I generally stay away from political discussion, but some thoughts have been rattling around in my pea-sized brain due to recent events, so I thought I'd come here to air them out... If the Democrats have a mandate from the recent election it is two things: anti-war and ant-corruption. The problem for the Dems is that their main goal is the 2008 presidential election, and the intervening two years could submarine the very issues that propelled them to recent victory. If the war in Iraq were to end prior to the 2008 election, and the troops come home, the issue becomes either neutral or a negative for the Dems, who could potentially experience backlash from the fickle electorate. There would be alot of stories about how "we lost the war because we got stabbed in the back at home", and the public would see alot of Arab radicals declaring victory and mocking our nation and troops. It is doubtful allies of the Democratic Party in the press could squelch the impact of such stories and images. Also, since the Democrtatic Party is now in power in both houses, it is difficult to play the "anti-corruption" card in the next political cycle; that horse is now out of the barn. A more likely scenario would be the Democrats somehow slipping up and getting painted with a similar brush, since they now head the committees and control congressional patronage. However, there are plenty of countermoves the Democrats can play to overcome these potential hazards on the path to power. First, they have to make grandiose but hollow statements and resolutions whenever possible about ending the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home, as sop to their base and the public, without really intending to do so. If they can string out such a charade through the next election cycle, they can portray the current President and his party, as well as the office of the Presidency, as the ones obstinately prolonging the conflict- which would be true, although the Democrats would only be offering token opposition. In such a scenario, the chief concern of the Dems would be actual "victory" in the war, or "good news" or a "hint of success". Minor victories could be mitigated by negative press, but a major one would be hard to overcome. How the Dems plan to help ensure military or political failure in Iraq will be an interesting aspect of the conflict to monitor. A weak war effort, or the limiting of funds in some general way that could not be painted as a lack of material support for the troops, would be an ideal solution. If the war continues as it seems to be going now, they may not have to do much of anything. As far as losing the "anti-corruption" issue now that they have ascended to power... that can be overcome by a series of highly publicized hearings against the sitting administration. This could effectively tarnish the entire Republican Party and its ideology, as well as so distract the administration from executing the war, it could accomplish goal #1 as well, weakening the war effort. This possibility, in my opinion, is what caused President Bush to immediately end Rumsfeld's tenure in the aftermath of his electoral defeat... "Investigatory Committees" will be pursuing Rumsfeld like a wounded animal. Already the Europeans have picked up the scent with their "World Court" case against him. How will this play out geopolitically? Now that the "War on Terror" has, effectively, been distilled down to the actual nexus of Islamic Radicalism, Iran, the future of Ahmadinajab's regime is the last act in the drama. President Bush could achieve overwhelming political success by the overthrow of the Islamic regime, likely winning the Iraq war as a byproduct. Such an event would probably mean defeat in the 2008 election for the Democrats, and place a more bellicose president in the White House in 2008, one adhering to Bush's views, which in a sense would seem "validated" to the fickle electorate by the overthrow and potential democratization of Iran. For that reason, it is in the interest of the Democrats to delay such an occurrence until after the election... and it is in the interests of many foreign powers to prevent such an event from occurring at all. A less militaristic (less-"neoconservative") American President is more favorable to the interests of every other Power with ambitions of its own, realistic or no. The Powers one has in mind are the quixotic French, Russia, China and Iran itself. With that in mind, it seems likely that Foreign Powers will take every opportunity to delay Iran's call to account over its nuclear program, and leaders of the new Congress, at least temporarily until after the 2008 election, will support such delays. We shall see many calls for "summits", "negotiations", "timelines" etc. all with the principal aim of either preventing or delaying the overthrow of the Iranian regime, which would deprive Buch and his party of a decisive political/military victory against Ahmadinajab prior to the election. Under this line of reasoning we may see a tacit but temporary mutual interest between Iran's Islamic Regime and our own Congress. The two main players on the world stage over the next two years will be Bush and Ahmadinajab. The timeline is set, the game is simple. If the Islamic regime survives past Bush's Presidency, they will have won. The reason is, the Republicans will have been deprived of a foreign policy victory before the election, and the Democratic candidate will likely win. The new President, after running on an anti-war platform, will not have the political or ideological will to confront a nuclear, or nearly nuclear Iran with commensurate/decisive force. Aiding Ahmadinajab in this two year battle will be (1) the foreign powers just described who fear and dislike American hegemony and militancy more than nuclear Islamic fascism (2) a pacifist democratic congress focused on winning the 2008 Presidential election and (3) an unusually weak and indecisive Israeli government, as demonstrated by the war in Lebanon. The two protagonists have vague similarities in that they are both, at least superficially, religious men. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that their religious beliefs are on some level sincere. This is one of three factors working against Ahmadinajab. (1) a President motivated not by political reality but by religious conviction is harder to predict, control, and cannot be checkmated by political influence as long as he possesses military means and the legal ability to use it unchecked. (2) The relationship of the sunni arab oil producing countries with the current administration. They are at risk from Iran and will bring influence to bear to stop his nuclear ambitions. (3) despite the political weakness of the Israeli regime, the hierarchy is aware that Iran's nuclear ambitions put the nation in existential risk. Therefore they will, despite the Hamlet at the wheel, take the necessary action in the end. IMO the ideological and religious nature of the current President, as well as his relationships with the Sunni Arab states in the gulf, and the political realities of his own party at home, will compel him to take action against Iran over the next two years, no matter what the obstacles opposing him. The nature of that action can't be forseen... probably an attempt at a coup of some kind. If such an action fails, I believe the Democrats will win the 2008 Presidency, and Iran will go nuclear barring Israeli independent action. If the overthrow of Iran succeeds, then the Republicans will win the 2008 Presidency, to the dismay of many international and domestic observers. Just food for thought.