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The 'Get It Done' election
Media General News Service


November 09, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The Democrats have scored an impressive victory based largely on public misgivings about a Republican White House and its handling of the Iraq war.

This will put pressure on both the White House and the new Democratic-heavy Congress that begins work next year to produce results on this war.

How are they going to do that? There is no sign so far that either the Democratic leadership or President Bush has a workable plan to disengage U.S. troops under near term honorable conditions.

In the closing days of the campaign, the Democrats let loose a media blitz implying that the election of a Democratic Congress would provide a way out of Iraq.

Without Bush's cooperation, however, the Democrats know that delivering on any contract to end the war will be next to impossible.

In the first place, they are barely clinging to power in Congress. They will have a majority in the House, but it looks like the Senate control may rest partly on the position of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. While Lieberman says now he will vote with Democrats on organizing the Senate, a lot could change in the intervening months.

Regaining control of the House and stopping the Senate Republican juggernaut that controlled appointments - including Supreme Court nominations - is a signal achievement for Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean. He was helped by a string of Republican scandals - the Abramoff corruption scandal and the Foley sex scandal - that knocked at least a dozen sure House seats off the reelection rails from the beginning.

The Democrats will be back in control of key committees, budgets, tax legislation and even national security policy because of their appropriations powers.

But there are limits. Congress only sends legislation to the president's desk for his signature or veto. And, especially when it comes to war powers, holding back appropriations from a president gets tricky.

During the Vietnam era, when a Republican White House and an antiwar Congress were in bitter opposition, there were clear majorities in favor of bringing the troops home. Finally, it came down to harsh language: No funds can be used in this or any other act for operations in, over or off the shores of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.

Filibusters, vetoes, warnings that the entire government would be shut down if President Nixon didn't yield were frustrated in a cloud of parliamentary maneuvering.

Rep. John Conyers, who is to become the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has already proposed impeachment of Bush over Iraq. Conyers was on the committee when Nixon was impeached and resigned.

Impeachment has little support. In fact, the secret to this victory was a willingness of Dean and the Democratic leadership to work from the political center. They went out of their way to recruit moderates for the winning campaign this year.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal who will become the first woman speaker of the House, could face her first test in keeping Conyers and the radical left in the House under control. This could prove frustrating, both for them and for her, over the next two years.

Substantial numbers said their votes were a repudiation of the president and the war, exit polls reported. This was viewed abroad as a vote of no-confidence in the president.

The talk may be conciliatory now. But Bush has said more than once that he won't accept defeat "on my watch." And Vice President Cheney, who hasn't been seen in recent days, has indicated his attitude will be to stick it out in Iraq no matter what Tuesday's election results said.

Nonetheless, the administration and Congress, along with the Baker-Hamilton study group, are looking for a new strategy in Iraq to extricate U.S. troops. Although it is a job that none of them has been able to do in over three years, they may apply themselves to it more energetically now.

Sick of this war, the public lowered the boom Tuesday and told them all to stop bickering and get something done now. It won't be easy.


John Hall is the senior Washington correspondent of Media General News Service.
E-mail jhall(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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