When Democrats took over control of both bodies of Congress last November, they promised change and claimed a mandate from the American public that things were not going well under the domination of a Republican administration and Congress. While they have not done much since they took over the majority in both the House and the Senate, things have begun to change. Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted, by a slim margin, for a definite date of troop pullout from the war in Iraq.
The New York Times referred to this referendum as "the most forceful challenge yet to President Bush's war policy." Yet, nothing is going to change. President Bush's unilateralism extends beyond the international front and straight into domestic politics; he will, without a doubt, veto this bill, dismissing not only the sentiments of the people he governs, but those who govern with him. Congress has a responsibility to act as a check in our revered Madisonian tradition of liberalism and republicanism.
Whether or not you agree with the substance of this bill, it is troubling that our president will neglect its message. At this point, even he has acknowledged that his war is not going according to plan, and the frustration of the American people is clear. As the antiwar sentiment grows, Mr. Bush must, at some point, concede something. It is perfectly acceptable for a president, at times, to ignore the unclear messages that come from a fickle public opinion. However, when polls of the American public display not only what thousands of protestors are saying, but what the American legislative branch is voting for as well, something is wrong.
What Mr. Bush should and will be commended for is his strong determination in the face of adversity. A president who responds and adapts to every voice around him is weak and would be bad for the country. The problem does not lie in his inability to listen, but in his penchant for selective listening. Mr. George W. Bush has been our president for over six years, and in that time he has vetoed one — yes, just one — bill. The bill in question was introduced in the House last summer and labeled the "Stem-Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005." While I strongly disagree with the values that led him to shoot down that legislation, he has a vision for this country and it includes certain morals that stand opposed to the use of stem cells for research purposes. He was perfectly justified in issuing that veto.
The veto that he is currently threatening, and that he unquestionably will go through with, is a different story. It is not just a vision of this country's morality that he is dealing with. It is simple: Americans are dying in a war-gone-wrong, the American public, for the most part, wants to see a beginning of the end to the violence, and those in charge of making this country's laws now want to see that timetable as well. Mr. Bush, though, will not listen and will issue his second presidential veto.
His rationale? That Democrats had "voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq." Before addressing the utter hypocrisy of that statement, it should be mentioned that a major facet of the American tradition is that there is civilian control over our military. We instituted this notion with the idea that it is not the judgment of our military commanders on the ground that shape wartime policy. Was it not President Bush that allowed Donald Rumsfeld, the then-Secretary of Defense, to make judgment calls on how to run this war? By definition, the Secretary of Defense is a civilian; in fact, the position cannot be held by anyone who has even been in the military within the past 10 years. If Mr. Bush is dismissing the ideas of the House because they are not "military commanders," why didn't he act to dismiss ex-Secretary Rumsfeld's strategy of sending far fewer troops than needed into Iraq — a strategy that has ultimately led to the present chaos in the Middle East?
The answer is that Mr. Bush listens to whom he wants to listen, namely, Republicans, and throws out the ideas of others, namely, Democrats. He has presided over a unified Republican congress for the vast majority of his presidency, and has thus vetoed just one bill; I wonder what might happen over the next year and a half, under total Democratic congressional control.
Ben White ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and sociology.