Topic: Breaking News
|The First Day - The More Things Change…|
Thursday, January 4, 2007 - the Democrats take control of the House and Senate and for the first time in six years the nation had a at east one branch of the government that won't agree with everything the president says and does. In the House, Michael Scherer noted things went rather well -
It's more than likely Nancy Pelosi wore purple today for a specific reason, as that was the color favored by the suffragettes long ago, or so that is noted here. That may or may not be so. It doesn't matter much. The good feeling lasted all of four minutes, before selected Republicans, after the speech ended, were booing and hissing at the Democrats. They actually were - just like in the House of Commons in the UK at Question Time with the Prime Minister. The cause was a parliamentary inquiry, by New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt, that he really should not have filed - something about ensuring that Congress has the ability to overturn the results of that Florida congressional election where the 18,000 votes went missing. It's still under investigation - but the winner so far, Republican Vern Buchanan, was sworn into office anyway. The minority wants the case closed, no matter what turns up later. Things have not been going well for them.
That was followed by the first bill the Democrats introduced - the ethics package that would ban gifts from lobbyists, limit privately funded travel, and close a loophole that gives members of Congress cheap access to corporate jets. How do you argue against that? The Republicans objected that Pelosi had decided to prohibit their amendments, reversing what she had been saying before the election about not using the former Republican rules of procedure. North Carolina's Patrick McHenry charged that Pelosi was ramming the bill "down the throats of all members." So it was payback time. After six years of rules where the Democrats were not allowed to ask questions nor allowed to read the details of the bills before votes (fine print can be a killer), much less ever offer an amendment, this was just an object lesson.
And it got testy with the "but you PROMISED you wouldn't run the place like we did" back and forth -
And so it went. The next two years will be rough. The house has been in the hands of the Republicans for twelve years. Folks there need to get their roles straight, although they're working on it -
And Richard Gere fingered his prayer beads and thought Buddhist thoughts, or non-thoughts - not only more Buddhist, but more appropriate.
There's the now famous one hundred hour pledge - the first one hundred hours in session would bring ethics reform, corporate taxation reform, lower student loan rates (at least back to the former level), and a raise the minimum wage - and it's going to be ugly. Newt Gingrich's promised in the 1994 election there'd be a slate of new laws in the first one hundred days of Congress. In your face, Newt. Who knows what will get done? The Democrats even want Medicare to be allowed to negotiate with the drug makers for bulk discounts on prescription medication for the program, just like the VA has done for a decade or more. The Republicans and the major pharmaceutical companies have to figure out how to explain to the American public why that's a horrible idea. They're working on it.
Pelosi may have said nice things about a new spirit of partnership with Republicans. She didn't mean it, really. You get power you use it. The whiners and the folks doing what they want have just flipped sides.
The folks doing what they want in this case are doing what most everyone wants - including working to find some way to salvage something in the Middle East, a way that actually may not include escalated war as the only solution. We've been told for six years that war for regime change in pesky places is the only solution to foreign issues, and tax cuts for the wealthy the only solution to just about any domestic problem. Could that actually have been narrow-minded? Could there be other, even many other ways to get things straightened out? Who'd have guessed? We were told any other alternatives were between unmanly and treasonous. Now a woman leads a crowd saying "manly" can be stupid - "Honey, when you're lost you really can ask for directions."
But we'll get more of the usual response - "Shut up, I'm driving."
A little of that broke the same day as the new Congress convened, with this -
So THERE! Who is in charge? Pass any law you want. I don't have to do any of what's in there.
This may not be a big deal, of course. No one expects anything sent in first class mail is really private. Was there ever really that expectation? There are too many hands involved in moving it here and there. That the government, on orders from one man, the president, can now carefully read any mail it wants at any time - to see who it should jail for four or five years without charges or any way to argue it's all a mistake - just means bad people will use, as always, other means to communicate, and now good people will too. It's bad news for the postal service, more than anything. The claim, more broadly, that the times have changed and the government has the right to intercept and analyze all its citizens' communications in all media without showing cause and obtaining a warrant, will just spur innovation. It'll be fun - like the days of the underground novels in the old Soviet Union being passed around by hand on typewritten pages. Accept it, as a challenge. We're there now. It's just odd it happened so soon.
The irony is that the Republican mantra that government is generally useless and should be kept as small as possible - the Ronald Reagan way of seeing things - has morphed into a Republican administration that wants to know what is said by anyone (and wants to keep it one file), wants to regulate the consenting sexual activity of all adults (and probably keep files on that too), wants to forbid women the choice to seek an abortion in difficult circumstances, and make sure living wills that you create on matters of how you should be treated when you're dying are vetted by the House and Senate, as we saw in the Schiavo case. This crew seems to have turned into a bunch of East German busybodies. But to their credit, they do seem loathe to regulate business of any sort, if it's a large enough business - hands off the economy. So they're not that bad, or not that East German.
But there is that "we do what we want" element that's somewhat Teutonic.
Consider the BBC report on "Pelosi Day" that the president is going to replace both our top commandeers in the war, General Casey and General Abizaid. Both have argued more troops may not be the answer to the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, that there may be a variety of other ways to get this all to work out in our interest. Next week the president is set to announce his major escalation plan. They have to go, no matter what they know of military matters, or in the case of Abizaid, cultural matters in the region.
And further -
Is that Teutonic? A man with limited military experience - he avoided the Vietnam War with a stateside assignment and even walked away from that - is overriding his generals because he knows how to win this thing and they don't. One thinks of Hitler overriding his generals on the Russian front in WWII - he knew better. Then came Stalingrad. Of course Bush is no Hitler - it's just the leadership parallel in this one arena is curious.
But it's his choice - not the public's choice, nor Congress' choice, nor the Joint Chiefs', nor what the "wise old men" of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group decide. When everyone else is wrong you have to do what you have to do.
The dissatisfaction is spreading beyond MSNBC with Keith Olbermann's recent rant. Now we have Jack Cafferty at CNN -
The link also provides the video of that, if it matters. But it doesn't.
Pelosi (and most everyone else) - "Honey, when you're lost you really can ask for directions."
The President - "Shut up, I'm driving."
The more things change…