The Framers of the Constitution, as we remember from our civics lessons, sought to design a government so well checked and balanced that it would resist the unruly passions of the multitude. During the impeachment of President Clinton by the House of Representatives, it was impossible not to feel that those expectations had been inverted. The frenzy was in the government, while public opinion remained a rock of stability. Indeed, throughout the past year, sensational events have come and gone, yet the public's judgment of President Clinton and what ought to be done about him has hardly changed. The storm rages, the pundits thunder, but the sea is quiet--people shake their heads, go about their business, and hope only that the unruly mob in their capital will calm down.
The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats are now merely the reflecting "moon" of American politics and Republicans the "sun." But demographic and voting data suggest the Democrats could create a new majority without sacrificing progressive concerns.
The Congress that made the impeachment of President Clinton its first item of business is now approaching its end with little to brag about. During the impeachment, I disagreed with liberals who thought the proceedings were an unmitigated disaster. Anything that distracted this Congress from actually passing legislation seemed to me worth public encouragement. Yet even after the impeachment frenzy was over, the danger of serious congressional accomplishment turned out to be minimal. The Republicans themselves have been too divided to get much done; as the saying goes, the right hand doesn't know what the far right hand is doing.
When the war began in early October, no one knew how long
and difficult it would be, and many pointed to the Russians' failed invasion of
Afghanistan as a warning that the enterprise could prove to be a disaster. Two
months later, as I write, the Taliban regime is in its final death throes in
Kandahar, and the war itself--or, at least, the Afghan phase of it--may nearly be
over. Although the curtain has not yet come down, it doesn't seem too early to
explore why the war has progressed so fast and what it means for us and the