Ahhh, that’s better…. For the first time in six years I feel a sense of hope. With the Democrats firmly in control of the House, and poised to take the Senate, the Republican “mandate” is over. (Disgraced evangelical pastor and presidential advisor Ted Haggard may be forgiven for thinking mandate is two words.)
We have seen the results of the Republican mandate, a winner-takes-all approach that is a frontal attack on our democratic system. It has propelled this country into a testosterone-crazed foreign policy, legitimized loony fundamentalists, and made special interests a de facto fourth branch of government. With Congress taking fistfuls of money from the lobbyists with one hand, and rubber stamping the president’s wish lists with the other (including judicial appointees to the Supreme Court) to call this administration dysfunctional would be an understatement. The American government simply isn’t supposed to work this way.
Our system was designed to be one of checks and balances among three coequal branches. The Bush administration has done everything it could to override that constitutional imperative. It is no coincidence that we first became acquainted with the concept of the “unitary executive” during the reign of George W. Bush. In plain language, it is a doctrine that claims the president’s authority exceeds that of the other branches of government. In smaller countries, unitary executives are called dictators.
The current state of affairs, until yesterday’s election, was a presidential coup many years in the making. To get an idea of the depth of the game being played out we need not look any further than todays resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Some, no doubt, feel this is a small victory against the neocon cabal that swept into office with George W. Bush. But a look at the man Bush has selected to replace Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, should serve as a caution against such optimism.
Far from the outsider with a fresh perspective as Bush has portrayed him, Gates has been involved in the dark side of Bush World since at least the election of Ronald Reagan. According to former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, the Soviets had evidence that Gates and George Bush Sr. met with Iranian radicals during Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign and negotiated to keep American captives hostage until after the election.(For a more complete account of that, see my article on the October Surprise.)
A career CIA officer, Gates became a protege of superspy William Casey, who had served as Reagan’s campaign manager before being appointed to direct the CIA. Casey was believed to be the mastermind behind not only the election funny business, but the Iran-Contra Affair during Reagan’s presidency. When Casey died in 1987 Reagan nominated Gates to become CIA director, but withdrew the nomination because of Gates’ role in Iran-Contra. Gates escaped indictment, and was later appointed CIA director by George Bush Sr., who had served as Reagan’s Vice President.
So, Gates is no outsider. More likely he is being called in to clean up the mess created by the younger Bush. The Iraq debacle was bad enough, but now he’s lost the Congress.
Do the Democrats have a mandate? It would be a mistake to think so. At best they have been given a chance to show they can do a better job of governing than the Republicans. It is a difficult job to govern a country as diverse as ours, but it is made easier by embracing policies of tolerance and freedom, both of which have been in short supply under Republican rule.
It’s going to be interesting.