Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bush is still 'the decider' - Los Angeles Times

David Seaton's News Links

The real question now is who exactly are the Democrats? Except for detesting Bush, what else do they stand for? The real battle is on the left. DS

Abstract: Many Americans are breathing a massive sigh of relief now that the Democrats have apparently won both houses of Congress and President Bush has sacked his hawkish Defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld. At home and abroad, expectations are being raised that the power shift in Washington will rein in the Bush administration, restoring centrism, moderation and pragmatism to American foreign policy. Not so fast.(...) expectations of an about-face on foreign policy are illusory. There will be more continuity than change; the ideological excesses of the Bush era are not yet behind us. At Wednesday's news conference, Bush did not budge on Iraq policy and stood by his bellicose vice president, Dick Cheney. It may well be up to the Democrats to ensure a change of course on foreign policy, but control of Congress does not give them the power to do so. The U.S. Constitution grants the president a wide berth on matters of war and peace. Congress can chip away at the margins and seek to obstruct the White House, but it cannot dictate policy. Though it wields the power of the purse, Democratic leaders know it would be political and moral suicide to seek to force a withdrawal from Iraq by cutting off funds to U.S. troops deployed there. Such action would also enable the Republicans to shift the blame for failure in Iraq to the Democrats.(...) Democrats are deeply divided over the best course of action in Iraq, with some advocating a timetable for withdrawal, some counseling partition and others standing by Bush. Similar confusion reigns on policy toward Iran and North Korea.(...) Still, even if the Democrats alone are unable to constrain Bush, many observers foresee the reemergence of a bipartisan center that will help wean the White House from the hard right.(...) Fat chance. With the midterms out of the way, the 2008 presidential campaigns will go into full swing. The mud-slinging that preceded this week's vote will only intensify as the battle for the White House heats up. With the Democrats in the House likely to launch a host of official inquiries into the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war as well as multiple corruption scandals, the political atmosphere may well go from polarized to poisonous. The ideological distance between Republicans and Democrats is growing, not diminishing. This week's elections knocked off many Republican moderates, in whose centrist districts voters swung to the Democratic candidate. The Republican delegation in the next Congress, shorn of many moderate stalwarts, will be further to the right. Meanwhile, the election will strengthen the hand of the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Some of the Democrats soon to take up their new jobs on Capitol Hill are centrists. But the party's leaders — from Nancy Pelosi, the likely speaker of the House, through the senior figures destined to head the key congressional committees — will be pulled to the left by their constituencies. There promises to be little, if any, common ground between the Democratic leadership and its Republican counterpart. In neither spirit nor substance is there much hope for the return of a bipartisan center. READ ALL

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