Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Does It Matter that the Democrats Won Congress?

So, now that the Democrats have (once again) caved and given George Bush what he wanted, it is time to ask, what was the point in electing them to Congress in the first place? Speaking just for me, I did not really think they could end the war in Iraq, but I did expect them at least to expose George Bush's past abuses and hold the line on future ones.

The score so far:

On the plus side: Donald Rumsefeld has been fired and replaced with a sane Secretary of Defense. Modest ethics reforms have been passed. The Administration is beginning to rediscovery diplomacy. The President has taken his surveillance program to the FISA court and asked for a new law when the court turned them down. Henry Waxman's investigations have made them sweat a little. Alberto Gonzales has been completely humiliated. And at least did not give away the entire store and pass anything as bad as the Specter bill, which would have made compliance with FISA completely voluntary.

On the minus side: No investigation of the intelligence manipulation that got us into Iraq in the first place. We haven't learned a thing about secret warrantless wiretappings. Or black sites, extraordinary renditions, not-quite-torture and GTMO, etc. Congressional investigators seem more interested in the US Attorney firings, which may threaten their own electoral prospects, than in details like war or civil rights. No legislation has been passed to reign in executive abuses (although, admittedly, that would be a futile gesture, since the President would veto it). And now this.

There are only two explanations for the Democrats' behavior. The charitable one is that they are spineless:

Bush has invented a remarkable game of chicken that seems to work, in spite of its irrationality: If you pass a bill that solves the immediate crisis but I have other objections to, I'll veto the solution and then our country will be in immediate danger. And it will be your fault that I put the country in danger!

If the Democrat had any gumption, they would play a little chicken in return -- pass the bill exempting foreign-to-foreign communications and dare Bush to veto it, screaming all the time, "He's endangering us! He's refusing to sign a bill that would let us spy on terrorists! He's holding the whole nation hostage just so he can have his way!"

And that is the charitable explanation. The less flattering one is that Democrats are all too happy to aggrandize executive power, since they hope to win the next Presidential election and have George Bush's power at hand.

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