November 9, 2006

Les Cent Jours

Hatched by Dafydd

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from his exile on the island of Elba and landed in France. The Fifth Regiment, sent to arrest him, instead turned their coats and put themselves under Napoleon's command. For the next one hundred days (les Cent Jours), Napoleon continued to fight and continued to call himself Emperor of France.

But then he was defeated by Wellington and von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th, 1815. Napoleon was captured, sent into exile anew (this time on the island of St. Helena), and died a little less than six years later -- still in exile.

But he had a hundred days in which he could possibly have recaptured the hearts of the French people. He failed.

The new Democratic 110th Congress will be sworn in on Wednesday, January 3rd 2007. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) will be the majority leader of the Senate, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 95%) will be the Squeaker of the House. As traditional with new brooms, they will be given les cent-jours to enact the agenda on which they campaigned.

Of course, they will actually have a minimum of two years and a maximum of anything, if they can win reelection. But if, after a hundred days, they haven't had some spectacular victories, voters with attention-deficit disorder will lose patience with them.

So what did they campaign on? I don't mean each individual representative and senator; I mean, what grand themes did all Democrats invoke to nationally brand their campaign? So far as I can recall, there were only three things they all publicly agreed on:

  • Raising the minimum wage;
  • Increasing funding for stem-cell research;
  • Implementing the few remaining pieces of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations that Bush hadn't already implemented.

They could not come together on tax policy; they could not come together on immigration; heck, they couldn't even come together on Iraq: many new Democrats elected Tuesday complained that we hadn't "listened to the generals" (meaning generals like Eric Shinseki and Anthony Zinni) -- and hadn't sent enough troops to Iraq!

Let's deal with each of these in turn.

Maximizing the minimum

The one thing that every Democrat supported was the exciting goal of raising the national miminum wage. Mind, they couldn't get together on exactly how much; but that's easy to resolve: they'll just average all the various proposals, and then throw that out in favor of the highest one.

Republicans' response to this should be very simple. Yes, it might be possible for us to filibuster in the Senate and prevent any increase passing; but while that is good economic policy (there shouldn't be any minimum at all), politically, it's a non-starter.

Instead, the Republicans should make the principled argument that the minimum wage is a job killer, that all economists except Paul Krugman agree it hurts the very people it claims to help... and then allow a vote. In fact, I believe word should go out that this is a "free vote": Republican members can vote their conscience or however their constituents want them to vote.

That means we'll have a few days of wrangling between Charlie Rangel and the new moderates, during which the Republicans will warn that they're really debating how many jobs they'll kill; and then they'll vote, some Republicans will join them, most will vote against it, it will pass, and President Bush will sign it. Done. Gone.

Stem winders

As soon as the Democrats start talking stem cells, President Bush should call a press conference. Before answering all the questions about why we lost (Tony Snow gave a preview on Hugh Hewitt today, it's all the stuff the center-right bloggers have been saying, including here), he should start with a statement, something like this:

As you know, I have always supported stem-cell research -- of all kinds. But in 2001, I sharply limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to only those lines that existed at that time. I believe it's never right to save some innocent life by killing other innocent life.

But since that time, something remarkable has happened: medical researchers, denied the easy path of extracting stem cells by killing a human embryo, have responded with typical American ingenuity. They have brilliantly solved the problem: we now know how to extract embryonic stem cells without killing the embryo. This is a remarkable breakthrough... and it changes everything.

Congress has made it clear that we need more funding for stem-cell research. And you know what? I completely agree with them. And if they will send me a bill doing exactly that, I will sign it in a heartbeat... provided it contains two critical points: first, the same bill that increases funding for embryonic stem-cell research must also significantly increase funding for adult and placental stem-cell research, two forms of stem cells that have actually shown not just promise, like embryonic stem cells, but actual results, curing real people of real illnesses and conditions. [Short laundry list of cures here.]

Second -- and this is the most important point -- I will only sign a bill to increase funding for embryonic stem cells if that funding is limited to stem cells that are extracted non-destructively. If the bill makes clear that we won't kill one innocent life to save others, I promise to sign it. But if it ignores this spectacular breakthrough and tries to go back to the old way, where we kill a life to save a life, then I promise to veto it.

The ball is in Congress's court: send me a stem-cell bill that fully funds adult and placental stem-cell research and which requires embryonic stem-cells to be extracted without killing the embryo, and I'll sign it into law.

First, there is no reason the Democrats would object to the first condition; they're certainly not going to go before the American people and say "we're all in favor of stem-cell research if we get to kill embryos... but we're not interested in adult or placental stem-cell research, no matter how many cures it can produce!"

Second, it would be equally hard to argue that they want to kill embryos, rather than extract stem cells non-destructively... even though we now have that technology. It would play right into the worst fears of half the country about Democratic hatred of the unborn.

So more than likely, they would agree to both conditions and offer a bill just as President Bush outlined. At that point, there is no longer a serious ethical objection to stem-cell research, because we're not killing embryos; Republicans can vote for such a bill as enthusiastically as Democrats, and it will probably be passed by whopping margins in both houses. Bush will sign it with a rose garden ceremony, the news will cover it... and George W. Bush will have hijacked one of the signature issues of the Democrats without compromising a single conservative principle.

Commissioning the Commission

Finally, I don't think there is anything particularly politically controversial about the 9/11 Commission recommendations. There is no reason for the Republicans to filibuster or even oppose them. Most will sail right through with wide support.

Does this help the Democrats? In a sense, sure: they look masterful. But it also helps the Republicans in Congress, who can argue that they've learned the lessons of the vote: they want to return to their conservative roots and do anything they can to help fight the GWOT. And it's good for President Bush, because he was always in favor of enacting those provisions -- and he can jolly well prove it by reference to past speeches and signing ceremonies during the 109th Congress.

Les quatorze jours

What is my point? Simple: all of the above can be done in the first fortnight. There is no reason to drag it out a hundred days... and a great incentive for Republicans to get it done quickly. In fact, realistically, the last two could be done during the lame-duck session of the 109th Congress, while Republicans are still in command!

Why is that good? Because once those three points of universal agreement (among Democrats) have been enacted... that's it; the Democrats are dry. They will necessarily fall to bickering among themselves about all the other, more weighty issues of the day -- those huge, looming questions about which they have no concensus at all. Very quickly, the country will be treated to the spectacle of Democrats fighting each other, while Republicans stand in the sidelines issuing base-revving moral, national security, and economic pronunciamentos.

By the time the Democrats manage to ram weird compromises on immigration and the war through Congress, voters may well already be disenchanted, and some will be having buyer's remorse (this always happens, but we can speed up the process by not fighting against minor things that nobody disputed in the first place).

Bush can sign or veto any of these bills as they fit his bottom-line requirements: he would sign an immigration deal that resembled his, but he would veto amnesty; he would sign onto a change in direction in Iraq if it met with his generals' approval (especially Gen. George Casey), but he would veto anything that even smelled like cut and run.

And in all cases, he would have plenty enough votes to sustain his veto... probably with even a few moderate to conservative Democrats joining with Republicans. The Democrats will scream that he's a divider -- but Bush can rightly point to the first couple of weeks, during which he openly supported the only three things that all the Democrats and the American people supported. "I've always been willing to shake hands across the aisle; I signed several different bills they sent me. But there's a limit, and my bottom line is that we will not leave Iraq without a victory."

First impressions are lasting impressions: if Republicans can show themselves to be forward-looking, to have learned from their mistakes (they should openly use this phrase), they will leave a very good first impression. As Ronald Reagan showed, Americans hate truculent people who won't admit they were wrong; but they wildly and enthusiastically cheer "the sinner reformed," someone who steps up and says, "by golly, you were right and I was wrong; but I've learned from my mistakes; let's go forward into the future together."

If we quickly give the Democrats the only rational things they ran on (I oppose minimum wage, but it's not insane: it's just wrongheaded), rather than dragging it out for three or four months, kicking and screaming all the way, then we don't give the Democrats the opportunity to look like knight-errant heroes slaying the Republican dragon blocking us from the treasure horde of stem-cell research and port protection. Natural Democratic disunity will create a first impression of the gang that couldn't shoot straight... and that is an impression that lasts and lasts -- as the 109th Congress discovered.

If we have the discipline to do this, then I think Reid's and Pelosi's first hundred days in power will turn out about as well as Napoleon's last hundred days in power... rather than like the first hundred days following the much more significant 1994 Republican victory, during which Newt successfully brought every, single plank of the Contract With America up for a vote -- and passed almost all of them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 9, 2006, at the time of 4:51 PM

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» Dems Come Out Swinging! And Missing! from Big Lizards
Back in November, just after the election, we noted in Les Cent Jours -- Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) now says it will actually be les cent heures -- that the Democrats only had three issues on... [Read More]

Tracked on January 9, 2007 4:22 PM


The following hissed in response by: Imagodei

Good stuff, and way better than Rove's strategies.

The above hissed in response by: Imagodei [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 9, 2006 5:12 PM

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

I like it, Dafydd, in part because it is the polar opposite of what Democrats would do (and in fact did do when they temporarily stole the Senate back by obtaining a lease with an option to buy on Jumpin' Jim Jeffords): fight tooth and nail against EVERY Republican proposal, including even things like the Department of Homeland Security that Democrats had proposed in the FIRST place.

I guess the only question is whether the Cut and Run conservatives who are slowly beginning to realize what their little temper tantrum is going to cost them would respond with manaical accusations of a Bush sellout.

You know, like they did over the Harriet Myers nomination, which after all is said and done WAS an attempt by GW to slip a stealth conservative onto the SCOTUS without Democrats figuring out what was happening. How DO we think we're going to get another SCOTUS nominee confirmed in the next two years if we get the chance anyway?

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 9, 2006 6:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: Nuclear Siafu

Nice of you to point out a sound political strategy to get us through these rough times. So, all we have to do now is trust that congress will use its better judgment.


You know, there's a strange kind of serenity that comes with knowing exactly what isn'tgoing to happen over the next two years.

The above hissed in response by: Nuclear Siafu [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 9, 2006 7:56 PM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

A very good idea, but I have grave doubts that they are smart enough to follow it. Most politicians are so blinded by their own brilliance that they don't realize they are actually rather dim bulbs. My prediction, don't bet on any meaningful change in congress in the next election.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 9, 2006 8:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Since even the Democrats don't know how much they want to raise the minimum wage by, "we" should do #2 and #3 first. Then the minimum wage. This will minimise Democratic unity.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 9, 2006 8:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: jajanus

Maybe a suggestion regarding minimum wage debate. A lot of states have enacted their own minimum wage base on the vote of the people like the state I live in Florida. Republican should suggest all fifty states vote what they believe should be the minimum wage in each specific state. Conservatives believes that states should enact their own laws and this is one of them that should be left to each state vote. The benefit of this is it will remove a issue that democrates love to bring up and leave each state having a minimum wage that fit that state. Why do we need a law on the federal level when states have started to decide on their own what is the right minimum wage. Leave it to the vote of the people.

The above hissed in response by: jajanus [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 9, 2006 9:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Rod

You are not talking about another equally if not more important item - The GOP. Republicans need to decide if they are the new liberal party and if so stop calling themselves conservative. Or if they are still the party of Reagan they need to vote for less government not more. And Bush needs to veto any bills that grow government _ which has been 99% of the bills he signed the last 6 years. The Dems are far short of the votes needed to override any veto if the GOP is in fact a conservative party. Sometimes - and 06, 04 and 1992 are clear examples - elections are lost not won.


To all the men that have worn the Globe and Anchor, all the men who will so do in the future and most importantly to those giving their lives for freedom


“…First to fight for right and freedom…”
Gung Ho!

An old exJarhead

The above hissed in response by: Rod [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2006 4:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn

#2 and #3 should be moved on before this session is done. The problem is that the senate democrats can block the legislation and will get a pass from the press by just saying, that this is a weighty matter that should be decided on by the new congress, not the old. The republicans should still do this, just recognize that they don't control the agenda.

On #1, I like the suggestion of making it a states issue, rather than a federal issue, but lets face it this is important to the dems. First because it is a feel good issue that is wrong economically, but has lots of liberal economists who will sign off on it. Mor importantly to the dems is the minimum wage is often used to set union contracts. Wages of skilled craftsmen are set at a multiple of the minimum wage. This would be a huge payback to one of their major special intrest groups.

One of the key issues is if (when?) the congress fails to work together, who is seen to be at fault. One of the consequences of losing an election is that you don't get to set the agenda, so you have to react to the other sides actions. I would suggest picking a few items to say "this far and no further" (e.g. We will not lose the war on terror). Then use every political trick to stop the democrats. On other issues (like minimum wage) acknowledge that this is a cost of losing an election, try to offer amendments or suggestions to minimize the damage, but don't pick that hill to die on.

As another thing, consider the problem for Pelosi.

The above hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2006 7:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

"Republican should suggest all fifty states vote what they believe should be the minimum wage in each specific state."

Brilliant. I mean, the cost of living isn't the same in each state, so why should the minimum wage be the same?

The 109th should pass a law requiring each state to establish their own minimum wage. Problem solved. Plus pass #s 2 and 3.

How can Democrats oppose this action? The Republicans can say that they took the results of the elections seriously, and hell, why wait for the 110th congress? Just like Rumsfeld, let's get these issues out of the way ASAP. Confirm Bolton why you are at it.

One thing to note - has anyone noticed the extreme grace the Republicans have shown so far over the transfer of power? Compare that to the Democrat tantrums the last two elections.

Last night I enjoyed needling my Democratic friends. Where was the massive Republican voter fraud machine of the last two years? Did it get broken? Rove's voodoo powers fading?

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2006 9:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

I think the rest of this Congress should be spent, in the Senate, confirming every judicial nominee they can find. Cite Democrat obstruction as the reason why court backlogs are escalating, change the filibuster rule if necessary, and pound 'em out.

As for next year, it would be good if Conservatives COULD clearly enunciate conservative principles and deny the Dems their favorite tools of obfuscation and deceit (such as on stem cells). I think how they vote is far less relevant. The impression the GOP needs to foster is that not only are Democrats in disarray, consumed by revenge, and only in it for the power, but that they are just fundamentally wrong on every issue. It can't be that difficult, can it?

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2006 12:24 PM

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