[Ed. note: Editor & Publisher tackles Rich's column about "the fictional story line" here.]
As I and every blogger to the left of Jesse Helms (which, as it turns out, happens to be most of the Republican bloggers as well!), the Mainstream Media is back on its late-1990s message of "Dems are divided", not bothering to notice that the right wing insists everyone be on the same "message" and that they often eat themselves anyway.
Now Frank Rich speaks (er.. writes?) out; go here for the whole delicious word meal:
...Right now the capital is entranced by a fictional story line about the Democrats. As this narrative goes, the party’s sweep of Congress was more or less an accident. The victory had little to do with the Democrats’ actual beliefs and was instead solely the result of President Bush’s unpopularity and a cunning backroom stunt by the campaign Machiavellis, Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, to enlist a smattering of “conservative” candidates to run in red states. In this retelling of the 2006 election, the signature race took place in Montana, where the victor was a gun-toting farmer with a flattop haircut: i.e., a Democrat in Republican drag. And now the party is deeply divided as its old liberals and new conservatives converge on Capitol Hill to slug it out.
The only problem with this version of events is that it’s not true. The overwhelming majority of the Democratic winners, including Jon Tester of Montana, are to the left of most Republicans, whether on economic policy or abortion. For all of the hyperventilation devoted to the Steny Hoyer-John Murtha bout for the House leadership, the final count was lopsided next to the one-vote margin in the G.O.P. Senate intramural that yielded that paragon of “unity,” Trent Lott. But the most telling barometer is the election’s defining issue: there is far more unanimity among Democrats about Iraq than there is among Republicans. Disengaging America from that war is what the country voted for overwhelmingly on Nov. 7, and that’s what the Democrats almost uniformly promised to speed up, whatever their vague, often inchoate notions about how to do it.
Even before they officially take over, the Democrats are trying to deliver on this pledge. Carl Levin and Joe Biden, among the party’s leaders in thinking through a new Iraq policy, are gravitating toward a long-gestating centrist exit strategy: a phased withdrawal starting in four to six months; a loosely federal Iraqi government that would ratify the de facto separation of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds and fairly allocate the oil spoils; and diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy to engage Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, in securing some kind of peace.
...Everyone outside of the Bush bunker knows that’s where we’re heading. As the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told Keith Olbermann last week, “The American people have walked away from the war.” The general predicted, as many in Washington have, that the Baker commission, serving as a surrogate Papa Bush, would give the White House the “intellectual orchestration” to label the withdrawal “getting out with honor.” But might this Beltway story line, too, be wrong? Everything in the president’s behavior since the election, including his remarkably naïve pronouncements in Vietnam, suggests that he will refuse to catch the political lifeline that Mr. Baker might toss him. Mr. Bush seems more likely instead to use American blood and money to double down on his quixotic notion of “victory” to the end. Not for nothing has he been communing with Henry Kissinger.
...Even if the Democrats self-destructively descend into their own Abramoff-style scandals — Mr. Murtha referred to House ethics reforms as “total crap” — that may not be enough to save the Republicans if they’re still staring down the bloody barrel of their Iraq fiasco in 2008.
But most of all, disengagement from Iraq is the patriotic thing to do. Diverting as “divided Democrats” has been, it’s escapist entertainment. The Washington story that will matter most going forward is the fate of the divided Republicans. Only if they heroically come together can the country be saved from a president who, for all his professed pipe dreams about democracy in the Middle East, refuses to surrender to democracy’s verdict at home.