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Now that's what I call pre-emptive

Remember when Democrats used to wait until after an electoral debacle to begin the orgy of blame and finger-pointing? Looks like they're getting a head start on things this year.

Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: "We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes."

Some Democrats said they favored remaining largely on the sidelines while Republicans struggled under the glare of a corruption inquiry. And some said there was still time for the party to get its act together. But many others said the party needed to move quickly to offer a comprehensive governing agenda, even as they expressed concern about who could make the case.

Their concern was aggravated by the image of high-profile Democrats, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, challenging the legality of Mr. Bush's secret surveillance program this week at a time when the White House has sought to portray Democrats as weak on security.

"We're selling our party short; you've got to stand for a lot more than just blasting the other side," said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee. "The country is wide open to hear some alternatives, but I don't think it's wide open to all these criticisms. I am sitting here and getting all my e-mail about the things we are supposed to say about the president's speech, but it's extremely light on ideas. It's like, 'We're for jobs and we're for America.' "
Since Mr. Bush's re-election, Democrats have been divided over whether to take on the Republicans in a more confrontational manner, ideologically and politically, or to move more forcefully to stake out the center on social and national security issues. They are being pushed, from the left wing of the party, to stand for what they say are the party's historical liberal values.

But among more establishment Democrats, there is concern that many of the party's most visible leaders -- among them, Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Senator John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential candidate; Mr. Kennedy; Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; and Al Gore, who has assumed a higher profile as the party heads toward the 2008 presidential primaries -- may be flawed messengers.

Doesn't really sound like the next "Contract with America" will be ready in time for November.