Let's be clear on something: The Democrats did not get elected because they had a better plan or were more trusted. They got elected because they were not Republicans. And time will tell if, as the Republicans did, they squander their opportunity. It does not look like a great start, however. After promising an amazing five-day work week to pass their "100-hour agenda," the Democrats took off the first Monday of the session because Florida played Ohio State in the BCS national championship game (the Swing State Bowl). I must remind you that the game was at 8:30 p.m. -- you know, at night. Clearly the Democrats had to paint their faces and get to a tailgate party earlier that day, so they called off work for themselves.
It looks as if Bush has not gotten the election message either. He is doubling down on the bad hand he dealt himself in Iraq by sending 21,000 more troops. I am not sure where they are going to get the soldiers. He has gotten our nation down to very few fighting men left, so an ex-military friend of mine imagined that at this point he will have to enlist the Salvation Army and some Civil War reenactors to get to the number of uniformed soldiers that he wants to "surge" in Iraq.
Bush did rearrange the deck chairs on his Titanic by reassigning some key Iraq officials. He demoted the director of intelligence (which is like being principal of summer school) to serve as deputy secretary of state under Condoleezza Rice. Seeing the need for a man under Rice, Bush moved swiftly to reassign John Negroponte, or, as Bush calls him, "Hey there, Sport."
It's funny to watch the old Democratic senators gin up outrage at the Iraq war and Bush (whose approval ratings by the American people are currently somewhere between a skin rash and Durham, North Carolina, district attorney Mike Nifong). If you think the old-guard Democratic senators are acting mad now, just think back on how mad they did not act three years ago, when most of them voted for the war.
Neither party has any credibility on the issue at this point. As I have long said, it is this bloated, inefficient, and egoistic government that led us into this war. It has gotten so bad now that congressmen might actually read the Iraq Study Group report to see what they have been doing for the last three years. Ready, fire, aim, then blame is their motto.
I am not an expert on war. My last official uniformed service was with the Boy Scouts, so I make no pretenses about knowing what we should do. I do know, however, that huge mistakes have been made, and it makes no sense to keep digging this hole. The role of our military is to protect our country. If it is depleted and demoralized with an ill-thought-out war, then it can't do that.
Democrats have to fight the label of the "tax and spend" party; then, and only then, will they succeed. I am not sure what "rich" is these days in their view. Perhaps it is anyone with a flat-screen TV or who sleeps on 300-count sheets, but I'm convinced they will soon identify them and chase them from the village, killing the golden geese they have long loved to tax.
Still, it's the GOP that needs to get the message. Evidence that they have not is the fact that they demoted one of my favorite congressmen, Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who is the only person who stands up and challenges those sneaky earmarks attached to bills to provide pork for congressmen. In the new congress, GOP leadership punished Flake by not giving him a committee assignment that he clearly should have gotten. If this continues, the exile of the GOP, "the party of less government and less spending," will be a long one.
Ron Hart is a satire columnist and investor in Atlanta. He worked for Goldman Sachs and was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar Alexander. E-mail: RevRon10@aol.com.