The lame duck session is underway, and after that, begins the Era of Honest Leadership and Open Govenment. Since we won back both Houses in no small part to the GOP's appearance, reputation and, indeed, practice of corruption—the number one objective of the Democratic leadership should be to set up a clean shop. And the faces out front need to be squeaky clean.
Throw chrome-dome Henry Waxman into that picture up there, and you are looking at an All-Star team of good-looking, honest-type faces, with reputations to match. Guys (and gals) you can trust to know what the fuck is going on and to do the right thing. Seriously, these guys could be the cast of a new Sorkin or Kelley drama. As opposed to the Dick Tracy Rogue's Gallery of Denny "Named after the restaurant or vice versa?" Hastert, Tom "Toxic Smile" DeLay, and John "Oompa Loompa Face" Boehner.
It's no surprise the party is going to invest heavily in Barack Obama and feature him whenever possible. Good. The GOP has no one who can cover him. It's not even close.
I've become an avowed Reid fan, and always love to recall the Vegas strangle story...
In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, “Is this the money?” Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off.
That shit is gold. Try to imagine that scenario playing out in Tom Delay's office... There has been some bullshit thrwon against the wall on Reid over the last year or so, but it seems to always be total crap and comes from the same AP reporter who must be related to Jack Gordon, judging by the grudge he bears Reid.
Pelosi has grown on me. and as much as I wish the new Speaker wasn't right out of central casting for the Republican sterotype of liberal Democrat, she is proving she can hold her own. Anybody who continues to call the President "incompetent" and sticks by it is okay by me.
With majority status comes Commitee Chairmanships and the power to not only set the agenda, but the players, and to lay out the rules and the field. This needs to be done carefully and with calculation. Not just because the Republicans are watching, but because the media is watching—they want nothing more than to latch onto the very first "Democrats are the same scumbags as the Republicans" story that pops up. And both of those groups will be working in concert to see that it happens.
And above all, becauser the people who put them in power are watching. I. Am. Watching. It's not good enough that my Party is in power. I actually have expectations of them, and I want them to do the right thing. First, last and fucking always. I am going to be every bit as hard on my Party, if not harder, because I expect and demand better.
THE FIRST CHALLENGE
Committee Chairs are supposed to go to the most senior ranking member on a Committee of the party in power. That's going to be a problem for the Dems: I've never heard of Rep. Alcee Hastings before this thread at Balloon juice. I'd like to keep it that way for everybody else...
In 1989, Hastings was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for bribery and perjury. The Democratic-controlled Senate convicted Judge Hastings of accepting a $150,000 bribe in 1981 in exchange for a lenient sentence and of perjury in his testimony about the case. He became only the sixth Judge in the history of United States to be removed from office by the United States Senate. (The Senate had the option to forbid Hastings from ever seeking federal office again, but did not do so.)
If this guy was GOP I'd be quick to assume the worst. Just because he's a Dem, I'm not exactly giving him a pass. there appears to be some doubt about his guilt and then there's the fact that he's kept his nose clean since, but to me that doesn't cut any ice with me. Hastings' history is a political nightmare for a Party trying to establish itself as an alternative to the "Culture of Corruption" of the GOP. Appearances count. Big time.
Put simply, former corrupt judges convicted of taking bribes need to be as far in the background as possible if they are even going to hold office. Good for Hastings (I suppose) for having a successful legislative career after whatever occured back in the day, and if the people in his district want to keep sending him to Congress, I guess that's their business. But elevating him to chair-level makes it the my business and everyone else's. The Democratic leadership has an obligation to protect it's political interest and the institution of congress and to serve as a brake for sitiuations like this.
What's good for Florida's 23rd District isn't necessarily what's good for the party or the country. Sorry, Alcee, keep doing a bang-up job serving your constituents, but you will not be holding a gavel ever again if it's up to me.
THE MURTHA PROBLEM
Everybody knows who Jack Murtha is, he's the grandfatherly former drill sergeant and Viet Nam vet who called Bush out on the War. He stuck his neck out at a time when no other Dem (in office) seemed willing to. He deserves a lot of credit for setting much of the narrative that swept us into power. Pelosi obviously feels indebted to him for that, and has endorsed him to be Majority Leader over current second-in-charge man Steny Hoyer. I don't know anything about Hoyer, but the fact that Murtha appears on this list is NOT a good thing.
While I suspect his larger than life anti-war Vet persona will overshadow any sketchy accusations of wrongdoings—much as McCain has escaped a legacy as one of the Keating Five—Murtha appears not to fit my squeaky clean requirements for leadership. I am hoping Hoyer prevails when that postition comes to a vote.
That's all I got right now, but I will be watching how these things play out, and I want to remind everyone who is drunk on the fact that we are taking back Congress to remember that it's now on us. Trust but verify.
UPDATE: I was under the (hopeful) impression that Pelosi's support for Murtha was a perfunctory gesture to repay him for his loyalty and work on the midterms...endorse him for Leader, and the debt is paid. Hoyer appeared to have the votes over Murtha. According to Josh Marshall, that might not be the case. If Pelosi is calling out the Party on this one, I respect her stones for the move, but I don't necessarily agree with her selection. I want the best (wo)man for the job, not a hand-picked insider. For unity's sake, I hope it all goes down smoothly. I don't want Pelosi effectively neutered right off the bat for backing the wrong horse. More than anything else I want a good Congressional term from the Dems, and I want good things done, and the party needs to be effective and united, not fractured.
UPDATE 2: The more I learn about Murtha, the less I like him as Leader [WSJ link, via John Cole]