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Thinking aloud a day after US elections

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Last week all eyes were on the US elections and if you were like me you would have been up late into the night soaking it all up. I must admit that part of the attraction was to see Bush and the Republicans being humiliated.

Certainly the day after, our dear President was not his usually cocky ‘stay the course’ self. He was talking bi-partisanship as if he invented the word. I said ‘our President’ because he acts as if he is monarch of all he surveys. I am sure no one is convinced that the results have created a new man. His Press Conference the next day was a masquerade. In the process he had to shed himself of his close colleague and ideologue Donald Rumsfeld who was the architect of the Iraqi war and represented all that was wrong with that war. But who was George trying to fool?{{more}} Had the Republicans emerged victorious Rumsfeld would still have been sitting in the high command. Didn’t the president a week or two ago describe his work as excellent suggesting that he will remain part of the administration until the end of the term?

Even though the electorate had obviously sent a message about the lies and bungling surrounding Iraq, the message went beyond that and included statements about corruption, immorality, arrogance, torture and the existence of an administration clearly out of control. It is of note that in a country where Liberalism is a bad word, the voters elected to the Senate an Independent and Socialist at that. Bernie Sanders won convincingly but his predecessor had also been an independent. This probably says more about Vermont than about the United States of America. Although we have certain images about the US and about its electorate, dumping them into Red and Blue states is not what it is about. The United States of America is really a complex society and it will take sometime before we fully understand the messages that the electorate sent out last Tuesday evening. Everything in the US including politics and elections is highly overanalysed. That country has more experts and analysts per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. They come in different shapes, forms and colours. Despite all of this those

you see and read and hear in the mainstream media are ones who see everything in simple black and white. They belie the complexity of the country and its people.

The familiar faces were quick to indicate that the US electorate was sending a particular message by electing whom they consider to be moderates. With two years to go before another Presidential election the Democrats will no doubt tread carefully and their approach will depend on how they interpret what happened last Tuesday. What do the people want with Iraq? Is it to get out as quickly as possible? It is difficult to see a clear way out. The Americans cannot create the mess and then leave. Bush or no Bush! One of the more feasible options will centre on bringing Iran and Syria into the picture but certainly not once the President continues his ‘axil of evil’ approach. The Iranians will speak to him only if he climbs down from his high horse.

The presidential candidates are beginning to show their faces, among them Hilary Clinton, who in my view stands either for nothing or for everything. There is talk however of a slate with Hilary as President and Barrack Obama as Vice President, a slate of two minorities, women and blacks. Is America ready for that? Is it ready for a Vice President whose surname is Obama? Has very much changed? Has Bush by his ineptitude, his lies, his ‘braggadociousness’, his notorious swagger helped to change the political landscape? Does the fact that the rest of the world see America under Bush as the number one or number two threat to world peace have meaning to Americans? Or are the Democrats through their control of Congress likely to soften that image? With Presidential elections two years off it is likely that the Democrats will go their now accustomed position to demonstrate to the American voters that they are not soft on matters related to security and generally on foreign policy.

What will be the Democrats’ agenda? Is there a case for impeaching George W? Elsewhere there is even talk of trying him for war crimes- the slaughter, the degradation, the carnage in Iraq caused by the arrogance and foolhardiness of one of the most inept leaders ever. He failed to see that the rest of the world does not share the same values as Americans. What drives a man to be a Suicide Bomber? Bush will certainly never understand this. Although not saying that he will stay the course, he talks about the need to finish the job forgetting that he had declared victory before. How can we forget him in 2003 on the USS Abraham Lincoln proclaiming in his usual style that the mission was accomplished! Little did he understand that he was dealing with Iraq not Texas. He might just declare victory again and pull out. What a way to go Mr. President! Go for it!

We sometimes forget that what happened last Tuesday were Congressional elections and the election of Governors because Bush and his Iraqi misadventures loomed so large. Americans tend generally to draw a distinction between Presidential and Congressional elections. This year although local issues would have continued to be important, hanging over it all was the terrible embarrassment that was Iraq and those closely associated with Mr. President suffered because of that. There are certain other things that are bound to impact on the American voter. The most important has to do with the limits of power and consequently America’s role in the world. Despite threats North Korea has carried out nuclear tests, Iran has insisted on continuing its policy of uranium enrichment and the Nicaraguans have elected Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandanistas in the 1970s. The Nicaraguans had been warned about the consequences of electing the American bugbear, Ortega but they evidently dismissed it. Again we had the annual United Nations vote against the US embargo of Cuba, a resounding 183 to 4, the four being the US, its alter ego Israel and two countries in the South Pacific, the Marshall Islands and Palau that hardly anyone knows. Is all of this a message about the limits of power?

The President is still in charge of foreign policy but democratic control of numerous committees will make a difference in their ability to demand investigations into Bush’s foreign escapades and in the selection of top advisers. Even though Americans have always demonstrated a lack of interest in foreign affairs, when it impacts on them as the misadventures in Iraq have, and when it becomes clear that the negative image of the US is also shared by their close friends, it will undoubtedly make a difference.

While I greet the demise of the Republicans I am not holding out hope that a lot will change with the Democrats, not while their eyes are likely to be focused largely on 2008 and the Presidential elections. They will certainly go for political correctness whatever that means. That is why the lessons they pick up from the 2006 elections remain so important.

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