Thursday, October 04, 2007

This Week (Almost) On Capitol Hill

Remember Idaho Republican Senator Larry "Tappy-Toes" Craig? Remember how he was busted for allegedly soliciting gay sex in a Minneapolis airport men's room, conceded the charge at the local hoosegow, then changed his mind and denied it? Remember how all this came out, and his GOP colleagues dropped him like flaming plutonium, and he agreed to resign by the end of September?

Well, it's the first week of October, and he's still in the Senate, isn't he? That must explain why his colleagues are even more eager to combust his political ashes than are the Dems:
The Senate [ethics] hearing would examine the original charges in Craig's case, including the allegation of "interference with privacy," for peeping into the bathroom stall occupied by an undercover police officer. One senior Republican aide imagined "witnesses, documents, all in front of the klieg lights." The committee also could look for "a pattern of conduct" - which means combing court records in other locales to discover whether Craig had prior arrests that haven't come to light.

The call for a public hearing is not unprecedented. In 1995, the Senate narrowly rejected holding an open forum to examine sexual misconduct allegations against Bob Packwood (R-OR). The Democrat who called for the open Packwood hearing? Barbara Boxer (CA), the current chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.
When this story first broke, I was baffled by it - both Craig's waffling and GOPers' obscene haste to purge him from their midst. A few days later I concluded that whether or not you think Craig should go, the handwriting was already on the wall.

But, of course, Senator Craig evidently can't read, and he's staying put. So now Senate Republicans are taking the extraordinary step of trying to destroy one of their own, even if he is a buffoon and/or a pervert.

Admiral Ed speculates that they're trying to "shame" Craig out of the Senate. Which would be an odd strategy, since it's pretty clear that the man is incapable of that particular emotion. Ed also renews his call for Louisiana Republican David Vitter, patron of prostitutes, to be run out of D.C. on a rail, and his seat along with him. He (Ed) is wrong, but at least he's consistent.

What strikes me about this story is both the spectre of Republicans in essence persecuting a(n allegedly) homosexual member of their own party because of his indiscrete sexual disorientation, and the Democrats' conspicuous silence on the matter. Doubtless they could get a lot of PR mileage out of Senator Tappy-Toes (the usual tiresome "hypocrite!" line), but they evidently must believe that letting the GOP do their Packwooding for them will make Republicans look like the homophobes of relentless liberal depiction. Paydirt would be after Craig was out of the Senate and he turned on his former colleagues, came out of the closet, and became a lavender lobbiest, which would keep the cycle of intra-GOP conflict rolling indefinitely.
Besides, it's not as though an Idaho Senate seat will ever be in play, even with Hillary Clinton atop the 2008 ticket.

~ ~ ~

Ah, discretion. That's a commodity that has been in short supply on the Democrat side of the aisle ever since "Monica Lewinsky" became a household name.

But evidently the meager grasp of the term that Dirty Harry and Crazy Nancy have is far in excess of David Obey's:

Democratic leaders on Tuesday moved quickly to shift public attention to President Bush’s expected veto of a children’s health insurance program from a surtax to pay for the war in Iraq.

Democrats had been reveling in their good fortune, believing they had a winning issue in legislation to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which Bush is expected to veto Wednesday.

But three senior Democrats floated a proposal to impose a surtax, a levy on a percentage of citizens’ tax bills, to fund the war in Iraq.

Republicans pounced to criticize the plan while Democratic leaders did their best to appear undeterred by the bump in the road.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) shot down the idea Tuesday afternoon. At two press conferences, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) reiterated that the proposal was “not a Democratic, not a party proposal.”

....that we wanted publicized in any way, shape, or form before that big-mouthed jackoff [David] Obey went and shot off PR Roman candles all around it." I guess Hoyer's microphone got shut off before he could finish his sentence.

For the record, Obey's huge income surtax is nothing more than an act of legislative spite conjured out of acute frustration over the Donk failure to hand victory in the War Against Islamic Fundamentalism to our enemies. It might pass this Congress, but it would get vetoed back to the Stone Age, and while Dems don't appear to be all that bashful about their galloping Bolshevism, another ass-kicking at the hands of George W. Bush is not an image the nutroots will allow them to withstand.

~ ~ ~
Speaking of vetoes, President Bush deserves three cheers for killing the Democrats' SCHIP Hillaryization - and a kick in the butt for the furtive way he did it:
It was only the fourth veto of Bush's presidency, and one that some Republicans feared could carry steep risks for their party in next year's elections. The Senate approved the bill with enough votes to override the veto, but the margin in the House fell short of the required number.
The White House sought as little attention as possible, with the President wielding his veto behind closed doors without any fanfare or news coverage. ...
The Democrats who control Congress, with significant support from Republicans, passed the legislation to add $35 billion over five years to allow an additional 4 million children into the program. It would be funded by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.
The President had promised to veto it, saying the Democratic bill was too costly, took the program too far from its original intent of helping the poor, and would entice people now covered in the private sector to switch to government coverage. He wants only a $5 billion increase in funding.
Maybe it's easy for me to say this, but if Bush wanted to veto this socialist monstrosity, and he had valid and compelling reasons for it, why did he go into hiding to do so? It reminds me of how Bill Clinton locked himself in a closet and climbed upside down in a sleeping bag with a flashlight to sign the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The difference being Clinton didn't support the bill he was signing, but only did so because Dick Morris told him he had to to get re-elected. Did Dubya want to sign dictatorSCHIP but get pressured into vetoing it? If so, by whom, given that so many craven Pachyderms went into the tank and caved to the Donks?
Oh, wait, let me guess - he didn't want to rock the boat now that Iraq is going his way (the ubiquituous excuse for every Bush "duck & cover" these days), but objected to the bill, so he vetoed it quietly. Like the Dems will let THAT remain the case.
It's years too late for this, I suppose, but somebody needs to get it through to the President that he can't avoid "big fights" with the Democrats - especially now that they control Congress. Trying to duck the inevitable is the most effective way of ensuring that those fights will always be losing ones.
~ ~ ~
Speaking of ducking fights, there was another retreat this week - and from an entirely unexpected direction:
Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) signaled yesterday that he will move ahead with confirmation hearings for a new attorney general later this month without reaching a deal on documents that he hoped to obtain from the White House.
But Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said that nominee Michael B. Mukasey will be confronted with a range of questions related to ongoing conflicts between Democrats and the Bush Administration, including whether Mukasey would allow prosecution of White House aides for ignoring congressional subpoenas.
In a letter to the nominee released yesterday, Leahy complained that "the White House has chosen not to clear the decks of past concerns," including Democratic demands for documents and testimony about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. ...
The remarks indicated an end to Leahy's attempt to use the Mukasey nomination to pry loose sensitive information from the White House about the prosecutor firings, the government's warrantless surveillance program and other issues. Leahy's office has been in intensive negotiations with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding since President Bush named Mukasey as the nominee three weeks ago, but no agreement has been reached.
Leahy has yet to announce a date for Mukasey's confirmation hearing, though Senate aides have said it is likely to be held in the third or fourth week of this month. In his letter, Leahy invited Mukasey to a one-on-one meeting October 16, suggesting that a public hearing would be held soon afterward.
I disagree with the Admiral's take that the reason Leahy backed off on holding Mukasey's nomination hostage is because the Democrats have "lost their enthusiasm" for the U.S. attorney firing non-scandal and the other trumped up nonsense over which they harassed former A-G Alberto Gonzales for months. I think Speedy's capitulation only whetted their appetites for more Bushkin blood, and that that's what drove Leaky's hard bargain in the first place. It just wasn't producing any results, and after nearly a month of fruitless stalling they've decided that they can score bigger hits by getting Mukasey before the Senate Judiciary Committee and borking the crap out of him instead.
Will they wring out of the A-G nominee the answers on (Republican) executive privilege and domestic counter-terrorism policies that they want? 'Tis doubtful. Will they vote his nomination down? Quite possibly. But if Mukasey does make it through the Donk gauntlet, he will arrive at DoJ already "tainted" by the impermissible dissidence of his confirmation testimony, and be linked to Oh, Boy, Alberto like a Siamese twin.
Either way, the war against the Bush Administration by its enemies within will continue.
~ ~ ~
And another (sort-of) good soldier on the side of truth, justice, and the American Way has had his fill of it:
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) is expected to announce Thursday that he will not run for a seventh term in 2008, according to sources close to Domenici’s office.
Domenici’s retirement would make him the fourth Republican senator to bow out this cycle, joining Senators Wayne Allard (CO), John Warner (VA) and Chuck Hagel (NE). Competitive races in those seats are likely, and New Mexico should be no different.
Domenici’s retirement also would open up a Pandora’s Box in the state’s congressional delegation, as all three of its House members are considered potential candidates for his seat: Representatives Heather Wilson (R), Steve Pearce (R) and Tom Udall (D).
Hagel I won't miss at all; Warner I would have just in terms of losing the seat, but that's going to fall to former Virginia governor Mark Warner in any case. Domenici I don't think much more of than Warner, but the disposition of his seat will ride on how gullible New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is in believing that he has a legitimate shot at displacing Barack Obama as Hillary's running mate. If he comes to his senses as Mark Warner did, we can kiss another senate vote goodbye.