge itself.

How hard is it to unify yourselves and say, “A billion dollars for jobs to rebuild Iraq? How much are we committing to jobs for folks to rebuild New Orleans?” How hard is it to stand up and say, “We’ll deal with Iraq, Mr. President. And we’re listening to what you have to say. But we have bigger issues as a country than just a war that you invented, a country you destroyed, and a region that you destabilized. We have a nation to run.”?

But this has been the Democrat’s Achilles heel for years: no willingness to establish a Big Picture agenda that informs and shapes the smaller component elements. The most classic recent example is the prescription drug debacle. We need health care reform in the worst way. But the Republicans redirected the issue to the small scale issue of prescription drug reform, got the Democrats into an argument over it, and created a debacle that neither your frightened grandmother or your confused pharmacist can understand, much less survive.

No one stood up and said, “This is not about prescription drug reform. It is about health care reform. And I’m not going to let you forget it.”

Instead, the Democrats let the Republicans sell fear once again — fear of big government, fear of elephantine bureaucracy, fear of something. And the Democrats bit.

Now it is this hellish, invented war in Iraq. Tragic and frightening though it is, it is also a perfect metaphor for the Republican modus operandi: drop a bomb somewhere, and watch the Democrats come running.

I hope I’m wrong. And I’m certainly premature in my judgment. But the earmarks of the Same Old Game are everywhere. And what are the Democrats doing? Jockeying for position for the next presidential nomination. The media goes crazy — personalities, that’s what we want. So, it’s Barack versus Hilary, Biden versus Edwards. The WWF of politics; American Idol for political wonks.

Meanwhile, the world heats up, New Orleans moulders, our elders live in fear of losing what little they have, and none of us dares to get sick or move from a job or a place where we have health care.

It’s the Surge, baby. And jockeying for post position in the Democratic horse race.

This is not the way to run a country.

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