Led by Democrats since the start of this year, the U.S. Congress now has a "confidence" rating of 14 percent, the lowest since Gallup started asking the question in 1973, and five points lower than what the Republican-controlled Congress scored last year.
The voters put the Democrats in to end the war, and it's escalating. The Democrats voted money for the surge in Iraq and the money for the next $459.6 billion military budget. Their latest achievement has been to provide enough votes in support of Bush to legalize warrantless wire tapping for "foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States." Enough Democrats joined Republicans to make this a 227-183 victory for Bush.
The Democrats control the House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have stopped the bill in its tracks if she'd really wanted to. But she didn't. The Democrats' game is to go along with the White House agenda while stirring up dust storms to blind the base about their failure to bring the troops home or restore constitutional government.
The steam has gone out of the organized anti-war movement. There have been only a couple of big demonstrations this year. For sure, there are actions around the country: Quakers and Unitarians picketing outside shopping centers, campus vigils, resolutions by city councils and so forth. But it's all pretty quiet.
The left is currently distracted by the fantasy of successfully pressuring Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney. Why the clamor to launch a proceeding surely destined to fail, aimed at a duo who will be out of the White House in 16 months anyway? It would be more sensible to pursue them for war crimes after they've stepped down. Mount an international campaign of the sort that has Henry Kissinger worrying at airports that there might be a lawyer with a writ standing next to the man with the limo sign.
A war people hate, the Guantanamo torture center, Bush's police-state executive orders of July 17 — the Democrats have signed the White House dance card on all of them. The reward? Even as their poll numbers plummet, Bush's are going up, by five points in Gallup from early July. People are beginning to think the surge is working, courtesy of the New York Times's disgraceful reporting.
So Bush can smile as the air whistles out of the Democrats' boomlet, but the respite in his troubles is fleeting. Dire economic news is shouldering Iraq out of the headlines. There's a housing market meltdown consequent upon the puncturing of the subprime mortgage bubble. Auto sales have collapsed, and now the Chinese are threatening to destroy the dollar.
On Wednesday, Aug. 8, spokesmen for the Chinese government pointed out that China's large holding of U.S. dollars and Treasury bonds "contributes a great deal to maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency." But, the spokesmen continued, if the United States proceeds with sanctions designed to cause the Chinese currency to appreciate, "the Chinese central bank will be forced to sell dollars, which might lead to a mass depreciation of the dollar."
As Paul Craig Roberts, No. 2 in the U.S. Treasury in the Reagan years, points out, "In an instant, China has made it clear that U.S. interest rates depend on China, not on the Federal Reserve." As Roberts also points out, If China ceased to buy U.S. Treasuries, "Bush's wars would end. With Bush's budget in deficit and with no room in the U.S. consumer's budget for a tax increase, Bush's wars can only be financed by foreigners."
So one little finger wag from the People's Republic may carry the day, where the Democrats have so signally failed.
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.