Cleaning up the House (rules)
When the Republicans won majority control of Congress in 1994, and won the presidency in 2000, one of the leading campaign themes was "cleaning up the mess" left by the incumbent (Democrat) party. Now the shoe is on the other foot, as the Republican leadership faces ethical challenges on several fronts. On Monday the left-leaning Center for American Progress held a panel discussion on proposals by House Democrats to reform the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. Although some of the participants were dyed-in-the-wool partisans, such as Barney Frank (MA) and David Obey (WI), there were also some voices of reason, such as David Price (NC), who happens to be a former college professor. Since I share some of their concerns about the way the House has been run since Tom DeLay became Majority Leader, I listened, and I think much of what they are calling for is appropriate. When conservative-leaning Capitol Hill expert Norman Ornstein concurred with the general thrust of the proposals, I was convinced. Bad policies, such as the hideously complex and dubious Medicare prescription drug benefit, are often the result of bad process in formulating them. Under DeLay, open discussion in committee hearings about the merits of policy proposals has been curtailed, and the real "deliberation" (if that word is even appropriate) increasingly takes place behind closed doors. Meanwhile, dissent by moderates or independents within the Republican caucus is being harshly punished, and when roll call votes are taken, the time limit is routinely extended to give the GOP House leadership time to buy the votes of wavering members. Hence, pork barrel "payoffs" are becoming more common all the time, leading to ever-bigger budget deficits. This is no way to run a government.
Rice in Europe
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is in Europe, meeting newly sworn-in German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Let's hope a friendship blossoms between them, allowing the long German-American friendship to resume once again. Rice was criticized for explaining in guarded terms the U.S. policy on treatment of terrorist suspects being held at locations outside the United States. Well, she's just doing her job. Many people forget that in the world of diplomacy, blunt candor about sensitive operations involved in national security is a vice, not a virtue. She did admit errors in the abduction of a German terror suspect. See Washington Post. It is worth noting that the Center for American Progress's (see above) credentials as a serious policy-oriented institution are undermined by the sarcastic tone of their report on Rice's visit to Europe: "Condi's European Vacation".
Anti-war Dems face backlash
To their credit, some Democrats are objecting to DNC Chairman Howard Dean's statement on a radio station Monday that "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong." Dean may not last more than a few more months. To her dismay, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is out on a limb for her endorsement of Rep. Murtha's call to "bug out." See Washington Post. I have long believed that the unhinged defeatist rhetoric being spouted by some of the less thoughtful Democrats could not go on forever, and it is reassuring that enough sensible Democrats are beginning to speak out that we might have a genuine national dialogue on how much we are willing to sacrifice to make it possible for Iraq to have a reasonably stable, democratic government. Given the positive undercurrent of democracy in Middle Eastern politics, the mere fact that Republicans and Democrats are on speaking terms again could make a solid victory in Iraq much more likely.
From a strictly partisan perspective [for example, see Bobby Eberle at GOPUSA.com], I would love it if Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi (or even Ramsey Clark!) served as leading spokesmen for the Democrat Party, destroying what is left of their credibility on national security issues. As a patriot first and foremost, however, I would much rather see them sidelined, even if it means the Democrats pick up a few seats in Congress next year.