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May 29, 2006

Speaker Pelosi!

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

A couple interesting things out of the Prospect discussion with Nancy Pelosi are worth mentioning.  First, she seems to be pretty excited about the possibility of using the subpoena power of a House majority to launch investigations of the Bush Administration. 

And one of the great triumphs of our victory in November will be the power of the subpoena. This is a Congress that is not only a rubberstamp for the President, but has abdicated its responsibility, derelict in its responsibility for oversight. [inaudible] The power to investigate, the power to subpoena will show the American people how far they were willing to go for their own agenda at the expense of the lives of our kids, the limbs of our kids, a trillion-dollar war, the cost to our reputation around the world. [inaudible] Very calmly, very calmly, when we win, we will assume the duties of the legislative branch, the first branch of government. We will have a system of checks and balances that is called for in our Constitution and abandoned by this Congress.

This is exactly what I'm hoping for.  As I've argued before, massive investigations of Bush Administration malfeasance could be useful in doing long-term damage to the Republican Party.  I'm not quite as hot on impeachment as some people are -- I'm happy to settle for laying out lots of Bush scandals for the American people to see, and making the point that these are what you get if you let Republicans run the country.  Bush will be around for just two more years; Republicans will be around somewhat longer.  (By the way, what's with all the [inaudible] in the transcript?  Ezra, do you need to send your people shopping for some higher-quality recording equipment?  Or was Pelosi whispering so that NSA bugs wouldn't pick up her plans?) 

One of Pelosi's achievements that she referred to a couple times was preventing individual Democrats from all coming out with their own plans back in the Social Security privatization days.  Rather than having a bunch of different plans and muddling the party's message in the media, or even having one Democratic plan and conceding the necessity of damaging the federal government's most financially secure program in response to a made-up crisis, Pelosi and Reid got their caucuses to just say no to privatization.  You can read Matt Yglesias' classic post on why this was absolutely the right political decision for Democrats at the time.  What Matt's talking about is exactly what Pelosi did, and it's why we won. 
 

May 29, 2006 in Democrats | Permalink

Comments

NO IMPEACHMENT! No talk of impeachment! Please.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | May 29, 2006 2:51:07 PM

I'm fully with you, Neil. Pelosi has a national reputation forged by the Republicans as a "San Francisco Democrat", but she has never been as liberal as the bulk of the Dems in San Francisco, with perhaps the exception of anti-war positions. It think that longtime moderate Dem. position has showed in her relative moderation as Minority Leader in the House. She hasn't turned out to be the moonbeam she was pictured to be by the wingnuts.

However, she's an old school Dem. politician (her family being active in the machine politics of Dem. SF), and she knows how to forge an iron alliance of the faithful - by both positive and negative incentives.

I give her higher marks than the dKos folks gave her in Kos's recent online poll. It is hell being in the minority in the House of Representatives and hell trying to herd those Dem. cats.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 29, 2006 4:08:07 PM

I don't think politicians like Pelosi need to talk about impeachment at this point. After 2006, when a Democratic house holds hearings, impeachment will take care of itself. Remember, when the Congress investigated Nixon, no one was talking about impeachment, until the hearings made impeachement unavoidable.

I think it is critical that Bush's policies be examined, and I think the only way to remedy his numerous high crimes and misdemeanors is impeachment. Anything less than impeachment will allow his pernicious "unitary executive theory" to live on after he leaves office. If we don't (at least) impeach him, I don't think we'll ever regain our lost liberties and restore a proper balance of power in the national government.

However, unlike Bush, I am a believer in the rule of law and in the constitution. Before Bush can be impeached, the Congress must first wake up and start doing its job.

First hearings, them impeachment.

Posted by: shargash | May 29, 2006 4:59:12 PM

.. massive investigations of Bush Administration malfeasance could be useful in doing long-term damage to the Republican Party.

It's not about doing long-term damage to the Republicans, its about reestablishing the checks on an excessive power grab by the Bush administration. A lot of us care more about the course this government is taking than which team comes out on top of the partisan mudwrestling match. Shut down the torture chambers, reestablish the rule of law, reaffirm the protections of the 1st and 4th amendment, repudiate the assumption of absolute, unchecked authority in the person of the president. That would be a party worth voting for. If Pelosi only uses her authority for partisan gain then we'll have lost a big opportunity to set this nation straight again.

Posted by: Mike | May 29, 2006 5:01:22 PM

Personally, I'm more interested in the partisan gain, because you can use that to get universal health care and gay marriage and pro-Roe judges and a sane foreign policy and other goodies.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 29, 2006 5:22:18 PM


"And one of the great triumphs of our victory in November..."

Hey wow! We already won in the future!!

Sorry for the snark, but I do hate a jinx.

Posted by: backspace | May 29, 2006 5:33:05 PM

Personally, I'm more interested in the partisan gain, because you can use that to get universal health care and gay marriage and pro-Roe judges and a sane foreign policy and other goodies.

No. Partisan gain only gets your party in power. People who fight partisan battles expecting ideological victories are usually gravely disappointed. Remember the Republicans offered us smaller government, fiscal solvency, a dynamic economy, more personal liberty (along with personal responsibility). They were nearly liberatarian in their visions of a perfect America. They fought for partisan control and we ended up with them abandoning every position they ran on. Now we've got Pat Roberts arguing that you have no liberty if you're dead. We've got the suspension of habeus corpus. We've crony capitalism, the end of privacy, the federal government monitoring every detail of people's lives and trillions of dollars in additional debt. The partisans won. The conservatives lost.

Abortion rights, universal health care, a sane foreign policy, gay marriage? Are you kidding me? Partisan Democrats have suggested sacrificing all of these to appeal to more voters. Many of them voted for Bush's foreign policy, when it was politically advantageous. Most of them came out against gay marriage in the last election. Torture? Don't want to talk about that. People might think they're soft on terrorists. You'd better make sure the party you elect is still the party you campaigned for on November 8th.

Posted by: Mike | May 29, 2006 5:53:22 PM

Mike, the Republicans' problem was that they put a president into power with no serious ideological convictions beyond egomania, and whose domestic advisors had only one ideological conviction -- that taxes should be cut for rich people.

That's why I support Democrats with the right ideology. Give me Edwards, Feingold, or Gore as president with a Democratic Congress, and the good times roll.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 29, 2006 6:08:01 PM

Mike, the Republicans' problem was that they put a president into power with no serious ideological convictions beyond egomania

That's where you're wrong. The Republicans sold out long before Bush became president. Everything was done for partisan political advantage, and Bush has been very aggressive in that effort. Everything is about getting money behind your candidates and who pays the piper calls the tune. Bush was chosen, specifically by the Republican establishment, and they knew exactly what they were getting. The single purpose of all Republican legislation today is to provide favors for their contributors. Not "tax cuts for the rich" particularly. Rather tax breaks for big business, Deregulation, massive government subsides, lawsuit restrictions, the elimination of whistleblower and labor protections, the appointment of industry insiders to all the major regulatory agencies. In exchange these companies spend lavishly to keep Republicans elected.

Partisan Democrats will react in the same way. Just look at the votes on the recent bankruptcy bill. Smiling Joe Biden pushed through an egregious act written explicitly by and for the credit card industry. 17 other Democratic Senators voted along with him.

Posted by: Mike | May 29, 2006 6:37:09 PM

"Smiling Joe Biden pushed through an egregious act written explicitly by and for the credit card industry."

I'm not a big fan of Biden, but expecting a Senator from Delaware not to shill for the credit card industry in our current election system is expecting a bit too much.

Of course, electing a President who's willing to shill for publicly financed federal election campaigns result in changing the law, thus changing the calculus for Democratic Senators like Biden. I wonder which of the major Dem Presidential candidates in '04 repeatedly advocated publicly financed campaigns...

Posted by: Petey | May 29, 2006 7:29:52 PM

"Personally, I'm more interested in the partisan gain, because you can use that to get universal health care and gay marriage and pro-Roe judges and a sane foreign policy and other goodies."

Unless the other goodies include the Rule of Law, you can count me out of the party.

Personally, I don't think it is either/or. If Democrats take the house and hold substantive hearings resulting in lots of criminal prosecutions and impeachment(s), you would reinforce the Rule of Law and have partisan gains for Democrats.

On the other hand, if Democrats don't hit the Republicans hard while they have the chance, the best the Democrats can expect is to gain the House from 2006 to 2008, at which point they will lose everything to the Republicans again.

Posted by: shargash | May 29, 2006 7:56:47 PM

Shargash, Rule of Law is definitely one of the goodies.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 29, 2006 8:23:32 PM

The purpose of having the power of subpoena should not be to bring long-term damage to the Republican party.

It should be stopping the Republican Party from doing long-term damage to the United States of American.

Posted by: Chris Andersen | May 29, 2006 9:33:16 PM

Exactly, Chris. And even though the actions involved may seem to be the same, the purpose behind those actions makes all the difference in the end.

Posted by: Mike | May 29, 2006 10:14:58 PM

they put a president into power with no serious ideological convictions beyond egomania, and whose domestic advisors had only one ideological conviction

That's wrong. The problem is that the Republican Party is owned and operated by the Southern base. And it has a very different conception of...everything...than your standard Dem/Pub Establishment person of the last 50 years. Look around...half the people fighting our battles are either Republicans (Scowcroft, etc.) or libertarians (Cato). The present Republican Party is a joke, except as a machine for generating election wins. Unfortunately, that's the most important thing.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | May 30, 2006 12:11:00 AM

half the people fighting our battles are either Republicans (Scowcroft, etc.) or libertarians (Cato).

The fact that the media gives them half the attention doesn't make them half the people.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 30, 2006 12:31:52 AM

Good article in the Tuesday NYT on Speaker Pelosi.

-----

FWIW, I have a good deal of respect for the job Pelosi has done as an 'indoor politician'. The SS privatization stuff Neil talks about is one example, and Matt Yglesias has catalogued some other internal caucus things she's done well.

But, gawd, she's a lousy 'outdoor politician'. Just because the GOP will try to demonize any Democratic leader doesn't mean we should have Democratic leaders as easily demonizable as Pelosi.

She's lousy on TV, and she's from the wrong fucking place. Say any nasty things you want about Dick Gephardt, but I'd prefer the caucus to be lead out of Saint Louis rather than San Francisico any day of the week. Despite the ethnicity problem, I'd prefer Rahm over Nancy any day of the week on both TV proficiency and regional grounds.

The faces of a national party really matter.

Posted by: Petey | May 30, 2006 12:52:45 AM

I once asked my 'conservative' FIL if he felt betrayed by Bush. He launched into an immediate ad hominem attack on Bill Clinton. Just like every other political situation when we 'discuss' politics.
So, I've never gotten an answer.
I still like to bait the mouth breather, though, my life is kind of boring.
I mention the deficit, he brings up Clinton's many murders, (no kidding), I mention the WMD lies, he talks about the dozens of rapes that Clinton committed. (really) When asked for proof of these crimes, he is totally silent.
The man is a total fucking ditto monkey.
A junkie tells him what to think. Reminds me of American chickenhawk.

Posted by: gus | May 30, 2006 7:26:16 AM

"The single purpose of all Republican legislation today is to provide favors for their contributors."

Absolutely! And that includes the repub base, the Cargo Christians, too.

Posted by: CParis | May 30, 2006 12:32:58 PM

Petey,

I agree with your assessment re: the public face of Democratic leadership.

But I would rather have a leader from San Francisco than a "leader" from St. Louis.

If it becomes possible to select the most media-friendly people to become the public face while keeping the most effective leaders in the positions of real leadership, then we're talking. I just don't see that happening, and I don't want to sacrifice the very effective politicking that Pelosi and Reid are doing in favor of whatever dubious "gains" we might see from someone else in their positions.

This is an area, I believe, where you have bought into the GOP spin of what "middle america" or "real Americans" want. Your criticism of Pelosi comes more from her not living up to the George W. Bush standard of easygoing redneck politician from the sticks. It is just possible that, while not necessarily looking for a John Kerry, voters will start looking for someone of a bit more substance than that.

CParis, what is a "cargo Christian?"

Jim, be safe.

Posted by: Stephen | May 30, 2006 1:40:55 PM

"Your criticism of Pelosi comes more from her not living up to the George W. Bush standard of easygoing redneck politician from the sticks. It is just possible that, while not necessarily looking for a John Kerry, voters will start looking for someone of a bit more substance than that."

I see American politics as fundamentally regional in nature.

Given the way we elect Congress - especially the Senate - I see the Democrats' regional weakness outside of the core 'blue' areas as problematic if we're interested in Democrats becoming the majority party in this country and being able to govern.

This is a problem that can be addressed many ways, but having the main faces of the Democratic party not come from the Northeast or the Pacific coast is one of the easiest ways to address it.

Posted by: Petey | May 30, 2006 6:07:28 PM

I see American politics as fundamentally regional in nature.

I see this as working according to the GOP playbook.

The Republicans want us to view our politics as being regional so they can continue to ascribe disproportionate value to lightly-populated areas with a lot of land. The idea of having two senators from each state regardless of population is to guard against the tyranny of the majority, not to give electoral value to acreage.

This country is, given the safeguards, governed by a majority of the people. If California's population were to balloon to 275 million, with the other 25 million spread throughout the other 49 states, then the leadership of the coutry would rightfully come from California, no matter what idiocy is spouted on the am radios of those people in the other part of the country. Same goes for any other state.

The Republicans use the maps that show large swaths of the country as "red" or the number of counties that voted(!) for Bush in 2000 as propaganda to lend legitimacy to their views. After Bush losing the popular vote in 2000 and winning by a close margin in 2004, these types of things were presented in order to convince voters that there really was some sort of mandate for the most extreme elements of the GOP agenda.

I grew up in lightly-populated New Mexico and now live in flyover Kansas. Dean's 50-state strategy is wonderful, because it is energizing Democrats in areas that sorely need it, and hopefully will result in a deeper leadership bench for the party. But I have a hard time believing that we should, for example, put Kathleen Sebelius (or Napolitano) on the TV as our "official" spokesperson because that's going to convince Republicans in Georgia, or Idaho, or even Ohio to give the Democrats a second look.

Posted by: Stephen | May 30, 2006 6:22:17 PM

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