Wednesday, October 11, 2006

'Tis the Season

Aside from local races, we common folk have just one chance every two years to make any meaningful contribution to the public debate, which really never ends. That's on Election day, now within the next month. Of course, the guy who's plans matter the most to us, the president, doesn't have his name on the ballot. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a stake in the election results. He needs a continuing GOP Congressional majority to continue at full effectiveness. Otherwise, it's the quacking of lame ducks instead of the shriek of the war-mongering eagle.
The Senate elects a third of its body, and the House puts all its members on the line, at least the ones still around or without other plans. Tip O'Niel once said that "All politics is local", and each race has its own character, depending on personal and local issues the rest of the country cares little about. Most seats in the House are, in fact, safe for incumbents due to power exercised locally to draw congressional districts in a certain way to give an advantage to one party or another. My local congressman for example, a Democrat, has very little opposition. The battle for control of the House boils down to about 30 or 40 races close enough to be competitive. Most of those this time around are Republican seats, in keeping with the "off-year" election tradition. In fact, a net swing of just 15 seats from Republican to Democrat changes the entire House structure and turns the House from administration GOP pussycat to major fanged Democratic lion of the Capital jungle. The comparable Senate number is 6.
Dozens of issues determine votes. Let's consider three. First, the War. Depending on your view, that "W" word is either followed by "on terror" or "in Iraq". The former is touted as a success by the administration, maily because there have been no successful terror attacks on US soil since 9/11, now five years ago. It's a little like saying, "Look, we only failed to protect you once", but it sometimes works. The War in Iraq can't be touted as any kind of success when the bodies keep turning up and the country descends into civil war, obvious to all who DON'T speak for the Bushies. The Bungles in Badhdad fill one book, one column after another. Even GOP allies like Colin Powell and John Warner express doubts about the whole venture. It's hard to brag about how successful your torture program has been, especially since it's all kept in secret. Anyway, you see where I come down on this.
The second issue is naturally tied in with the first. Congress has not done its job to keep the executive branch under any kind of control. Threats to our own freedoms, ignoring of laws like FISA (the one requiring a warrant before wiretapping) , assumption of power on a grand scale backed by a judiciary branch owing their jobs to the Bush crowd ALL seem to get no bipartisan opposition from Congress. This was not the case with Nixon or Reagan, but hearings are not held, no subpoenas issued, no protests lodged. The House in particular seems to act as a group of sheep dependant on the Whaite House to keep financing races, which, in turn, buys silence from the majority party. It used to be that bipartisan committees would meet to hash out differences on bills before Congress. Now the Republicans meet, then vote en mass to roll things through according to White House dictates. A law is being broken? Change the law, and make it retroactive while you're at it. Torture isn't our policy? No problem. We'll redefine it. Don't like what you're hearing from the Ethics Committee? Get a new guy to run it.
In fact, Congress has had a whole set of nasty scandals all its own in the past two years which have led to resignations, and not just of small fry. Tom DeLay is out of the House, and not for anything Democrats could do to him. So is Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, and Mark Foley.
Foley is actually the 3rd issue here. I don't claim that this is the biggest scandal to ever hit Congress, but there's something here which can't be forgotten. The public may not get the full impact of a true scandal for years after it hits (Who understands Watergate even TODAY?), but those scandals involving sex get more serious attention. The public KNOWS about sex, and can tell right from wrong pretty clearly on issues that involve it. They'll even tolerate quite a bit of fooling around, as with Bill Clinton, whose popularity never went down to the levels Bush's is right now. But Speaker Hastert has already tried to pass the buck on the Foley thing about a dozen different directions and may yet keep his job, but if the "who knew what" questions keep pointing his way next month, it could contribute to a leadership change in the House, and I mean to a new party, not just to the next guy in line to hand out tobacco company checks on the House floor.
See you on Election Day!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you can start looking for meaning in the work that the troops are doing in Iraq since the father of three of your grandchildren will be going there soon.

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand your views and there are items within the current administration I do not agree with. However bad President Bush may seem to some, I do not believe any President has claim on making the right choices all the time. How many Democrats have "screwed the pooch?"

Regarding the War on Terror or War in Iraq, whichever you prefer, I know that you have considered how those serving our beloved country feel about being over there at this time when the some of America doesn't care about them. These Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Civilians are not doing this for the glory. They are trying to help people and many of them have families that they would rather be home with so that people like us can talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

8:11 PM  

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