really sensible one on today's op ed page, which is as conservatively
biased as usual.
Dionne makes this point: "On Iraq, the president, not Congress,
controls the essential levers of power, especially since Democrats have
made clear that they will not use the one instrument they have, to cut
off funding for the war, and they are right not to do so."
I agree that this is out of the question so long as American troops
are fighting in Iraq. However, I recall that in the early months of 1975
the Congress cut off our funding for the war in Cambodia, and was
preparing to do so with Vietnam. We had no combat troops in the former
country, and very few in the latter, an all were evacuated before the
situations collapsed in April. The Congress had used its power to
appropriate funds to affect policy in a powerful way and to end our
involvement in those two wars. The bipartisan leaderships of the two
houses of Congress would be wise to insist that the president come up
with a rational exit strategy for Iraq when they are next asked for a
supplemental appropriation to fund our war in Iraq. Here is a graphic
statement of the current cost of that war, quoted from page 71 of "Out
of Iraq" by George McGovern and William R. Polk:
"For the 2003 invasion and the subsequent occupation the allocated
outlay--which is only a part of the real costs--was in the hundreds of
billions of dollars and has grown at roughly 20 percent yearly; it is
now at about $7.1 billion a month or $237 million a day. Taking those
astronomical figures down closer to earth means that the occupation of
Iraq costs roughly $10 million each hour."
*Meeting at The Middle*
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Thursday, November 9, 2006; A29
American voters, in their wisdom, ended an era on Tuesday. They rejected
a poorly conceived war policy in Iraq that has weakened the United
States. They rejected a harshly ideological approach to politics that
cast opponents as enemies of the country's survival. They rejected a
president so determined to win an election that he was willing to
slander his opponents by saying: "The Democrat approach in Iraq comes
down to this: The terrorists win and America loses." The voters decided
there was no decency in that.
No longer will the national tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, be used to
undermine the opposition party. It was only after he was forced to do so
by an electoral defeat that President Bush called for genuine
bipartisanship yesterday. Imagine what the world would look like if he
had done that a year or two ago.
And no longer will we pay attention to political strategists who assert
that swing voters aren't important and that independents and moderates
don't matter. If Democrats are to make good use of the power they have
been granted, they need to remember that last point. This election was
the revenge of the center no less than it was the revenge of the left.
The decisive votes cast on Tuesday came from moderates and independents,
whom the exit polls showed favoring Democratic House candidates by about
3 to 2.
Nancy Pelosi and the other Democratic leaders face a genuinely
complicated political calculus. On the one hand, Democrats would not
have won without the intense dedication of their partisan and
ideological base. Among self-identified Democrats, the party's House
candidates won by about 13 to 1. Liberals went about 8 to 1 Democratic.
This energy was critical to the outcome.
But many of the party's successful candidates ran as moderates, and
Democrats hold power on the basis of a loan of votes from
middle-of-the-road Americans who simply could not stomach Bush
Republicanism anymore. The loan can be recalled at any moment.
The good news for Democrats is that their candidates, moderates and
liberals alike, ran on two common themes: that the Bush Iraq policy had
to change and that the Washington establishment simply does not
understand the personal struggles and economic insecurities confronting
so many Americans.
On Iraq, the president, not Congress, controls the essential levers of
power, especially since Democrats have made clear that they will not use
the one instrument they have, to cut off funding for the war, and they
are right not to do so.
What they should do is use the coming report from the commission headed
by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton, the
former Democratic House member, to force a genuinely bipartisan approach
to extricate us from Iraq at the lowest cost possible.
Tuesday's vote can help by making clear to the Iraqi government that
there is a limit to American patience. The Shiite majority in Iraq must
take more steps to reconcile with the Sunni minority. Our allies in the
Arab world need to step up and help, because the American people will
not tolerate endless engagement in Iraq. And the Democrats should
encourage the administration to engage with all the nations in the
region that have reason to fear an Iraqi civil war. That includes Syria
The other obligation of this new majority is to answer the economic
discontent that helped build its victory. Republicans prayed that the
economy would matter in this election. Their prayers were answered in an
odd way: Two-fifths of the voters told the pollsters that the economy
was "extremely important" in their voting decision -- and they voted 3
to 2 for Democratic House candidates. A lot of Americans are losing
ground, and they spoke up.
As long as Republicans control the White House, Democrats will not be
able to pass far-reaching measures to deal with worries about pension
benefits, health insurance and job security. What needs to begin is a
long struggle to create a new social contract that will protect and lift
up the tens of millions of Americans for whom globalization is more
threat than promise.
It's worth pushing hard-to-veto legislation increasing the minimum wage,
expanding health-care coverage and fixing the Medicare drug benefit.
These steps need to be combined with hearings on more ambitious measures
that would force the Washington establishment to come to terms with
grass-roots economic discontents.
This election creates an exceptional opportunity to move from blind
ideology to problem-solving and from stupid divisiveness to a politics
of remedy and reconciliation. The Democrats had better make it work.