Tuesday is shaping up to have been one those events that Jerry Brown describes as a "democratic moment", when the people intervene in politics as usual in a decisive way. Whether it becomes a "Jacksonian moment" will depend on how the Dems do over the next two years.
Bob Dreyfuss gets uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the meaning of Tuesday's elections in The Iraq Mandate TomPaine.com 11/08/06:
For the first time in American history, Americans have gone to the polls in wartime and rejected that war. Not only that, but they’ve done so overwhelmingly. Just as the election of 1932 was a seismic repudiation of the failed economic policies of the Hoover Republicans, the election of 2006 was a landslide against the Bush Republicans and their criminally misguided war against Iraq.
Amid pre-election polls showing that voters oppose “staying the course” by margins of as much as three to one, the American people have issued a sweeping mandate to the U.S. government: Get out of Iraq.
Ivo Daalder in A Vote of No Confidence TPM Cafe 11/08/06 writes about what we should look for in terms of possible changes in the Cheney-Bush war policies in the wake of this election. He writes:
The first sign of whether such change is forthcoming will be whether Bush accepts the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld - or demands it if Rumsfeld fails to offer it. Of course, Bush pledged to keep his secretary of defense before the election. But that was then, this is now. Remember, Bush also said that FEMA Director Michael Brown was doing “a heckova job” in responding to Hurricane Katrina - and Brown was gone days later.
That one is now taken care of: Bush Says Rumsfeld Is Stepping Down by David Espo and Liz Sidoti AP 11/08/06.
The timing of Rummy's departure may relate less to being responsive to the electorate than with a desire to push through a confirmation of the new Defense Secretary before the Democrats (presumably) take control of the Senate in January. Confirmation hearings are going to focus a magnifying glass on the Iraq War. But if the Reps still control the Senate, they can severely restrict the scope and depth of the investigations around the confirmation hearings.
Whatever the thinking behind Rummy's departure, it should have happened at least five years ago. This is one of the most disgraceful men who ever held a high office in the US Government. In a more just world than the one we live in, he would have been shipped off to the Hague and already tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Alarm bells should have gone off for both parties in Congress back in December 2001 when Novakula (Robert Novak) asked Rummy on CNN about the reports of our Northern Alliance partners in Afghanistan murdering prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and Rummy replied:
The fact that they [the Northern Alliance] don't happen to subscribe to some convention that we do or that other countries do is a fact. It is also a fact that we have to stop those terrorists from killing more Americans. And I don't feel even the slightest problem in working with the Northern Alliance to achieve that end.
The Secretary of Defense sneering at the international laws and customs of war as "some convention" should have resulted in his ouster within a day or two just by itself. Rummy proceeded to show us in the years since just how little he cared about international and domestic law.
Daalder's second sign to watch for is:
The next sign of change must come in Bush’s Iraq policy. ... Today, America’s goal cannot be victory; it must be to minimize the damage of its defeat.
That requires a clear and unambiguous commitment to disengage from the conflict. American troops should immediately move from the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s other cities and into the safety of their barracks and bases. And then they should begin the steady process of withdrawing.
When Bush family fixer James Baker releases the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report soon, we'll see if Dubya can or will manage to use that as a vehicle for any substantial changes in policy. My guess is that Cheney and Bush intend to plow ahead to go for an undefinable and unattainable "victory" in Iraq.
Daalder then describes a number of actions that the administration should take that seem even less likely for Cheney and Bush to embrace: recognizing basic human rights and international standards of justice for "terrorism" suspects; start taking other key concerns of the world community like global warming seriously; engage in active Middle East diplomacy; and, change their attitude to work better with other countries.
Yes, these actions would all be good. Rummy's going, thank God. But Cheney and Bush are extremely unlikely to change their Iraq War policies in essential ways unless Congress forces them to do so. And recognizing prisoners' rights, fighting global warming, working more cooperatively with allies? Ain't gonna happen. Relationships with some countries might, repeat might, improve. But the rest, no way.