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Power to the people

Katie Palmitier | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

“War is over”.

The American people, as well as the whole world, are longing to hear those three small words sung by John Lennon decades ago. Unfortunately, war is not over. Rather, it seems as if there is no end in sight. And with the President’s recent surge of over 20,000 troops to the Middle East, a continued long war is in the forecast. The increase in troops has raised a lot of questions among the American people, Democrats in office, as well as several Republicans. Will the surge of troops be beneficial? Can this war be won? Will the Iraqis fulfill their promises made to us? The more our senators and representatives ask questions, the more accountable the administration will be held, and the more representative the democracy in America will be.

Props to Americans. The 2006 midterm elections proved to the Bush Administration that America was ready for a change and an end to the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and proved that apathy in America is not as prevalent as previously thought. Although Bush’s anthem before the elections was that we are winning the war, Americans were not fooled. Democrats were elected and took control of the House and Senate, and a clear war plan and withdrawal of troops finally seemed tangible.

However, just two months after the elections, progressive as well as frustrated voters’ hopes were crushed. Bush announced last week that he intends to send over 20,000 more troops to the Middle East. The President is either not up to date on current Gallup polls about his approval rating, or he has some ulterior motives. Needless to say, American citizens are concerned, and members of Congress from both parties have started to question the President’s agenda.

Bush’s new proposal, his apparent ulterior motive, appears to be an effort to better his legacy, not the situation in Iraq. And because a re-election is of no concern for him, he can do whatever he wants to save the face of his wartime presidency. NBC’s Meet the Press host Tim Russert said after the President’s address, “Bush bet his presidency on the war in Iraq, and tonight he made that bet double or nothing.” Bush’s decision to go to Iraq has proved to be unsuccessful thus far, so he is now committing more troops, insisting that more troops will lead to victory. If the President’s new plan fails, the public’s poor opinion of him from here on out will most likely stay the same. Yet if Bush’s new strategy does improve the situation in Iraq, public opinion of him and the war will also improve, and thus he will hold the legacy of being a successful wartime president. Bush has nothing to lose.

Members of Congress, however, have their jobs on the line until the elections in 2008 and cannot afford to make bets. Republicans have an exceptionally high number of seats up for re-election, and with America closely watching the government’s war plan, the time is now for candidates to make their case. And luckily for us voters, our representatives are now starting to listen. Before now, our elected officials were too concerned with patriotism, party loyalty and re-election than the well-being of Americans and the rest of the world. In 2004, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry both supported the war out of fear of losing votes. Although they had doubts about the legitimacy of intelligence reports on weapons of mass destruction and were hesitant about breaking ties with the UN, they voted in accordance with the President to appear patriotic, thus saving their careers. On the other hand, high-ranking political leaders such as Tom Daschle were accused of being unpatriotic when questioning and opposing the President’s plan, and as a result were not re-elected into office. While they have long been opposed to Bush’s war plan but too chicken to act, Democrats, as well as many Republicans, are now beginning to publicly oppose the President’s new strategy.

A recent USA Today/Gallup poll indicated that only 12 percent of people polled want a troop increase. Although among the 78 percent of people who are frustrated and depressed about the recent call for more troops, I feel that we have reached a turning point for democracy in America. Elected officials are finally paying attention to the polls and listening to the voices of the people they represent, and therefore change is likely to occur. Bush’s legacy, however, seems as though it has no chance for improvement. The more he acts in opposition to public opinion, the more his approval rating will plummet. Our senators’ and representatives’ approvals, however, will skyrocket. By being a true representative of the people and by staying true to their consciences on what is best for the United States, Congress has the opportunity to show America that our voices are being heard, and that our cares and concerns do matter.

While “War is Over” is not yet the tune to America’s new political rhythm, the song’s following line, although often overlooked, holds the key to success: “War is over… if you want it”. The American people wanted it, as demonstrated by the midterm elections. Congress wants to satisfy and represent the wants of the American people. And hopefully soon Bush will too, and concentrate more on what is best for America, not his legacy.

Katie Palmitier is a sophomore

political science major. She can be

contacted at kpalmiti@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.