Crosscountry Cody barking up a tree in a dogfood ad

Barking up the wrong tree

All bark, no bite

I don't like politics, nor politicians. In my personal pantheon of low-lifes, politicians are right there with telemarketers, television evangelists, class action lawyers, and used car salespersons.

It is not that I don't care. I care very much about what our government does. It is just that the way we do politics in this country is all wrong.

For starters, campaigning goes on non-stop. The 2004 presidential campaign has been going on for years already, and some commentators and pundits are already speculating about 2008! (Will she, or won't she? Hillary, that is.) Because of the constant campaigning, politicians spend much of their time grubbing for money. Despite all the "campaign finance reform" that has been enacted, the flow of money into campaign coffers continues unabated. And then there's the groveling and pandering, as both the ins and the wannabes calculate the impact of every move on the next election.

Dems. The race to select a Democratic nominee for president is in full swing and the candidates are in full bray. (How can anything that oozes along so slowly be called a race, anyway?)

10 Democrat presidential hopefuls Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls — in which case I think there's very little hope

Following the lead of Howard Dean, the Democrats have gone on the attack against George Bush and the war in Iraq with all the venom they can muster.

Bush at UN
Vice President Richard Cheney
National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

No doubt about it, Bush and his gang are a frustrating lot. No matter what happens, they just go on singing the same old songs, apparently convinced that if they just say the same thing often enough it will become true, and they are not at all inconvenienced by evidence and opinions to the contrary.

The Bush administration is always right, they never make a mistake, never have any doubts. Cutting taxes will create jobs. The Iraqis will welcome the US as liberators. The US is safer today. Saddam did have stockpiles of WMD. The US leads a vast international coalition. And on and on....

But all these Democrat hopefuls are going to have to do better than they have been if they expect to capitalize on Bush's increasing vulnerability on issues and on people's dawning realization that this Bush is the ultimate bubble boy, insulated from the world as the rest of us know it. People are getting disillusioned; Bush's plummeting job approval ratings are ample evidence of that.

But Bush bashing won't cut it. What we need to hear is real ideas about what to do next, a plan. Democrats need to figure out what they're for and how to get it, not just what they're against. Just being shrill only gives the Bushies an opportunity to smile serenely and sing their song again — the equivalent of Ronald Reagan's, "There you go again."

It would, of course, be risky to lay out an agenda of real issues and real solutions. And by real solutions, I mean ones that would result in the greater good, not just ones that protect sacred cows and curry favor with special interests and those with money to donate to the campaign.

It would be refreshing if a politician actually spoke truths: Those manufacturing jobs that have gone to other countries aren't coming back. It's crazy to both subsidize tobacco farmers and pay medical bills for lung cancer. You can't have cake and eat it too. Politics is all about choices. Let's hear some choices. Let's stop pretending that we can have everything.

I'd like to think it might happen. But I also suspect pigs might fly first.