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As much as I enjoyed the midterm rout, I just can't shake the feeling that it might be a set up.
A number of bloggers have noted the perfect storm which helped drive the GOP out of power: Bob Woodward's book on the administration's mishandling of Iraq, intelligence estimates that Iraq had become a recruitment vehicle for terrorists, the steady stream of corruption scandals culminating in Mark Foley's timely resignation over the Congressional page scandal. Too good to be true usually is.
Curious that the Republicans failed to use its army of attorneys to challenge the election results. Curious also that Rumsfeld's inevitable departure came after the elections.
The obvious fear is that six years of Bush & Co.'s gross mismanagement will be pinned on the Democrats in 2008.
Take the economy. Why would the administration continue to stave off inflation, a bursting housing bubble and high interest rates if the Democrats will be blamed? Why continue to arm-twist Asian central banks into propping up the US dollar or continue to hide the shrinking economy? Just blame the Democrats for the tough economic times ahead.
And take Iraq. Please. While the Democrats' recent call for a phased redeployment of troops is welcome news, there's hardly party unity about how best to proceed. Consider the fact that Tom Lantos (D-CA) is slated to chair the House International Relations Committee in the next Congress. As Paul George of PeaceandJustice.org recently noted, "Lantos isn't just a Democrat who voted for the Iraq war, he was one of its co-authors. And his name appears high on the list of credits for Gulf War I. Lantos has never met a war he didn't like. His unblinking defense of Israeli policy gives him tunnel vision with the rest of the Middle East. That's a potent combination of volatile materials."
It's troubling enough that Lantos channels the neo-cons' Middle East policy; he also can't be expected to support sustained troop withdrawals in Iraq or a moderate approach elsewhere in the region. Arguably even worse, if the US and/or Israel actually goes ahead and bombs Iran, Lantos would not be the lone Democrat supporting an escalation of the conflict, ostensibly to protect Israel.
Signals from top Democrats that they will stand behind Robert Gates to be the next Defense Secretary are also disturbing, given ongoing questions over Gates' role in the Iran-Contra affair and charges of his having politicized intelligence at the CIA. If the Democrats give Gates a blank check during his confirmation hearings, they will have some explaining to do in 2008.
It's also dangerous to ignore the Republicans' ongoing internal coup - tossing overboard tokens such as Rumsfeld (and soon, UN Ambassador John Bolton) to strengthen the party's chances in 2008. For that reason, impeachment hearings, if any actually land on Pelosi's "table," will have to cast a wider net than merely Bush. He's already a lost cause to the Republicans and could act as a fall guy for more viable GOP candidates in the next elections.
So what would help the Democrats in 2008? Serious investigations into the US electoral system, for one. Victory doesn't mean the voting was free or fair-- to think otherwise is both hubris and a trap. The systematic disenfranchisement of African-Americans and Hispanics, the lack of integrity of voting machines and the multiple dirty tricks demand justice between now and 2008.
In fact, there should be investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings across the board, including into prisoner abuse, war profiteering, executive branch misconduct, intelligence manipulation, taxpayer subsidies for crony energy companies" you name it. (How telling that only yesterday the administration asked for Valerie Plame's lawsuit against Cheney and others to be dismissed on grounds of immunity. The White House is obviously getting nervous.)
Investigations, subpoenas, and the forced handover of secret administration documents would help the Democrats shed light on many levels of Bush & Co.'s corruption and malfeasance, which if properly communicated to the US public, could only help the Democrats in 2008. Unfortunately, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has indicated that he's "not heavily into investigations," adding, "That should be way down at the bottom of our agenda." not heavily into investigations.
Don't get me wrong; I'm delighted that the Democrats prevailed in the midterms. It's just that Bush's remaining lame-duck years present both opportunities and traps. The Democrats must be careful not to be blamed for the administration's wrongdoings. Systemic electoral corruption must be addressed and progressives must challenge Democratic warmongers before it's too late. 2008 is fast approaching.
1. To learn more about investigations on Bush & Co. already carried out, visit the site of Rep. Waxman's Government Reform Committee. To learn more about investigations on Bush & Co
Topics range from Abstinence-Only Education to the Cheney Energy Task Force. Expect more investigations soon...
2. Before the 110th Congress is in place, contact your senators senators and representatives representatives with your ideas and demands. It's never too early.
Heather Wokusch is the author of The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now, which went to #1 on Amazon's political activism charts in December 2007 (www.progressiveshandbook.com). Heather can be reached at (more...)