Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tuesday's Election and the Need to Take a Deep Breath

Look, there's a lot of work to do. And it's important not to pay too much attention to the right wingers huffing and puffing as they point fingers at everyone but themselves. Anyway, they don't have much credibililty these days.

But I don't mind some of the fun and some of the explanations for what happened even if the metaphors are getting more mangled than Kerry's speech. For example, Drapes of Wrath? That's Maureen Dowd's title for her column on Saturday in The New York Times. She's a Washington political gossip and a reasonably able social observer and she can turn a phrase:
This will be known as the year macho politics failed—mainly because it was macho politics by marshamallow men. Voters were sick of phony swaggering, blustering and bellicosity, absent competency and accountability. They were ready to trade in the deadbeat Daddy party for the sheltering Mommy party.


Even former members of the administration conceded they were tired of the musclebound style, longing for a more maternal approach to the globe.

"We were exporting our anger and our fear, hatred for what had happened," Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, said in a speech in Australia, referring to the 9/11 attacks. He said America needed "to turn another face to the world and get back to more traditional things, such as the export of hope and opportunity and inspiration."

Well, not bad, except for the mommy and daddy part. That's too Karen Hughes. I'm sure the last thing Armitage was thinking of was that metaphor. Years ago, the British author, Paul Scott, wrote a superb set of books about the last years of colonial India called, The Raj Quartet; I recall how one cynical character, with some brutal ideas of his own, refused to buy into the traditional line the British military taught its officers to repeat authoritatively from time to time when needing to overawe 'native' subordinates when demanding obedience and loyalty: "I am your mother and I and your father." The Raj Quartet is very much about the blind leading the blind in a lost era.

Let's set all that aside and just stick with concerned citizens, both men and women, Democrats, independents, and even some Republicans who won out over the right-wing politicians who too often seem to be driven by the words: "me first." Nobody has exemplified that more than Tom DeLay and George W. Bush.

I said there's work to do and the pragmatic Trudy Rubin already has some thoughts: this point, there are no miracles available to rescue Iraq policy. But if the Bush administration is really ready to change its Mideast approach, the Democratic victory gives it a chance to escape the hole it has dug for itself.

How so? First, that victory has precipitated the exit of Rumsfeld, the architect of an Iraq war strategy that failed to defeat the Baathists and permitted an insurgency to grow. The departure of Rumsfeld, who was loathed by Army and Marine brass, clears the air for Congress to consider ways of remedying the damage the Iraq war has wreaked on the uniformed military. It also opens the way for new ideas on Iraq and the whole Middle East.

Second, Democratic control of Congress might help improve America's declining reputation abroad, which centers on disdain for the president. Congressional Democrats are likely to show more concern than the White House for issues that matter to the rest of the world, such as global warming and the standards of the Geneva Convention.

And the overdue departure of Rumsfeld somewhat offsets the damage to America's reputation done by the images from Abu Ghraib.

Improved relations with foreign governments matter greatly at a time when the administration badly needs international help in winding down its Iraq presence.

Indeed, the Baker-Hamilton group is likely to recommend that an international conference be convened to get Iraq's Mideast neighbors and other countries to help stabilize the country.

The ascendancy of the Democrats may also help Baker sell his views to the White House. He has made clear he believes it is necessary to talk with our enemies, such as Syria and Iran - an idea that still divides the Bush administration. The Democratic surge may give some Republican legislators the cover to endorse Baker's ideas.

What remains to be seen is whether the Democrats' rise can advance other key foreign policy issues.

One of the most important is energy policy: Might we finally have one?

Give her a read. Bush got as far as he did because Americans were working too hard to pay close attention to the nonsense of the last twelve years. To turn our country around, we need to find the time to pay closer attention. Not just to the news or politics. But to ourselves and our future.


Anonymous Terrell said...

"...macho politics by marshamallow men..." I love it!

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Terrell, only in this era would we have visions of strutting marshmallows.

Aii, this nation has a lot of work to do!

11:09 PM  

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