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Joan Z. Shore

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The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Posted: 11/09/06 03:40 PM ET

A victory by default is still a victory.

But before we go overboard in jubilation, let's keep in mind the sobering facts.

The Democrats have put forth no plan of action concerning the war in Iraq -- they merely agree that it's gone terribly wrong. They have no clear platform concerning our domestic problems: social security, medical insurance, illegal immigrants. They have no unified policy on international issues: the environment, free trade, terrorism.

It may be asking too much to expect a consensus on all these questions from our newly-sprung Democrats. Nor should we anticipate a bonanza of brilliant solutions very soon from a party that has been out of power for twelve years. But certainly, they had plenty of time to think about these things!

Their campaign has been against the corruption and unaccountability of the Bush administration, but besides their promises of congressional investigations and reform, what actual policies do they stand for? And unfortunately, even if they manage to come up with some fantastic legislation, the new Democratic Congress will be facing tough opposition or complete gridlock for at least two more years.

Here in Europe, the feeling is one of relief -- a sense that "the cowboy" in the White House has been rebuked, if not removed. In a most unusual joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the U.S. election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world". That may be overly optimistic, but let's hope they are right.

America's allies in Iraq, on the other hand, are feeling some embarrassment and discomfort. Britain, Japan and Australia -- who have supported the war in Iraq almost from the very beginning, and who still have troops there -- are squirming a bit. If the American people now repudiate the war, what the hell are they doing there?

It's unlikely that Bush will suddenly change course, or miraculously achieve "victory" in Iraq, even with his new Secretary of Defense. As an editorial in Le Monde (France) stated: "Robert Gates cannot win the war in Iraq, any more than Donald Rumsfeld could. To protect the prestige of the president, his mission is to avoid losing it in a humiliating way."

Many commentators have said that the president refuses to see reality -- that he is in denial. I disagree; it's not denial, it's self-deception. And it's only a small step from deceiving yourself to deceiving others. That's what has been happening during this "nightmare". George W. Bush is still asleep, but at least the American public has woken up.