Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Democrats' Back-to-School Test

Like American children, Congress is returning to a familiar place this week with the challenge of a new curriculum.

The subjects will be the same but on an advanced level, and many of the familiar Washington faces are gone or on the way out the door.

Even the dynamic of Topic A, the war, has changed. Senior Republicans are ripe for change, and the President, under cover of optimistic rhetoric in Anbar yesterday, opened the door slightly to a drawndown of American forces.

How to adapt and create a new climate will be Job One for the Democratic leadership. They can keep railing against Bush’s failed policies at home and abroad or, confident they will take back the White House and extend their control of Congress next year, start to give the American people samples of how they intend to govern in 2009 and beyond.

On Iraq, continuing to press for the end of a lost war against Bush’s veto power can be converted into a more bipartisan effort to agree that the U.S. has done what it can, tamp down recriminations and concentrate on how we get out.

On the U.S. Attorney scandals and other abuses of power, both houses are duty-bound to carry on their investigations, but the emphasis can shift to safeguards for the future.

None of this will be easy to do, in the face of the rage in the Democratic base that has been built up by Bush’s high-handedness, as seen in the concessions last month on the wiretapping bill. But Senate Leader Harry Reid has made a start by reaching out to anti-war Republicans.

Politicians being as they are, this may sound unrealistic, but if the Democrats need incentive, they may want to look again at Congress’ abysmal approval ratings and revisit the history of Pyrrhic victories.

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