It's Hard to be a Democrat

It's hard to be a Democrat, don't you think? There's no alternative, of course, but it's hard. Someone asked me the other day to write something about why I was a Democrat, and I had no trouble making a list of 10 reasons. Of course, five of those reasons were the Supreme Court, and the other five were more or less historical -- reasons like FDR, which is not meant to mean Franklin Delano Roosevelt exactly but some fantasy blob of Democratic values that are a distant racial memory.

But it's hard. It's especially hard to remember that the real enemies are the Republicans, when the Democrats tend to break your heart and the Republicans are just the boys you'd never go out with anyway.

It's hard when you watch a debate and decide that in the end you're probably going to throw your vote away in the primary and vote for someone who doesn't have a chance, like Dennis Kucinich. I mean, look at them, look at the front runners: Hillary Clinton, who can't help being Hillary Clinton; Barack Obama, who was a disappointment from the beginning and whose new-found attack mode is as dispiriting as his low energy level used to be; John Edwards, whom I am afraid I will never be able to think of again (after this week's Peggy Noonan column in the Wall Street Journal) as anything but a desperate furry little woodland animal.

And then there are the Democrats in the Congress. What a bunch of losers, hiding behind the fact that it takes 60 votes to shut down debate and 67 to override a presidential veto. So what? So pass a law and make Bush veto it. Make him veto something every single day. Drive the guy crazy. What have you got to lose? And meanwhile what have you done? You've voted for the surge, you've voted to authorize a war against Iran, and you're about to vote in favor of an attorney general-designate who refuses to call waterboarding torture.

Which brings me, I'm afraid, to Chuck Schumer. I can't honestly say that Chuck Schumer broke my heart last week, because he's never really had my heart. He's Captain Bromide. And I can't even look at him without being reminded of an old radio-and-television show called Quiz Kids, which featured a boy genius named Joel Kupperman who was always waving his hand wildly whenever a question was asked and shouting, "I know! I know!" In addition, and because he happens to be my Senator, I have watched Schumer transform himself: he used to be a schlepper (as they say in Schumer's former congressional district) and now he's groomed to a fare-thee-well. I salute any man who takes charge of a thinning hairline with so much product, but Schumer's makeover always seemed to me a worrisome sign, and not merely a symptom of my own shallowness: it seemed to me to show that he had left Brooklyn and New York, in some fundamental way, for the Beltway -- which is not meant to mean the Beltway exactly but instead a nonstop series of cable and network television appearances that add up to very little in the way of action and a great deal in the way of bluster.

Nonetheless, when I read on Friday that Schumer had decided to support Michael Mukasey for attorney general, thus making Mukasey's confirmation by the Senate inevitable, my heart sank. I read his justification of his vote. He said that Mukasey was the best we could hope for from this administration. He said the Justice Department needed to be rebuilt. He said that no nominee for attorney general was ever going to come out against waterboarding, and that Mukasey at least promised to follow the law if (somehow) the Senate passed an anti-waterboarding law (that survived a Bush veto). It's probably unfair to blame Schumer entirely for this; after all, Dianne Feinstein made the same decision. And more than half the Democrats in the Senate are apparently prepared to vote for Mukasey.

But here's what they should do instead:

Reject Mukasey.
Make Bush send up another nominee.
Reject that nominee if he won't take a position on waterboarding.
And just keep on doing it.

Because it's the right thing to do. Because waterboarding is torture. Because we are torturing people and it has to stop, and it will never stop unless the Democrats make it stop.

And forget about the Justice Department. No one will fix the Justice Department until there's a new president.

And he or she has got to be a Democrat.

That goes without saying.

Because after all, there's the Supreme Court.