From election euphoria to the same gridlock…or?

After the euphoria of president Obama’s his big election victory, it’s important to remember that the political situation in Washington is really virtually unchanged and that continued political gridlock is probably more likely than unlikely.

The new Congress takes office in January. It continues to be deeply divided with a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican rule in the House of Representatives.

The Democrats’ majority in the Senate is not large enough to withstand the Republican filibusters even though it seems that the Democrats will increase their majority and strengthen their position even more. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats had to pick up 25 new seats to get a majority, but they only managed to win six to eight new seats. So Speaker John Boehner will continue to control the House and continue to be a main opponent in the upcoming negotiations with Obama and Senate.

In spite of this past and, likely, future political gridlock, president Obama sounded hopeful in his victory speech last night when he declared himself prepared to reach out to the Republicans:

“Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president. With your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House determined more and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do, and the future that lies ahead. Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of bothering parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do. “

Much depends on the Republican congressional willingness and readiness to compromise with the president. We still do not know much about it. Tea Party supporters are still influential in the new House although several of their leading representatives were defeated, and in spite of the two prominent Tea Party Senate candidates, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin from conservative Indiana and Missouri, both losing badly to their Democratic opponents.

But, as the Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus writes today, a president who gets the chance to another four years in the White House often it is not always so easy. On the contrary! Just look at Richard Nixon (Watergate), Ronald Reagan (Iran-contra) Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky). It is highly likely that the Obama administration can avoid the fate of his three predecessors — his administration has distinguished itself for being free of scandals — but his mandate is weaker than before compared to his election victory in 2008, with only slightly more votes than Romney – about 53.5 million for Obama against 52.8 million for Romney.

Time will tell, but there is a sense of great urgency in Washington the day after Election Day.


What is America to do in Libya?

Washington and the entire foreign policy/military establishment are wrestling with the question of what America should do in the ongoing revolution in Libya to help the revolutionaries overthrow Colonel Gaddafi and prevent a possible protracted civil war and a humanitarian disaster.

The present debate can be seen as an expression of frustration that there is really not very much that can be done – if America does not want to start a another war in the Middle East, of course.

U.S. warships have been ordered into the Mediterranean Sea and the newspapers and broadcast media are filled daily by reports of refugee flows into Tunisia and Egypt and the evacuation from the ports of Tripoli. Humanitarian assistance is the only thing, so far, that the Obama administration has been able to promise with certainty.  

About all other possible actions and scenarios, the debate is intense. It is here that the introduction of a “no-fly zone” over Libya has become something of the flavor of the day. But no one in the Administration, and least of all Defense Secretary Gates and the military leaders, seems to show any enthusiasm for this idea.

We must be clear about this, said Gates and the generals somberly this week, that measures to close the Libyan airspace begin with acts of war – air strikes against Libya’s air and missile bases. Do we really want another war in the Middle East, they seemed to ask.

So it’s necessary that we count to ten, slowly, before we start another war, writes Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times today about this debate and on the fallout of previous “no-fly zones” — in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.