We will likely see a lot of political "readjustments" come January, once President-elect Barack Obama and many new Democratic congressmen assume office, and the Republican administration leaves.
Take the filibuster. For much of the Bush administration, out-of-power
Democratic senators defended it as a hallowed tradition of American
politics. But as the ruling majority, they will soon probably redefine
the filibuster as a sort of nihilism practiced by bitter Republicans to
obstruct the Obama agenda. Of course, when in power, Republicans
themselves once deplored the filibuster as fossilized obstructionism.
Remember all the trouble President Bush
has had with court appointments? The Senate Democrats for the last
eight years stalled confirmation hearings, denying the president the
traditional prerogative of selecting qualified jurists who shared his
Much to these same Democrats' dismay, beleaguered Senate minority
Republicans may soon agree with the past use of such roadblocks and
learn to impede simple up-and-down votes on judicial nominees. To them,
such tactics will be reinvented as necessary to stop Obama-appointed
liberal judges from flooding the courts.
Recently, Democrats called for unity and an end to the politics of
personal destruction against our new, shared President-elect Obama. So
let us hope New York publishers will now refrain from publishing any
more foul novels like Nicholson Baker's "Checkpoint," whose characters
debate the wisdom of assassinating George W. Bush.
Let us also hope that when Barack Obama nears the end of his term,
filmmaker Oliver Stone does not offer the electorate a damning mythic
film called "H" that emphasizes the wild college days of President
Barack H. Obama when, decades ago, as he freely admits, he used both
hard drugs and marijuana.
Public financing of campaigns was a liberal given for over a
quarter-century. Democrats argued that conservative big money and
national big politics always made a toxic brew. Then the suddenly
cash-rich Mr. Obama renounced that old liberal gospel, rightly betting
that his Democrats could out-raise even fat-cat Republicans.
Now with Democrats enjoying the advantages of incumbency - but
fearful of wounded conservatives determined never again to be outspent
- will majority liberals become born-again supporters of public limits
on fundraising in the upcoming elections of 2010 and 2012?
Most polls reveal American voters believed their media were biased
in favor of Mr. Obama. The popular journalist Chris Matthews even
bragged that it was his job responsibility to see that President-elect
So when a few disgruntled Obama administration officials leave
government to cash in with tell-all memoirs about the president's
shortcomings - and some always do - will journalists, as they did with
the numerous Bush tell-all apostates, praise them for their
voice-in-the-wilderness candor? Or will they, as Republicans once did
to their own defectors, blast them as crass publicity-seeking
When fickle and self-interested Europeans once opposed strutting
cowboy George Bush, they were praised as sophisticates. Now if they
resist renewed calls from hip and cool Barack Obama to shoulder more
responsibilities - and they will - are they to be suddenly scolded as
unappreciative and self-centered?
Abroad, we were told it is time to change the policies of George
Bush that were unilateral and offensive. For example, pushing missile
defense on Eastern Europe was said to be needlessly provocative to
Russia. But will that still be true if President Obama decides to
There are lessons here for everyone. Polarized Republicans and
Democrats justify the means by which they practice politics by their
self-described exalted ends. The only constant is they'll each do
anything when out of power to regain it - and anything while in power
to retain it. All candidates say almost anything to get elected and
call it idealism. Then when in office, they renege on what they
promised and call it realism.
The media, meanwhile, should be careful not to abandon fairness and
discretion for short-term political advantage. When the wheel turns -
and it, too, always does - what you did or said will come back to haunt
Mr. Obama and his giddy Democratic majority sound like they think
they will now be novel exceptions to these iron laws of politics, as if
they really believe their hype that they are the "change" we have been
waiting for, with cosmic power to stop the planet from heating and the
seas from rising.
But the only real difference from the past old politics is that the
present avatars of "hope and change" apparently don't believe that the
age-old adage - "The more things change, the more they remain the same"
- will really apply to them as well.