November 5, 2007

Dems On the Rampage, Dennis On a Tear

Hatched by Dafydd

For this entire year, the Democrats have been stung by repeated legislative embarassments; they failed to:

  • Force defeat in Iraq;
  • Let the camel-nose of SCHIP into the tent (with the body, socialized medicine, to follow);
  • Pass even one, single appropriations bill through Congress and to the president's desk;
  • Follow through on their promise to make the 110th Congress "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history" by passing meaningful ethical reform with either a ban on earmarks altogether, or at least complete transparency of the earmarking process -- shining a spotlight on the earmarking roaches in the system;
  • Make a decision on the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts for the middle class;
  • Do anything at all about illegal immigration, and so on.

Their perennial, whiny complaint is that the Republicans in Congress keep filibustering Democrat-sponsored legislation, and that President Bush vetoes the trickle that does get through. But navigating that needle is part of the process of leadership.

Neither party has had anything like a veto-proof (or even unfilibusterable) majority in ages; neither has the luxury of completely dominating the legislative conversation and burying the other side's objections.

During the Republicans' tenure, they actually managed to pass significant pieces of legislation, from tax cuts, to allowing faith-based organizations to vie for charitable governmental spending, to beefing up the border with double fencing, to a couple of declarations of war, to easing environmental regulations, etc. The Republicans were largely successful at legislating because they found issues where even the bulk of work-a-day Democrats agreed with the GOP and disagreed with the Democratic leadership; thus conditions were ripe for Democrats to join with Republicans to provide enough votes to invoke cloture, thus preventing a filibuster.

But the Democrats of the 110th loudly announced, even before they assumed office, that they considered congressional Republicans to be mere speed bumps -- and the president an anachronistic irrelevancy. Their "negotiation" style consists of a lengthy series of take-it-or-leave-it ultimata... and evidently, the GOP's response has been not only to "leave it" but to show just how much power a unified minority party has. And of course, the president has the constitutional authority to veto legislation; it's not something dirty or underhanded, as the Democrats seem to believe.

Ergo, the Democrats find themselves at a crossroads. Two paths open before them:

  1. They can change their tone and begin working with the Republicans to craft bipartisan legislation, supported at least by the GOP rank and file, if not necessarily by the GOP leadership;
  2. Or they can retreat from the world of legislating into the comforting zone of endless investigations of the Bush administration, in order to create the illusion of progress when in fact all they're doing is loudly burning rubber at the starting line.

With all that as prologue, we come to a couple of articles. From the Associated Press...

House Democrats threatened Monday to hold President Bush's key confidants in contempt of Congress unless they comply with subpoenas for information on the Justice Department's purge of federal prosecutors last winter.

The White House shrugged off the ultimatum, saying the information is off-limits under executive privilege and that the aides in question - White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former presidential counselor Harriet Miers - are immune from prosecution.

"It won't go anywhere," predicted White House press secretary Dana Perino.

Congressional Democrats nonetheless submitted their 102-page report, and a Republican rebuttal, to the House clerk on Monday afternoon. The report accused Miers of contempt for failing to appear and testify as subpoenaed. She and Bolten were charged with failing to produce documents on whether the prosecutors were fired at the White House's behest.

The essential absurdity of this investigation is found in a couple of short, quiet sentences buried in the middle of the article:

If the report is passed, the House would forward the citation to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution....

It's not clear that contempt of Congress citations must be prosecuted.

That's quite an understatement. In fact, the courts have made it very clear that they will not force the Executive branch to prosecute itself on orders from the Legislative branch. Thus, the most at Chairman John Conyers (D-MI, 100%) can do is shake his fist and demand that President Bush prosecute his own aides for carrying out his own policies... which seems implausible on its face. So beyond congressional self-abuse, what is the point?

The plain and simple fact is that the "fired" U.S. attorneys -- who were not fired, by the way, but mostly just not reappointed to another term -- were sent packing for purely performance-based reasons: They had their own private, political agendas, which they insisted upon following rather than following the agenda of the President of the United States. As they serve at the pleasure of the president, and the president was not pleased, they were gently encouraged to find employment elsewhere.

When next a Democrat is elected president, he will have the same authority: He need not keep reappointing U.S. attorneys, or any other appointed officials, who march to the sound of a different drum. It's as simple as that.

I don't think even the Democrats believe that once the president names someone to a position, he is obliged to retain that person forever, no matter what he does. I think this is just another way for Democrats to investigate -- which requires no negotiation whatsoever -- rather than legislate, which requires actually listening to the opposition and making some effort to accomodate their views in order to gain their support... an odious, Herculean labor that the Democrats simply cannot bear to undertake. (Actually, it's the Democrats, not the Republicans, who remind me of the Stymphalian birds.)

And while we're on the subject, we also have this: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Venus, 100%) has decided to use some obscure House rule to force the entire House of Representatives to formally cast a roll-call vote on impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney...

"The momentum is building for impeachment," Kucinich said in a Nov. 2 news release. "Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President's abuse of power."

House Resolution 333 says Cheney should be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors," because he "purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests."

Kucinich insists that Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting on the supremacy of the Executive Branch....

"Congress must hold the Vice President accountable," Kucinich said last week. He accused Cheney of using his office to advocate the "continued occupation of Iraq and prod our nation into a belligerent stance against Iran."

Which raises an interest question that itself demands an answer: Does Dennis Kucinich actually believe that opposing an Iraq pullout and advocating we be more "belligerent" towards Iran constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors?"

I can hear the cuckoo singing in the cuckooberry tree...

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats must now grapple with the confirmation vote for Attorney General designate Michael Mukasey; with several Democrats jumping ship and supporting Mukasey, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) and Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), while the bulk of the leadership still opposes him, the ironic possibility exists that the majority in the Senate, led by Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), may try to mount a filibuster!

As we close in on the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, the stunning paucity of legislation makes this not just the majority that couldn't shoot straight -- it's the majority than cannot even shoot crooked. Rather, the Democratic congressional leadership, at least so far, resembles Ralphie Parker in a Christmas Story -- daydreaming about shooting Black Bart and his gang with Ralphie's Official Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle, felling the the GOP gang left and left with unbelievable but wholly imaginary accuracy.

The Democrats had better be careful: They'll shoot their eye out!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 5, 2007, at the time of 5:07 PM

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The following hissed in response by: hunter

Kucinich....Isn't he that guy that bankrupted a city and has pretended to be an American congressman for years? Taht guy who runs for President as the comedy relief to make the other clowns look better?
I hope the twit does in fact get an impeachment of the VP going. It will be one of the turning points in America - against the circus that ahs taken over the DNC.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 5, 2007 7:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Kucinich....Isn't he that guy that bankrupted a city and has pretended to be an American congressman for years? That guy who runs for President as the comedy relief to make the other clowns look better?
I hope the twit does in fact get an impeachment of the VP going. It will be one of the turning points in America - against the circus that has taken over the DNC.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 5, 2007 7:20 PM

The following hissed in response by: Binder

Evidently when the Democratic leadership got their Red Ryder, they forgot to get the compass in the stock, and now can't figure out where they are or how to get where they ought to be.

The above hissed in response by: Binder [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2007 3:07 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Oooh, you were so close to a perfect score! Imagine if you'd written, "they forgot to get the moral compass in the stock...!"

I can fix it and delete this comment, if you'd like; let me know. We can change history:

Who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past controls the future.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2007 7:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: Binder

Tempting though it is to fix it and change history...I'm a historian by training, and would find that dishonest. Plus, it'd make people think I'm smarter and more perceptive than I am, something I take pains to prevent.

The above hissed in response by: Binder [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2007 3:50 AM

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