Cry babyI was always told that it was both wise and good manners not to intervene with parents who seem to be making every mistake in the book with their spoiled children. The Democrats have been observing that rule on the theory that the badly behaved children occupying the White House are not their kids; Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove, Gonzales and etc. were, from a political standpoint, the Republicans’ problem. With only a few exceptions, Democrats have never been willing to argue that the White House belonged to all of us and not to the most dangerous segment of the Republican party.

Using the 2006 elections as a guide in which the public thumped the White House and Republicans for their conceit, childish arrogance and all around bad behavior, the Democrats have been acting as though letting the wayward children do whatever they want will work for them again in 2008. The implicit assumption is that somehow, the country will survive having the most irresponsible, reckless, lawless and dishonest Administration any of us has ever seen, and the Democrats can clean up the mess when they get in. But the costs of this strategy to the country, and to our Constitution, have been heavy.

It has not yet dawned on many Democrats that responsibility for everything the immature and reckless frat-boy and his dangerously reckless friends are doing may actually pass to them in January 2009. It won’t be seen as the Republicans’ problem; it will be theirs, and the American people will expect them to deal with it. If the 2008 elections go as the pundits are predicting, the Republicans will cease to be the irresponsible parents and the Democrats will have to deal with the unprecedented catastrophe this President has made of everything he and his dangerous friends have touched.

It is the corollary to Powell’s Pottery Barn rule: The Bush/Cheney regime broke it, but the Democrats will own it. And if that is the rule, one would think that the most important strategy for the Democrats now is to do everything they can to prevent the White House occupants from doing any further damage to the country.

Their votes on Iraq funding and the gutting of FISA, and their caving again on Iraq tell us the Democrats do not yet understand this rule. They don’t seem to think it’s their job to defend the Constitution from the Bush/Cheney assaults. They’ve essentially given Iraq to Bush and Cheney to play with, and they’ve given them the US Army to destroy as though we’re dealing with toy soldiers and not real human beings. Petraeus’ condescending acquiesence to allow a symbolic few troops to leave early to mollify Warner (which means that Bush’s promise not to allow politics to interfere became inoperative in 48 hours), as long as it doesn’t endanger his “surge progress” is nothing more than a bright shiny distraction.

There is nothing more clear about the White House Iraq strategy than their plan to pass on the Iraq fiasco to the next President. The President himself has told us that’s exactly what he intends to do, and he repeated it to his biographer — “I’m playing for October/November,” he said, explaining that he wants to lock in the next President to an indefinite and substantial presence in Iraq. The Republicans seem to think he’s succeeded. Remember, we’re dealing with a President who thinks “we’re kicking ass” in Iraq, matching his Vice President’s view that the “insurgency is in its last throes” and Rumfeld’s belief that we’re just dealing with a few “dead enders.” They are a delusional lot.

But even if the Democrats assume there probably isn’t much they can do now to fix the Iraq calamity, they might at least consider preventing the Administration from making it much worse. And for heaven’s sake, they shouldn’t do anything that would encourage or authorize the White House to start another war and lead us into another calamity, another quagmire, and in the process endanger US troops stuck in Iraq and further undermine the security of the United States. This doesn’t seem to be rocket science, it’s just common sense.

When it comes to the Middle East, the Democrats are still being polite guests instead of responsible parents. Their Iraq funding efforts in the Senate appear confined solely to finding 60 votes for something, anything, without articulating a single principle or goal that would actually keep things from getting worse, let alone make them better.

If Democrats have essentially conceded they will inherit the full catastrophe of Iraq, then they should have the good sense not to allow the Administration to start yet another war to pass on to them. The first priority of any defense funding bill should be to include language disavowing any authorization, either in that bill or in prior authorizations, for starting an aggressive war against another country. Congress should remove any legal argument that the Administration has authority to engage in military actions against Iran (or Pakistan or . . .) without coming back to Congress, making the case, and getting explicit authorization.

That seems the minimum the Democrats should demand for accepting responsibility for what is becoming their war. And if they can’t insist on that minimal degree of accountability, then then don’t deserve our support.



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley