Democrats and Rumsfeld
As a lifelong Democrat, today has been a rather exciting day, many years in the coming. It's been about ten years, I think, since I had an election day that I could really celebrate. So I have been savoring it since the wee hours of the morning when I practically wore the F5 button right off of my computer trying to refresh the election reuslts in Montana and Virginia. I think the Democrats ran a remarkably decent, civilized campaign overall and am heartened to see the gains they have made. Of course, every big change of power often has more to do with the failings of the party in control than the ideas of the challengers, but in a seat-by-seat analysis I think it undeniable that the Democrats fielded an unusually strong slate, particularly in the breadth of challenges into seats long thought safely Republican.
As a soldier, however, the changing of the guard at the Pentagon may be just as important. I think Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation was inevitable, though I am a bit surprised at the timing of it, which seems to have led the media to spin it as an additional spoil of the Democratic victory rather than as any kind of proactive, positive move by the White House. I have long thought that Secretary Rumsfeld would have been perfectly suited for his job, but for the Iraq war.
Much like Robert Duvall, he just was not best suited to be a wartime consigliere. Some of his biggest accomplishments came very early in his tenure with his focus on transforming the military, an obvious example being cancellation of the Crusader program. But many other expected cuts simply fell by the wayside with the wars in Afghanistan and especially Iraq. As the latter became more and more divisive, the qualities which enabled Rumsfeld to hold his own against an entrenched Pentagon (like his reportedly stubborn and abrasive management style) quickly became liabilities as he became the face for an increasingly unpopular war and incoherent strategy. Never quite able to just stick to the soundbite of the week like his more polished colleagues, he was alternately too opaque or too forthright in his attempts to parry an increasingly feisty press corps.
I don't know that Robert Gates is the answer, and I have no doubt too much blame has been placed on Rumsfeld and thus too much will be expected of his successor. At this point I think change was the most important thing, as Secretary Rumsfeld had become the story himself, a major distraction. A good day for Democrats, and as I am a firm believer in the benefits of divided government, I think it is a good day for America.