Somehow I feel like quoting President Gerald Ford is appropriate. "Our long national nightmare is over". Well, maybe not quite, but I cannot express the hope and joy I feel at knowing there are checks and balances returning to our national government. It is like, despite the Republican gerrymandered districts, despite the outcome of the elections since 2000, that the voters finally woke up from a long nap and realized what autocratic, one-party rule has done to our Constitution and our nation.
In a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, Lord Acton made the oft-quoted statement, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". With the GOP in charge of all the branches of government, we have seen the truth in Lord Acton's assertion. The Republicans developed an arrogance that resulted in an attitude of all or nothing. The "uniter, not a divider" sitting in the oval office, and his cohorts in the Congress did everything but unite us.
After the attacks of September 11, the country rallied around the President; and the world rallied around the United States. All thoughts about whether President Bush had legitimacy after the elections of 2000 went away. Over the last five years, the administration squandered both the goodwill of the American people and of the world at large. People understood when the United States went into Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban regime that supported him. If the government had stayed focused on the sources of terrorism, I don't think there would have been much argument from anyone.
As we know, the President didn't stop there. He saw a justification to tie Iraq and his father's nemesis, Saddam Hussein, to the "War on Terror". No matter that Iraq never attacked us, nor presented any credible clear and present danger to America. Saddam was well contained within no-fly zones in his own country, sanctions were keeping him in check, and Hans Blix and his team of weapons inspectors were finally able to do their job.
Still, the President using various claims to rush into an elective invasion of a sovereign country, kept changing his reasons for pressing ahead into Iraq. Some of the ever-changing rationalization included:
• Saddam already had “Weapons of Mass Destruction”
• Saddam had plotted with Al Qaeda and would share his WMD with them
• We could not allow a hostile state of Iraq to control a large portion of the world’s petroleum supplies
• Saddam had invaded his neighbor, and would do so again if given the chance
• Saddam had purchased yellow-cake uranium from Africa in his drive to build nuclear weapons
• Bring freedom to the long-oppressed Iraqi people, who would greet our troops as liberators
In the build up to war, Secretary of State Colin Powell sullied his reputation by going to the United Nations, showing satellite photos of trucks, and backing the claim of the administration that these were mobile weapons laboratories. They were just trucks. Nothing more, nothing less.
Then we were told that the Iraqi’s would pay the financial costs of the war with the profits from the sales of their oil. Instead, a budget surplus has turned into a huge financial deficit for this country’s taxpayers. Billions of dollars of what Bush called “the peoples’ money” back in 2000, wasted, missing, and handed over to Vice President Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, in no-bid contracts in Iraq.
The Bush regime then went on to equate the President with the country; saying anyone who criticized the actions of the administration were “aiding the terrorists” and were not patriotic Americans. Opposite-speak became the order of the day; dissent was not patriotic, but treasonous.
The Constitution was put through the GOP shredder as well, starting with no-warrant wiretaps, and collection of everyone’s telephone call records, making every citizen a terrorism suspect. The FISA courts were deemed as interference in the President’s power.
Then, most shameful of all, a GOP reinterpretation of the Geneva Convention rules created a new category of POWs called “enemy combatants”, which made it fine for the US to torture and hold indefinitely. Habeas Corpus suspended, and now anyone the President declares to be suspect can be held without charges, without facing his or her accuser. The America who has stood up for human rights now sends suspected “enemy combatants” to secret torture camps in rogue states.
On the domestic front, the President’s GOP allies in Congress intimidated the Democratic oversight of the President’s appointments by threatening the so-called Nuclear Option. This would have been a vote by the Republican majority to eliminate the one tool held by the minority party, the philibuster. These bullying tactics allowed the GOP to castrate the Democrats and render them unable to fulfill their role in the checks and balances available under our two-party system.
I could go on and on, but the above examples are why I am absolutely ecstatic over the Democrats taking back the House of Representatives and the Senate. I am actually not a big fan of many things the Democrats do as well, but there needs to be brakes on the runaway Republican arrogance and authoritarian rule.
I hold no illusion that everything will be fixed. The President still holds a veto pen. Still, the voters have finally had enough, and have given a rare opportunity for the Democrats to re-establish our democratic republic and our Constitution. It is my hope that several things occur:
• The President will take the election to heart, and try to compromise with the Congress
• The Democrats, while providing oversight, will not try to overreach and end up alienating the voters. There is a great danger of winning this battle and losing it all in 2008.
• Eliminate the unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act and other legislation enacted by the GOP during the last few years that violates civil rights
• Work to craft as clean an exit as possible from the civil war in Iraq
• Prove to Americans that while we can never be totally safe, we can fight terrorism and defend our people without destroying liberty to protect it
For the first time in at least five years, I am optimistic about the future of our great nation. The voters have decided that one-party rule isn’t working. I look to our elected representatives of both parties to take this opportunity to restore sanity to our government. I hope they do.