What’s the Rush?
Let’s Enjoy the New Congress,
Hillary and Barack Can Just Wait
By Edward Shanahan
Recent neatly twinned and all but definitive declarations by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of their candidacies for President come as a disappointment to some of us who have been savoring the return to congressional control by the Democratic Party.
Quickly. round the clock media coverage, speculation and conjecture have shifted to Hillary and Barack and will continue with even more intensity in coming days, weeks, and months. It is altogether possible the new Congress and its brave efforts to repair the damage that the Republicans have caused this nation will all but fade from public consciousness.
It will be Hillary and Barack from today until the first primaries and party caucuses are held approximately a year from now. It makes me tired just to think about it.
We should remember that while the Republicans have held the White House for the last six years, Congress has been controlled by the Republicans for 12 years, and, in the process, enormous ground has been lost on such salient issues as economic equity, health-care benefits, Capitol Hill ethics, protecting the environment and holding the line against rapacious special interests.
In a very short period – somewhere between 40 and 100 hours of time on the job – the new, disciplined Democratic Congress has scored major breakthroughs on such long-simmering needs as a higher minimum wage, ethics reform, sticking it to Big Oil on leases of federal lands for drilling, lowering prices for consumers of prescription drugs and building support for stem cell research.
Not bad for a few weeks work.
Still to come are the many highly anticipated congressional hearings conducted by new, invigorated Democratic chairmen into the Iraq war and the administration’s reckless foreign policies, tax and budget matters, deficit spending by the Bush Administration, immigration, the Social Security and Medicare programs, illegal behavior by federal agencies, gaping holes in homeland security, giveaways to corporations, and revived concern about the environment.
Clearly, the principal focus will be the Iraq war - how to disengage and also deal with its short and long-term costs - the current and future state of the U.S. military and the nation’s national security.
In other words, what’s needed and what we have a right to expect is a top-to-bottom review of the errors of commission and omission by President Bush and his administration’s conduct over the last six years along with Democratic, or possibly even bipartisan, prescriptions for remedying the mistakes and offering new programs and policies where none had been forthcoming.
The surprising electoral upset last fall came about through the energy, anger, and passions of millions of American voters, and thousands of local, state and national Democratic candidates – facing what seemed like hopeless odds for success. But success came and with it the responsibility for the new congressional majority and leadership to reassert its constitutional prerogatives.
Our attention has been diverted prematurely and unfairly to a presidential contest that will not be decided for some 650 days, 92 weeks or 20 months from now.
For now, we should let the Congress and its committee hearings remain in the spotlight. The new majority gained that right. There is so much to learn about what went wrong over the last dozen years and what it will take to refocus and redirect the country both at home and abroad.
Now is a time for study and reflection, examination and evaluation, investigation and correction. The time for negative campaigning and hollow promises ended in November, and it’s far too soon to launch another such campaign.
Let’s pay attention to what we can learn today, not immediately leapfrog ahead. Hillary and Barack should cool it. Maybe if they listen, rather than talk, they can learn something too.
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