Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

John fund On Interventions

With the way things are in congress, the electorate is probably wondering what some of those people are smoking. With Congress's approval sitting at a paltry 16% (3% approval on the war), there seems to be a problem with how the legislative branch of our government is working; or how it is not working. Today John Fund @ Opinion Journal takes a look at how Congress has fallen, and what is necessary for it to right itself:

The House of Representatives almost turned into the Fight Club Thursday night, when Democrats ruled that a GOP motion had failed even though, when the gavel fell, the electronic score board showed it winning 215-213 along with the word FINAL. The presiding officer, Rep. Mike McNulty (D., N.Y.), actually spoke over the clerk who was trying to announce the result.

In the ensuing confusion several members changed their votes and the GOP measure to deny illegal aliens benefits such as food stamps then trailed 212-216. Boiling-mad Republicans stormed off the floor. The next day, their fury increased when they learned electronic records of the vote had disappeared from the House's voting system.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made matters worse when she told reporters, "There was no mistake made last night." Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had to rescue her by acknowledging that, while he thought no wrongdoing had occurred, the minority party was "understandably angry." Under pressure, the House unanimously agreed to create a select committee, with subpoena powers, to investigate Republican charges the vote had been "stolen."

Congress appears to be gripped by a partisanship that borders on tribal warfare. In a forthcoming book, Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein compares it to a "second Civil War" that has led to "the virtual collapse of meaningful collaboration" between the two parties. Public disenchantment with Washington is such that now both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic former senator Sam Nunn of Georgia are musing openly about an independent run for president. But Congress itself has to act if it doesn't want to degenerate into one of those fist-wielding European or Asian parliaments we occasionally see on TV.

No one can deny that the Congress has caved in on itself when it comes to partisanship. In 1994 when Newt Gingrich helmed the revolution retaking the House from the Democrats, many whined about what the new House leadership would do. While detractors complained they were turning back the clock and undoing their hard work, people saw a change in the house that had been long in coming, and greatly overdue. When the Republicans took the Senate in 2002, it was time for a new era in leadership.

My, how disappointed were we to see that the Republicans suddenly shed their conservative stripes, a la smaller government and fiscal responsibility, and put on the Democrats same old sheep-suit. In 2006, the electorate had had enough of the feckless GOP leadership. Despite being a good man, then majority leader Bill Frist was seen as mildly incompetent, and unable to control his party in the Senate. The Gang of 14 was the icing on the cake to prove this. For months, the threat of breaking the unconstitutional filibuster on judicial nominees fell by the wayside as seven Republicans, led by John McCain, and seven Democrats conceived a plan to keep the filibuster in place, "just in case." That was in 2005. A year later, the Democrats soundly retook control of both Houses, and all because the Republicans had dithered away their majority.

But the Democrats have been in control now for seven-plus months, and they have run congress into the ground. They adopted a "winner-take-all" attitude, and their promises of reform have fallen by the wayside. The worked hand-in-hand with moderate/liberal Republicans to piecemeal an immigration bill together that not only did not address the overall complaints of the electorate, but then both sides lashed out at those same voters. In response, the outrage reached a crescendo that would have made Pavarotti jealous. Both sides relented, and withdrew the legislation.

The Democrats, since taking control, have listened to the hyper partisan activists and operatives on the war. "Pull out the troops now," goes the mantra, and while the Democrats continue to try, they are constantly cut off by Republicans that understand we are in the fight of our generation; one very similar to World War II insomuch as it is a fight for the continuing survival of our society. But the Democrats, as Tod Lindberg notes in his piece for the Weekly Standard, the Democrats are turning on their moderates and centrists. Things have become too partisan for them now as they pull out all the stops to end the Republicans chances, and voices, in the halls of Congress.

This was not how the Founders envisioned the Congress. BOTH sides were supposed to work together for the nation. Compromise and negotiation on legislation for the betterment of the country was called for. The nation was to come first, not partisan ideologies. But that has become the order of the day. Mr. Fund takes note of a discussion one year ago held between former House Speakers Tom Foley and Newt Gingrich, and in that debate, a solution to Congress's problems took shape:

Almost exactly a year ago, former speakers Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich, a Democrat and his Republican successor, appeared at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss "How Congress Is Failing America." The two old warhorses conducted a remarkably civilized exchange and proved that with the passage of time they had clearly put aside old animosities. Mr. Foley joked that if he heard today's Newt Gingrich on the campaign stump, his reaction would be "I think I'll vote for this guy." He added in a more serious vein, "I think he's absolutely dead right in his diagnosis of what's happening to this country and to the Congress."

Both men decried a runaway spending process, the demise of bipartisan committee deliberations, and the gerrymandered districts that have led to the election of more fierce partisans and fewer centrists. Both called for an end to the earmark culture that distorts budget deliberations. The two agreed that for real change to occur, Congress needs fresh blood. However, they disagreed on the desirability of term limits, with Mr. Gingrich favoring them and Mr. Foley demurring.

Mr. Foley also made a very prescient warning. He urged his fellow Democrats not to exact retribution or respond in kind to heavy-handed GOP tactics should they win back control that November, as they ended up doing: "Democrats [should] clearly and intensely [promise] that if they take the majority back again, they will not go back and try to pay back, so to speak, what they felt were the excesses and even the outrages of this period, but will promise minority rights in reaching those majority decisions."

Clearly, his fellow Democrats in the House haven't been following his advice. Maybe they ought to appoint Messrs. Foley and Gingrich to head an outside task force to recommend ways to make the House work again. If the House had the sense to recognize it had to appoint a select committee to investigate last Friday's vote fiasco, it should see the possible benefits of having an outside group weigh in on its dysfunctional ways.

Democrats and Republicans alike have an interest in reform. Scenes like last Friday's meltdown on the House floor can only lower Congress's dismal approval ratings. With both parties held in low regard, we could be heading for a repeat of the 1990 and 1992 elections, which took place at a time of economic uncertainty and bipartisan congressional scandals involving the House bank and post office. In those years, House incumbents in both parties went down to defeat--14 in 1990 and 24 in 1992.

Incumbents loathe political uncertainty. If Democrats and Republicans don't find a way to stop the erosion of public confidence in their work, they could be heading into a 2008 election in which neither party has a clear advantage and voters are looking to take scalps in both their camps. This just might be one of those rare times where House members should resort to outside intervention.

We have warned readers that 2008 could be a political bloodbath on both sides. It is clear that the electorate is not happy with members of their respective parties on either side of the aisle. The extreme Left "fever-swamp" is upset the Democrats have not pulled troops out of Iraq, and ended that theater of the war. (It should be noted that the extreme Left is still roundly brow-beating both Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack for their honest assessment of how the Surge is proceeding; another sign of the hyper partisanship that is dividing their party.) On the flip side, voters are still stinging from the rebuke that they received from Republican senators on the immigration bill, and on earmarks and pork-spending. Those in congress should be loathe to make such statements. While many can rightly say that people will forget certain things by the time elections come around, the one thing the electorate does not forget is when they are attacked.

It irritates us. And when we get irritated, elected officials pay with their jobs. One of the questions that will plague the Congress in 2008 is not who will win the presidency, but rather who will be handed their walking papers and their hat on the way out the door.



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