August 9, 2005


The GOP Won Big on Legislation, the Raphael Palmeiro Way (Norman J. Ornstein, August 8, 2005, Roll Call)

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Congressional Republican leaders had a banner final week. Passage of the energy bill (after years of futility), the highway bill (after years of veto threats) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (after months of dire predictions of failure) was major league. The package let Congress leave town for August with a spring in its collective step, instead of slinking away in embarrassment at continuing gridlock on important issues.

These successes tell us several things about politics today. First is to never underestimate the power of a politically savvy president, nor to make linear projections based on popularity and political standing. A smart president can find ways to turn momentum around on a dime, as Bush did with the John Roberts nomination, and change the political dynamic overnight. Of course, the obverse also holds true: When things are going well, never make linear projections that assume they will continue that way.

Second is to never underestimate the grit, savvy and relentlessness of House Republican leaders, including Tom DeLay (Texas) and Roy Blunt (Mo.). DeLay has not been deterred by his ethics problems, which include the continuing clouds represented by the investigation into former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the probe being conducted by Texas-based district attorney Ronnie Earle. DeLay continues to find ways to get the votes to make things happen, and on the energy bill, he finally bowed to reality and dropped the killer provision on MTBE liability that would have derailed the bill yet again.

CAFTA, for its part, owes its passage to Blunt, who worked the issue for months and truly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

If you've ever listened to Mr. Ornstein, who always sees a GOP collapse and a Democrat revival around the next corner, you'll realize he's trying to teach himself these lessons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2005 4:34 PM

He's going through a difficult process of psychological readjustment in which he must abandon the belief that the Dems are the natural governing faction and the Reps are, at best, in power by chance. He is not alone here. The Reps still don't believe/behave with the confidence appropriate to the governing faction.

Posted by: Luciferous at August 9, 2005 5:42 PM

So does this mean Ornstein wants Tom DeLay to pee into a cup every time another piece of legislation is passed?

Posted by: John at August 9, 2005 11:01 PM