S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Looking ahead to Congress in September

Members of the House and Senate, are out of town in August, Washington D.C. is hot and muggy, and July has come and gone. As my previous "Congress Tuesday" blog posts have noted, when the U.S. Congress returns to session, legislators will crave a period of success. But Public opinion about how Congress is doing is at another low point.
The blogosphere again has its opportunity to assist Congress to do a better job. But our task is increasingly difficult, given today's Senator Larry Craig headlines. Discouraged citizens tend to summarily dismiss politicians after such events, saying - "A pox on all your houses!" But - whether they watch the news or not - American's sense of well-being, of safety, or even of economic stability, is driven by one unyielding issue, the wars in the Middle East.
Much of the Congressional agenda on Iraq will be influenced by what Senators and Representatives learned during this few weeks away from the U.S. Capitol. Josephine Hearn, writing for (8/25/07), feels that some of the lawmakers will shift their positions on what to do about the war, particularly after a visit to Iraq. To quote,
. . . perhaps it wasn’t a surprise when Rep. Brian Baird, a low-key Democrat from Washington State who has spent a career toiling away on local issues, suddenly came out in support of President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq.

. . . The waters are muddied for both parties. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a bigger fish than either Mahoney or Baird, urged the president on Thursday to begin pulling troops out of Iraq by Christmas.

. . . This August, the future of U.S. troops in Iraq is a topic very much in flux. Even as the chambers of Congress stand silent, a debate rages throughout the country. Lawmakers have heard it as they pad the streets of their hometowns, as they attend Rotary Club meetings and mingle with picnickers and paradegoers.
Democrats in Congress have a difficult task ahead. What can they do to repair public opinion? Many will refine their positions; others will forge stubbornly ahead - oblivious. And the public sees it as gridlock. Ed Kilgore at The Democratic Strategist tackled the question on 8/1/07, with "Unlocking the Grid." To quote from the piece,
One of the most contentious issues dividing political observers at present is how to interpret the partisan implications of the public's exceptionally sour mood, which extends to the Democratic-controlled Congress as well as the Bush administration.

The reigning theme among Beltway pundits is that Americans are sick of gridlock and partisanship in Washington, and blame both parties equally. There's a variant of this theme that's popular in some precincts on the Left: that the Democratic Congress's support is collapsing because it has been insufficiently confrontational towards Bush, particularly on Iraq; according to this analysis, cutting off funds for the war, or perhaps even moving towards impeachment of Bush and Cheney, is the only way to save Democrats from complicity with a hated status quo.

The other side of the argument has been carefully presented in the latest Democracy Corps strategy memo by Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Anna Iparraguirre. . . the DCorps trio concludes that the partisan conflict in Washington is not eroding, and may actually be enhancing, a strong Democratic advantage going into 2008.
August is ending and Congress is wrapping up its summer recess. I conclude this post with a couple of newsletter resources that I find helpful to staying in the news loop. Each time I open my e-mails I am left with a good sense of renewal of the fight to get Congress to do its job.
  1. Congress News - Available via regular e-mails from
  2. The Democratic Strategist - Managing Editor Ed Kilgore (and co-editors William Galston, Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira) also will send the newsletter via periodic e-mails.
My links:
Cross posted at The Reaction.
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about the late Grace Paley.
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The Future Was Yesterday said...

I by no means approve of Craig's personal behavior, but I do think we tend to take one trait, and use it to write people off as a whole. Witness Bill Clinton. I didn't approve of his behavior by any means - but he was still one of the best President's we've ever had. "Morality" is only one aspect of a person, as we've well seen.

Democrats in Congress have a difficult task ahead. What can they do to repair public opinion?

What they're sent there for, would be a good start. The bunch currently in office, were sent there with a very clear mandate - and once there, they ignored that, trying instead to use smoke and mirrors to placate us. If they think we're that stupid, then I fear more of the same.

Carol Gee said...

Future, one should get more put off by Craig's inauthentic behavior than anything else. Poor guy. The price for honesty must be horrendous in his circles.
In a way, this scandal may spill over onto congressional Democrats, if they lose sight of the bigger picture. There is plenty of legislative oversight in Iraq, preventing an attack on Iran, passing spending measures, guarding the Constitution . . . I could go on and on. You are right in your caution about smoke and mirrors. Thanks.