President Clinton’s Oval Office sex scandal, for the most part, had few ramifications for the average American. His extramarital affairs brought about important, albeit abstract, questions about the nature of the office of the presidency. It did not, however, cost one American life and in the end little money was spent. During that period, though, the Republicans unified and capitalized on the situation to turn what amounted to a few sexual encounters with an intern into a full-blown presidential impeachment.
Fast-forward eight years and we are facing issues that do cost American lives – the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina – and issues that do have a negative impact on the economy – unnecessary tax cuts and no real plan to combat rising oil prices. Yet, the Democrats are unable to muster a single plausible defense in the face of a still-unified Republican front.
For every foul-up by the Bush administration, real or perceived, there seems to be no gain for a disorganized and mostly ineffectual Democratic Party.
Bush and his cronies – like Mike Brown, the former FEMA director who had about as much experience handling disasters as I have had managing Arabian horse shows – are quickly running this country into the ground. The American people, however, seem content to accept his version of non-fiscal conservatism – expenditures on big-budget projects and pork-barrel legislation without the revenue to support such spending habits.
Whoever the Democratic candidate for president is in 2008, he or she must be prepared to stop pandering to the middle and tell America the hard facts about the Bush administration and the direction in which our country is heading.
The candidate must tell the American people that we are engaged in what is now a true quagmire in Iraq – a continuing war without a plan or means for departure. A key component for American troop withdrawal is the presence of an effective Iraqi military to take command of counter-insurgency efforts. While the Pentagon has repeatedly said that a number of Iraqi army battalions are fully trained and equipped, a recent report shot down those estimates and put the real number of trained battalions at one.
The Democrat in ’08 must have a decisive plan for energy independence. As gas prices continue to rise and hybrid vehicles become more popular, Bush seems to think that market forces will cause automakers to create more fuel-efficient vehicles. For every Toyota Prius hybrid that is sold, however, another mammoth Land Cruiser SUV rolls off the lot. If just a fraction of the money spent in Iraq, or the money wasted on needless tax-cuts, was funneled into a massive federally coordinated project to develop renewable energy sources, our dependence on the corrupt despotic regimes of the Middle East would come to an end.
The next Democratic nominee needs to embrace some of Bush’s liberal foreign policy by promoting the spread of democracy throughout the world. Unlike Bush, though, this candidate must be willing to make a real commitment to democracy, not just as an excuse to invade perceived threats. The pursuit of energy independence will aid in this endeavor, as the United States will be able to put real pressure to reform on regimes such as Saudi Arabia without fearing a backlash of decreased oil exports.
Our rising debt with China must be part of the next Democratic nominee’s stump speech. Frivolous spending on pork-barrel projects, the war, Iraq and now the rebuilding of the Gulf states following Katrina all carry a hefty price tag. Unfortunately, we don’t have the cash to foot the bill. “Compassionate conservative” economics simultaneously embraces tax cuts and huge government spending. It doesn’t work. China is financing a good portion of the deficit we have built up during the Bush administration and will be a major player on the world stage during this century. A Democratic nominee needs to tell us this, and tell us how we can manage China’s growth in positive, cooperative ways, while reducing our debt and thus our financial dependence on the Chinese.
A Democratic candidate in 2008 must be more than another John Kerry, whose only redeeming quality, once the excitement of the election passed over, seemed to be that he wasn’t George W. Bush. The Democratic candidate must tell America the truth. Tell us how ineffectual the Bush administration has been in confronting issues of national security. Tell us how Republican strength in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was all a farce to promote a predetermined agenda. Tell us that cutting taxes isn’t going to help the economy after the Bush administration saw the biggest increase in government programs ever.
He or she needs to tell us the truth, and tell us how to fix it. It’s not going to work to just be a counterweight to Republican strategy. Democrats need their own strategy. Otherwise, they deserve to lose another four years to their counterparts on the right.
-The writer, a junior majoring in international affairs, is The Hatchet opinions editor.