Friday, November 17, 2006

Epsiode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I'm not sure what to make of this, but I wanted to air it and see what I ended up writing (yea, I'm still in spasmodic coughing mode, my voice is gone, and I was uninspired in my shower this morning):
Democrats elect Hoyer House leader

By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nancy Pelosi, set to become the first woman to head the U.S. House of Representatives, suffered an embarrassing defeat on Thursday when fellow Democrats rejected her choice of a key foe of the Iraq war as her deputy.

Steny Hoyer, a moderate Maryland Democrat, easily defeated Pennsylvania's John Murtha, a leading proponent of a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, to become the next House majority leader.

A week after Democrats won control of Congress from President George W. Bush's Republicans, the leadership election raised new questions about the clout and hardball style of Pelosi, a California liberal.
Undoubtedly this is a blow to Pelosi's credibility (also to Harry Reid's, which I'll get to in a moment), but is it such a bad thing for her?

First off, isn't it interesting to read how the media is beating the crap out of Pelosi, when Gingrich had an even bigger melee in 1994?

Hoyer has been her deputy during the 109th Congress as minority whip. In essence, he's been elected to the same job he held earlier, only now in the majority, meaning the rank and file representatives were happy with his performance (and obviously, someone did his homework on the back end with the freshmen class).

Ignore Murtha's "ethical problems" for a moment: they were some thirty years old, and of really no consequence (he was caught on tape during ABSCAM turning down a bribe, altho he left the door open to something later, which sounds to me like a possibly smart politician who may have had it in his mind to bust the briber at some point, or a crook who's more cagey than they gave him credit for). Too, forget the "pork for votes" nonsense. Every Congresscritter does that, and it's only in the past ten years under GOP rule that process has been done behind closed doors, something both Reid and Pelosi have vowed to reverse.

Pork-barreling is a time-honored trading mechanism, and should not be shunned. I want your vote, so I promise that you can add an amendment to assist a brisdge being built in your district in exchange for your vote. No biggie, so long as it all happens out front.

All that said, the difference between Hoyer and Murtha, philosophically speaking, came down to two things: Murtha is closer in outlook to Pelosi, a fairly moderate Democrat, based on her voting record (don't buy the "crazed Frisco hippie" line), and Murtha is symbolic of the Democrats efforts to change course in Iraq.

Hoyer has his own ethics issues to deal with, as he is among the fattest cats on K Street, rooting around for lobbying money.

In some respects, the choice of Hoyer does not bode well for an independent Congress. Perhaps Pelosi's oversight will force Hoyer to be a bit more aggressive on lobbying reform (he has said that it's up to individual Congresscritters to police their greed), perhaps the higher profile and media attention will make him go cold turkey.

Who knows? And who knows if Murtha wouldn't turn around and start feeding more heavily at the trough. Either way, it looks like reform has taken a bit of a blow, which means that Pelosi's authority, and by extension, Reid's, since Reid himself has committed to reforming the way the Hill works, has been diminished.

And the seeds of a new Sith regime are sown...

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