Hogan's Alley

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hopes For Tomorrow's Elections

President Bush and the Republicans surely have earned a smack upside the head for their mishandling of post-Saddam Iraq, Katrina, deficit growth and a host of other sins, not the least of which is the ass-kissing of the religious right which has become their hallmark.

Before going further, a confession is required. I am a life-long Democrat, raised in a home where FDR was a god. As a young man I was comfortable in the company of the left. After all, the evil of racism and the stupidity of Vietnam needed to be fought.

Over the intervening years my comfort with the left has turned into pronounced discomfort. Liberalism/Progressivism has become defined by a knee-jerk anti-Americanism which facilely finds America a fault for all the problems of the world. There is also a heady dose of elitism in the current left. If only the masses were as well educated and intelligent as we are, they would understand why their behaviors and voting patterns are so against their self-interest, which is all we really care about. With any luck we'll run Walmart out of business and deprive them of cheap shopping opportunities. They'll feel better about it over time. We know what's best.

This is not the time and place to debate this perspective, but hopefully it does serve as a background for my predictions and hopes for tomorrow's election.

On a national basis, my reading of the polls, tea leaves and the entrails of several ravens leads me to believe that the Democrats will take control of the House, winning just the 15 or 16 seats they need to elect Nancy Pelosi Speaker. As for the Senate, I think only 5 seats will change hands, leaving the Senate in a effective tie and Dick Chenney a very busy man.

So far today I have received six political phone calls...and the evening is still young. As thrilling as it might have been to "chat" with Bill Clinton, Rudi Guiliani, Paul Newman or Pat Boone, I have opted to let the answering machine bear the brunt of the pain.

After such a bombardment by calls, mailings and commercials the American people, in their wisdom, are very likely longing for the virtual incapacitation of the institution. The only way forward will hopefully then be for both parties to actually talk to one another and to back off the vile atmosphere of our politics in 2006. One lives in hope.

As for my vote, I live in Connecticut and in Chris Shays' district. The volume of political assault has been brutal. Enormous piles of political mail have been hauled to the recycling center and countless phone calls erased from the answering machine.

I have particularly hated the campaign against Joe Lieberman. As concocted by the kids over at Daily Kos, who have appointed themselves the arbiters of Democratic orthodoxy and the Great Kos himself as their Torquemada, the earth shook when Lieberman was ousted in the primary by Ned Lamont. Why, because he could not provide the correct answer to the question, "Are you now, or have you ever been, in favor of the invasion of Iraq."

I am a moderate. In my view it would be a tragedy if both parties are seized by the radicals in each camp. So my vote will be for Lieberman and for Shays.

Both have been voices for reasonableness in their respective parties. Their opponents have failed to display a clear vision of their own. Both have trumpeted only a one note anti-Bush theme. Lamont is an unimpressive ex-businessman without a demonstrable working knowledge of the intricacies of government or foreign affairs. Diane Farrell, Shays' opponent, is the First Selectman (Mayor) of Westport, a town with one of the highest per capita income levels on the planet. Her ability to represent those not so well endowed, income-wise, is highly doubtful, as is her ability to jump from zoning and local taxation issues to those of the national scene. Her competence in these issues has certainly not been demonstrated during this campaign or the last, in which she also tried to unseat Shays.

Sadly, an outcome as outlined above will be trumpeted by Bush as approval of his "policy" in Iraq, which to my eyes is non-existent. For the next two years we will be stuck muddling along with no clear strategy and no clear understanding of the tribal nature of Iraq.

In a recent column, David Brooks (behind his TimesSelect firewall) quoted various British officials in the 1920's on the subject of the sectarian nature of Iraqis. The conclusion of the Iraqi writer, Elie Kedourie, in his 1970 study "The Kingdom of Iraq: A Retrospect" was:

The Iraq of his youth, Kedourie concluded, “was a make-believe kingdom built on false pretenses.” He quoted a British report from 1936, which noted that the Iraqi government would never be a machine based on law that treated citizens impartially, but would always be based on tribal favoritism and personal relationships. Iraq, Kedourie said, faced two alternatives: “Either the country would be plunged into chaos or its population should become universally the clients and dependents of an omnipotent but capricious and unstable government.” There is, he wrote, no third option.
Would that we had only had such insights before us in 2003, or that the administration had consulted the experts on the region. The difficulty, if not impossibility, of cobbling together a republic among these waring tribes would have generated either considerable humility or superior planning and manpower. Precious few of us, unfortunately, regardless of current spinning, argued the difficulty of the long term project coupled with the incompetence of the leadership. If you will recall, we mostly argued about the lack of world support, the difficulty or ease of the fight with Saddam and the impact on the Arab street and its governments.

Chaos is not an option, for now it is our responsibility. As Colin Powell noted, we broke it, we own it. Unleashing massive death by a precipitous departure would be immoral. The struggle must be to find our way forward to a viable solution. Sadly, given Bush's demonstrated stubbornness and Rumsfeld's obsessive/compulsive single mindedness it will be up to the next President to find a fix, beginning in January 2009. How many American kids and Iraqi innocents will sacrifice their lives in the interim is the guilty burden of those in charge and of all Americans in our time.