Speaker Pelosi Sets the Tone

State of the Union

House Speaker Pelosi played it smartly at President Bush’s State of the Union Address. She gave instructions to her members to take the high road tonight. Keep eye-rolling and hooting to a minimum. Show symbolic respect for the office of the Presidency. Everyone in the country knows how opposed Democrats are to President Bush and his policies, particularly on the Iraq War.

Still as frustrated as so many Americans are with Iraq right now, most are not in the Cindy Sheehan camp. They long for civility in public life. If the Democrats want to maintain their majority, they must retain the center. Pelosi’s directions to fellow Democrats and her graceful behavior to Bush’s invocation of her father, former Baltimore Congressman Thomas D’Alessandro. There’s something to be said for the political lessons a woman can learn from an old-time urban ethnic pol like her father.

Like many a seasoned pol, D’Alessandro likely knew how to take the high road, leaving the rough work for a designated hatchet man. That’s the role to be played by Senator Webb.

As for the substance, Bush’s surge plan would have a lot more credibility if his prior plans hadn’t been so bungled. It may be the best of many bad options right now. I like his plans to increase the size of the miiltary by 92,000 and create a civillian corps which can assist the military — finally a way to engage the public in the War on Terror. I can’t help but remember John Kerry’s proposal at the 2004 Democratic National Convention calling for an increase in the number of U.S. Army Special Forces, a useful tool in an era of unconventional warfare.

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