So who you gonna believe, Bob Woodward or Ron Suskind? In Bush at War, Woodward's new behind-the-scenes account of the White House in wartime, mighty battles are waged between the Powellites and the Cheneyistas over the fundamentals of foreign policy. Multilateralists duke it out with unilateralists, leaving the president to choose between, or meld, two distinctly opposed viewpoints of America's proper role in the world.
We have been here before. In the wake of yet another of their periodic election debacles, the Democrats are deflated and dispirited, bothered and bewildered. Bewildered, I think, more than anything else. After all, this is not 1980, the year of the Reagan ascendancy. The American electorate is not clamoring for less government. Indeed, the public's domestic concerns are precisely those issues that congressional Democrats should have won on: better schools, more affordable and comprehensive health coverage, economic security. Yet these are the issues on which Republicans successfully masked their differences with the Democrats.
It is the first sign of trouble in a play about nothing but trouble. Asked by her father in the play's first scene what she can say to demonstrate her love for him, Cordelia says, "Nothing." To which Lear responds, "Nothing will come of nothing."
Which is a pretty fair summation of the Democrats' 2002 campaign. They had no message. They were an opposition party that drew no lines of opposition. They had nothing to say. And on Tuesday, their base responded by staying home in droves.
Nothing came of nothing. The Democrats lost the Senate, lost seats in the House, and picked up significantly fewer statehouses than they had counted upon.
"When I go door-to-door, and they open it up, they don't really listen to me," says Patrick Vilar, a fresh-faced young Democrat who is seeking election to the Florida House of Representatives this November in a district that, the conventional wisdom says, is Cuban, Republican and, for a Democrat, a fool's errand. "They read down the piece until they come to the line, 'Colombian Bar Association,'" he says. "That stops them. They look up and say, 'You're Colombian?' Then we start speaking in Spanish. It's a match."
"Of my three campaigns, this one has generated the most emotion, the most volunteers," Paul Wellstone told me on an unseasonably cool and beautiful afternoon in late August as his legendary green campaign bus bounced along down some Minnesota byway. "My supporters think there's just so much at stake, so much to lose."