Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lessons Not Learned

So now that the election is over, we can get a better picture of just what has changed in DC. And the answer is not a damn thing. It's more of the same from both parties.

The Democrats are in the midst of a heated battle for the number two spot in the House. It pits Jack Murtha against Steny Hoyer. Both voted in favor of the awful, industry sponsored bankruptcy bill. Beyond that, Murtha was implicated in the ABSCAM fiasco as well as other ethical lapses. Hoyer is part of the DC insider network and had initially opposed Murtha's call for a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Hoyer has been a proud part of the establishment that cozies up and shakes down the corporate clients of K Street lobbying firms.

Is there a lesser of two evils here? If so, I am not sure. Both are ethically suspect. Both are out of touch with grassroots Democrats. But in the culture of DC and its slavish adherence to seniority, one of these two will become Majority leader.

Next up is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The choice here seems to be between current ranking member Jane Harman and the second most senior member of the panel, Alcee Hastings. Harman was a vocal supporter of the Iraq debacle and has been weak on her criticisms of the Bush administration. Nor has she seemed too keen to investigate the run up to the war. (Also of note is Harman's extremely close relationship with AIPAC.) On the other hand, Hastings was actually impeached from the Federal bench. Granted, he was not convicted, but what sort of message does this send about the Democrats and their commitment to clean up the House?

There is some talk of Pelosi passing over both Harman and Hastings and selecting Silvestre Reyes. That sounds like a reasonable choice to me, as Reyes is currently the third ranking member of the panel and would appeal to Latinos.

What really gets me about the whole Harman-Hastings battle is that the Congressional Black Caucus is behind the move for Hastings. To me, this is one of the big problems with interest group politics- a willingness to turn a blind eye to corruption in favor of interest promotion.

On the Republican side, things are not that much better. Leave aside the potential for bloodbath on the House side between the establishment and the "conservatives." The Senate Republicans brought back Trent Lott to be the number two in their leadership. I realize that the GOP is now more than ever a Southern party, but to bring back someone with so much racist baggage is incomprehensible. Though at least it gives Americans a glimpse into the real beliefs of today's GOP.


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