The Democrats take the Senate

This was announced yesterday as a foregone conclusion, but it sounds like it became final today. They now have a slight 51-seat majority. The Democrats did very well in their Senate campaign, getting all the states they needed to take back control of congress. They’ve clearly gotten back on the ball.

What does this really mean? The Democratic control of the House means the Democrats will have the power to dig for Republican dirt all they want. They could even pursue impeachment, though it won’t pass the Senate, much as what happened to President Bill Clinton. They’ll have the power to raise spending, and try to raise taxes. Perhaps now Bush will start using his veto power more often. What the Senate takeover means is Bush can forget about nominating conservative judges for the rest of his term, and the far right can forget about overturning the Roe v. Wade decision anytime soon. As I mentioned before it’s also going to mean that immigration policy is going to be more liberal, and Bush will go along with that. A possible emerging issue is embryonic stem cell research. In terms of legislation that may be the most controversial issue to re-emerge out of the remainder of Bush’s term.

I heard something else today that reminded me of something politicians do, but I often see it with Democrats in particular, is they take a small difference and make it sound like a HUGE difference. I’m sure people remember the hot air about “get out of Iraq”, “Bush doesn’t have a plan”, and “Bush has no exit strategy for getting us out of Iraq”. The Democratic leadership in congress has announced that they will not support a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, because they know it would be disasterous. Even Rep. Nancy Pelosi says this. The Democrats have also contacted officials of the Iraqi government to assure them of this. I saw Sen. Dick Durbin on the news saying he didn’t even want a timetable for withdrawal, but wanted to make clear to the Iraqi government that we’ve given them all the tools to make it on their own, and they should start doing that. So much for the rhetoric. They’re saying the same things in a different way. In reality the Democratic leadership is in the same place as Bush on this issue. So, what’s changed? Nothing?

Gen. Casey said a few weeks ago that he estimated we could start pulling troops out of Iraq by 2008. Is this what the Democrats were talking about? If so, Bush has certainly heard of and approved the same plan. It’ll be interesting to see if the new incoming Democrats will demand that their party take a more aggressive posture on this issue.

I don’t know what Durbin is talking about, incidentally. The Iraqi government assumed sovereignty two years ago. Sovereignty means making your own decisions, and they have, often to our consternation. People have complained about Iraqi PM Maliki saying something nice about Hezbollah, and releasing prisoners captured for trying to overthrow the government attacking civilians, or allied forces. That’s them making their own decisions. The real problem is we haven’t liked it so far. I think most people would prefer that we take control away from the Iraqi government, because then they wouldn’t be able to say and do things we don’t like. We wouldn’t have to deal with the political ramifications of going after Muqtada al-Sadre, and confronting Iran more aggressively.

So the Democrats have had it both ways. They get to complain and act like they’re going to act more aggressively on Iraq, but the story within their party is more complex than that. The leadership is setting the tone early to rein in those within their ranks who want to be more aggressive and abandon Iraq. Will the newcomers push back, or was their rhetoric the same hot air? For America’s sake I hope it was just hot air. If the Democrats won power by fooling the voters a bit, taking advantage of public anger and frustration, fine. I’ll be relieved if they show cooler thinking going forward.

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