May 29, 2007


Do-Nothing Democrats - Quelle Surprise! (Ronald A. Cass, 5/29/07, Real Clear Politics)

The seeds were planted in the strategy for winning last fall. Democrats Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel saw a road to getting back majorities in the Senate and House. Their strategy built on Republican negatives: public anger over scandals involving Mark Foley, Jack Abramoff, and Tom Delay, special interest earmarks, inflated spending, and a war that - judging from the daily drumbeat of bad news in mainstream media - was going badly without clear purpose or end-game.

Rather than push hard-core liberal themes that lost elections for a dozen years, Schumer and Emanuel followed a different path. Their plan was to find moderates or even conservatives to run as Democrats in potential swing districts, criticize the Bush Administration and Republicans, talk a lot about hope and civility and bipartisanship, and let the candidates say whatever their constituents wanted to hear. The strategy worked, giving Democrats majorities in both Houses of Congress.

Given the sources of the victory last fall, the story of this Congress has to be told in three parts: ethics, Iraq, and everything else. Ethics concerns included the misbehavior of individual congressmen as well as the systemic problems with earmarks and lobbyists.

From the very start, things got off on the wrong foot. Nancy Pelosi's first act as Speaker was to push anti-war activist and vocal critic of all things Republican, John Murtha, as her choice for House majority leader, despite serious issues respecting Murtha's ethics. The Democratic Caucus helped Ms. Pelosi out by rejecting her choice, but Pelosi has made Murtha her caucus' number one voice on war policy.

Another ethics problem for Democrats is William Jefferson of Louisiana, whose "frozen assets" consisted of $90,000 wrapped in foil in his freezer, marked bribe money demanded by Jefferson in exchange for helping a business secure government contracts. Jefferson was filmed taking the bribe, but his colleagues have not censured him, and the work of the House Ethics Committee on this matter stopped when Democrats took over last January.

Ms. Pelosi has been eager to make a show of raising ethical standards, but not at the expense of her colleagues' or her own ability to bring home the bacon. She tacked an earmark for $25 million for California strawberry farmers onto the emergency appropriations bill for US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill, which the President just signed into law, ultimately was stripped of every significant Democrat initiative on Iraq but still became a wonderful Christmas tree decorated with provisions giving special favors - and $17 billion in extra spending - for the pet projects of dozens of Democrats. In addition to something for Ms. Pelosi, it has a $23 million earmark for Mr. Murtha's district. When criticized for that earmark, Mr. Murtha responded with a choice four-letter curse, and a threat to prevent his Republican critic from ever getting anything for his district. So much for civility and bipartisanship!

If the practice of earmarking hasn't ended, it has changed a bit - for the worse. House Appropriations Chair David Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, says he has so many requests for earmarks to add to major legislation - over 30,000 in five months - that he has no choice but to tack them on after work on the bill is complete and won't reveal them until after both Houses vote. The other real change is that not all earmarks are put in writing - now Democrats who don't want anyone to know what they're doing can simply phone in the instructions on where to send the money (a practice Washington insiders now call "phone-marking"), as Harry Reid did in a call to the Energy Department.

Far from draining the swamp, Democrats have been wallowing in it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 29, 2007 6:18 AM

Do nothing Democrats? Their '2008 Budget Blueprint' is something. Non-binding resolution passed by both the house and the senate. Diabolical in it's assumptions and overall economic stupidity.

Posted by: hugh at May 29, 2007 7:39 AM

Shocking, just shocking!

Posted by: Dave W at May 29, 2007 8:42 AM