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This Day In History

Today is my daughter's first birthday, which means it is also the one-year anniversary of two pieces of news I learned while nervously fidgeting with my BlackBerry in the hospital corridor: The departure of Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General, and the leaking of Larry Craig's arrest in a Minneapolis airport restroom. At the time, I thought I'd some day be able to use the two stories to sum up for my daughter what the national scene looked like at the time she was born--the seediness, the hypocrisy, the corruption, the abuses of power both small-time and big. And for the much of first year of her life, Democratic politicians have taken turns lambasting all of those things and vowing to change them. 

So why, as they gather in Denver, does it feel like all of these things took place in another country, or another decade? Yes, the assembled Democrats have occasionally flailed at those things assembled Democrats always flail at--Republican indifference about health care, or the environment, or the struggles of the middle class. Fine, but those things would happen even if George W. Bush were at 60 percent in the polls and the Republicans were a party known for competent conservatism. It's as if the last eight years were merely an exercise in policies they sometimes disagree with, rather than an affront to good government, ethics, the constitution, and our national honor.

Outrage helped the party in 2006. No doubt some focus group has reported that they'd rather talk about the future than the past, or words to that effect. But here in our short-attention-span country, you can't benefit form the comparison unless you remind people just how wretched the recent past has been (and note that not all of the participants are safely back in Texas). Barack Obama's recent polling troubles date to when the election became a referrendum on him rather than a chance to repudiate the folks who ruled the roost for most of the decade. So far, the convention has failed to turn the spotlight back on those people in any way that gets through to those of us watching on TV.

-Michael Schaffer