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America: The Task Ahead

Wednesday, Nov. 08, 2006 12:14 PM

Did you vote on Tuesday?

If not, why not?

And of all places to be, why here? If you're not going to engage in the election process, there's very little to be gained from reading my comments on the day's news, more often than not political in nature.

Now the fun begins.

With control of the House, and quite possibly the Senate, the Democrats can push their agenda � not the lamented 'San Francisco Values' bemoaned by Messrs. Gingrich, O'Reilly, and others � but issues that affect all of America, including raising the minimum wage.

But while the election results appear to deliver a resounding boot-to-the-head to the Bush Administration for a number of things, some of the damage will be difficult to correct.

� The Military Commissions Act was signed into law. The provisions that allow for indefinite detention of anyone ruled an unlawful enemy combatant, as well as the surprisingly vague definition of torture (when the White House kept saying we needed clarity) still stand.

� Bush's program of illegal, warrantless wiretaps must be brought into compliance with the law, rather than having a law drafted to give the President a free pass. (It should be noted that Sen. Mike DeWine, who proposed such a law, was defeated by his Democratic opponent.)

� The changes to posse comitatus, mysteriously embedded into the Defense Appropriations Act for 2007 after the bill had left conference, are still there. The President can call out the National Guard and implement martial law if he decides it is required by a natural disaster, emergency, or other situation.

� The President will likely continue to use signing statements to excuse himself from compliance with the law when he decides it's just too damn inconvenient.

� There are continued, serious concerns about the integrity of the electronic voting systems implemented throughout the country. It is a fallacy to think, 'Oh, well, the Democrats won, therefore there cannot be security problems with the system' - it's like Dick Cheney assuring us the absence of further terrorism is specifically because of policies enacted by the White House. These issues must be pursued aggressively. (On a side note, Diebold maintains their software is 'secret' ... which is not the same as 'secure'. As an example, if I have a password and I keep it secret, it can still be a password that could be easily guessed or broken, like 'password,' or '1234.')

And, no, Dianne Feinstein, we haven't forgotten about you and how you enabled Mr. Bush to surround himself with ethically suspect and intellectually dishonest people who pander to fear instead of pursue diplomacy, approve of torture, and continue to violate Americans' Fourth Amendment protections through their complicity in Bush's wiretapping escapades.

Which leads us to George W. Bush himself. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who is likely to become Speaker of the House, affirmed that impeachment is not on the table.

Now, I still think Mr. Bush has forsworn himself, unquestionably violating the oath he took upon entering office. But the impeachment question can also be looked at not in the context of what the Republicans did to Clinton, but what the Democrats choose to do with Bush. A hasty move to publish articles of impeachment (even though San Francisco's Proposition J � calling for the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney ��passed resoundingly) could very well undo the Democrats' victory, allowing Bush to play the poor-me card.

As for Donald Rumsfeld rushing for the door, can it be any clearer that the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq War won't stand up to scrutiny? Democrats had spoken of hearings and investigations, and Mr. Rumsfeld doesn't want to be there. (He'll probably get subpoenaed.)

All in all, a win for the Democrats, but now the real race begins.

The challenge for us here at the Ministry of Shadows will be to give the Democrats the same scrutiny and skeptical eye that we've given the Republicans in the time our doors have been open here at Diaryland.

There will doubtless continue to be criticism of Mr. Bush and his colleagues on these pages, but, as noted above, the Democrats have to address specific issues. Otherwise, it's just a question of stealing chickens.

(Said reference is from an episode of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, where a man discounts the change in leadership in his country as meaning much of anything. "Nothing ever changes ��except the name of the man who steals my chickens.")

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