- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

There are two persons in the government of the United States who are evidently over their heads for the responsibilities they have been given. One is the majority leader of the United States Senate, the other is the attorney general.

In two recently published articles, one by the dean of the nation’s political commentators, David Broder, and the other by the independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the statement by Sen. Harry Reid that “the war [in Iraq] is lost” is revealed both as wrong-headed in the extreme, and mortally wounding his own party as it approaches the upcoming presidential election.

With Mr. Reid’s recent declaration that all is lost, he has unilaterally taken on the onus of responsibility by his party for the blame of defeat. As one of the two highest officials of his party in the government — the other being Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — he is the spokesman of his party to the nation and the world. Mrs. Pelosi, incidentally, just completed an unorthodox tour of the Middle East in which it appeared she was conducting American foreign policy at odds with that of President Bush, the only person in the government who has the legal authority to conduct that foreign policy.

What we have here are the leaders of a political party, fresh from an election which appeared to favor their foreign policy ideas, in such a hurry to impose their views that they are willing to sidestep the Constitution of the United States and the safety of our troops in harm’s way.

Although I do not agree with Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi about foreign policy, if they would be successful in next year’s presidential election with their candidate for president, they and their party would have the right to change our foreign policy as they see fit.

I suggest that their recent actions, however, will prevent their party’s nominee from making those changes, whoever he or she might be, because they are likely to cause a critical number of voters to conclude that their party is not capable of leading the country.

Mr. Reid should resign immediately as majority leader of the Senate. As Mr. Broder has pointed out, there is no way to perceive his comments in a constructive or justifiable way, nor is there the slightest evidence that he will not continue to make blunder after blunder. He just is not up to the job.

(A possible choice to replace him might be Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. Mr. Biden is currently chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee. In the past, he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has been a senator for 35 years and is currently a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, but that candidacy is going nowhere. This would be a graceful way for him to change course, and to assume an historic position in the Senate.)

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ recent performance before the Senate committee inquiring about the recent firing of several U.S. attorneys was not only baffling, it is unjustifiable. Like so many recent government “controversies,” nothing wrong was apparently done. The president of the United States may fire his appointees at any time for any reason. Mr. Gonzales, however, decided to give the impression that, while he was responsible, he was unable to remember what happened. This is simply not an acceptable explanation by a U.S. attorney general. He should resign now.

Mr. Bush’s tenacity in executing his role as commander in chief of our armed forces, and “decider” of our foreign policy may turn out be his best legacy, and I, for one, admire it. But that should not be confused with a sense of loyalty that is out of proportion to the the responsibility he has to fill the executive branch of government with those who can do the best job possible. Last year, Mr. Bush replaced many in his cabinet and his personal staff so that he could finish out his second term with new ideas and energy. Yes, the Democrats, having taken control of Congress, have continually attempted to investigate his administration and go after his appointees. A certain loyalty in the face of this is understandable and justifiable. But Mr. Gonzales’ conduct does not justify undermining the president’s ability to maintain confidence in his remaining programs.

Mr. Bush can become an isolated figure so excessively loyal to those immediately around him that he loses further public confidence. Or he can deftly move to silence his critics, as he did last year, and reassert his office.

The Democrats can campaign on their vision of foreign policy in the year and a half before the 2008 presidential election. If they persuade the American voters that their view is correct, they can begin to change our policy in January 2009. Republican candidates for president can continue to support the president’s vision of foreign policy or present a new one. That is what the Constitution and 218 years of historical precedent allow.

Anything else is political chaos at home and puts our troops in combat who are defending their country in inexcusable danger.

Barry Casselman writes about national politics for Preludium News Service.

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