According to Patches O’Houlihan, the legendary coach featured in the film “Dodgeball,” winning required mastery of the game’s five d’s: “dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.” Today, that silly catchphrase for an even sillier movie has become the operating manual for congressional Democrats campaigning for re-election. As they weave through the minefield of President Obama’s policy blunders, they’ve avoided discussing the substance of a host of important issues. One can’t help but be impressed by their dexterity in deploying a few d’s of their own.
Deny. On Benghazi, Democrats’ central tactic has been simply to deny there exists a problem worth evaluating. The attack upon the US Consulate in Libya left four Americans dead; desperate calls for assistance drew no military response; and White House talking points were famously edited to remove any reference to Al Qaeda. But even after it was revealed that the White House withheld e-mails from Congress, most Democrats still insist there is nothing to debate. By condemning any proposed hearing as “partisan,” they hope to keep voter interest to a minimum.
Denounce. Ignoring the growing scandal within the Veterans Affairs health system has proven far more difficult. At first, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, simply denounced the falsified records and excessive wait times in Phoenix as aberrations within an otherwise well functioning system. His assurances that the VA “provides very high quality health care — period” and that now-deposed VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “has done a very good job” have been likened to statements by Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi government spokesman who insisted that a great victory was at hand even as American tanks rolled through his city.
For those in tough campaign fights, papering over systemic failures of the VA bureaucracy was never an option. Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor called the revelations “inexcusable,” but refused to call for Shinseki’s resignation. As a member of the committee responsible for overseeing the VA system, Pryor’s exposure on the issue is particularly high. His colleagues were much quicker to throw the secretary overboard. Democratic senators in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, and North Carolina all called for Shinseki to go. He has, but the scandal continues to widen: last week, investigators found similar fraud at VA hospitals in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, and Indiana.
Deflect. The Keystone pipeline presents a different problem altogether. Many Democrats running for re-election have repeatedly assured voters that they support American energy independence and an “all-of-the-above” strategy. By repeatedly delaying a decision on the pipeline, however, Obama puts them all in a tough position.
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