"Americans only want tragedies with happy endings," the novelist and critic William Dean Howells once said, and that strain in our culture seems to be at work once again in the debate about Iraq. Many of the war's original supporters now concede it was a tragic mistake, but they're still holding out for it to end happily. Like the president, they grasp at a few positive statistics or favorable developments in one province, struggling to sustain the hope that bad decisions can be made right if only our troops stay in Iraq until we turn things around.
Five days after his inauguration in 1993, Bill Clinton named his wife to chair a newly established President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform. From that moment, the public had the impression that Hillary Clinton and the task force under her direction were responsible for coming up with the administration's reform plan. And when that plan went down to defeat, many people assigned her a large share of the blame.
BLOOMBERG AS DEM VP CANDIDATE? When Michael Bloomberg announced he was leaving the Republican Party, my initial reaction was that it was a disaster for the Democrats. If he ran as an independent candidate for president, Bloomberg would almost certainly cut into the votes of self-identified independents that Democrats picked up in 2006 and that they will need again if they are to win the presidency in 2008. But now that Bloomberg has said he's not running for president, another possibility emerges.
When immigration legislation stalled and possibly died on the Senate floor on June 7, some progressives were just as pleased as Lou Dobbs. But passing even an imperfect compromise of the kind the Senate had been debating would be far better than doing nothing.
Among all the conflicting concerns about the issue, there is one that ought to drive change: The presence of 12 million people without legal or political rights in our society is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles on which a liberal democracy rests.