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 14, 2007

Who would not want success?

Small successes for Congress to tout - A number of Democrats in Congress have yet to get back into our good graces, because of what they did just before going into the August recess. Though they have been able to rack up some successes, the Saturday night vote of 16 senators and 41 house members, to give this administration unfettered permission to spy on Americans, was extremely upsetting. Many of us are still mad at them for running away, however.
In the spirit of reconciliation, today's post is an attempt to look more rationally at a bigger picture of both failures and successes. To begin, Martin Kady II and Josephine Hearn authored an excellent analytical piece titled, "Seven Month Niche" (8/1/07) at The story explored the strategies, successes and failures to date of the current Congress. To quote from their story,
Children's health insurance, congressional ethics, a minimum wage increase, Sept. 11 Commission recommendations -- every good Democrat will have his talking points memorized for the August recess.

. . . This strategy may work for now, but in avoiding landmark compromises in favor of short-term political victories, the Harry Reid-Nancy Pelosi Congress has used its power to frame political debate rather than build a substantive legislative legacy so far. Indeed, the Reid-Pelosi Congress so far is not challenging the legends of legislative icons like Lyndon Johnson or Sam Rayburn, Democratic giants who forged compromises in divided chambers and won credit for historic legislation.

. . . Democrats will spend the August recess arguing that they have accomplished much of their agenda while challenging Bush on Iraq and a wide range of oversight investigations. But they realize that in the long run, they need a legislative strategy that matches their political agility.

A success in the making is still unfinished: New Kids Health Care Bill has Public support (8/1/07), from the Democratic Strategist newsletter, is the story of the U.S. House passage of the SCHIP bill reauthorizing health care for kids. It is a big plus for Speaker Pelosi. To quote,
Good News for Democrats, as well as America's kids. The U.S. House of Reps. has passed legislation providing health care coverage for 4+ million uninsured children in low-income families. The legislation which passed by a vote of 225-204 (10 Dems opposed, 5 Republicans supporting), also prevents cuts in Medicare payments to physicians and is partly financed by a 45 cent per pack increase in the federal cigarette tax (NYT coverage here).

Of course President Bush has threatened a veto, should similar legislation pass the Senate, which will provide a clear demonstration of which party gets it that health security -- especially for all American children -- is a cornerstone of true national security. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-MD) said it well: “If America is the greatest country in the world, then all of our children should have health insurance.”

. . . Back in January, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined by a group of children of House members, called the House to order, "in the name of America's children." Predictably, the GOP accused her of grandstanding. Apparently she meant business.

Senator Leahy has clearly been a success - steadfast, smart and tough, but fair. He is featured here as an example of what courageous legislators should be doing, in addition to voting against amending the FISA law. In another (8/1/07) story, on an interview, the Senator successfully and correctly attacks the Bush administration. To quote from the story by Roger Simon, Leahy said:
-- Chief Justice Roberts has made the court an "arm of the Republican Party."

-- Gonzales "has undermined law enforcement in America" and if he continues to stand behind his testimony to the Judiciary Committee, Leahy will ask the inspector general of the Justice Department to launch a formal investigation of the attorney general.

-- President Bush has stated, "in effect, that he is a law unto himself and the president can overrule the law, the courts and congressional actions."

-- Bush does not "listen to any views other than his own" and that those views are shaped by a vice president who has "an inordinate amount of control over him."

Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke in quiet, measured tones but nonetheless expressed outrage over what he sees as an attack on the system of checks and balances that he says keeps America a democracy.

Now back to Congress' failure to protect the constitution - Staff, writing for the Democratic Strategist on (8/6/07) about the FISA "yes" vote fallout, give a very good analysis of why misguided legislators in Congress had nothing to fear from voting against amending the FISA law. Their anxious votes had huge and probably unintended fallout. This excellent newsletter includes lengthy quotes and explores the unfortunate late-night episode. Titled, "Will FISA Vote hurt Dems?", it points out that their choices have helped the Republicans and angered the press as well as members of their own party. To quote,
Progressive political blogs are abuzz with the fallout from the vote expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to permit warrantless wiretapping on American citizens. You can read about it all over the pro-democratic blogosphere.

But Glenn Greenwald has the most persuasive argument that Dems who voted against the FISA expansion need fear no political repercussions. As Greenwald explains in his Salon [S/SW note: premium only] post "Attention Democrats: GOP fear-mongering does not work": . . .

. . . Greenwald makes a pretty convincing case that Democrats who voted against authorizing warrantless eavesdropping have little to worry about in terms of public opinion. Less clear is whether some of the 16 Democratic Senators and 41 Dem House members who who voted for it . . . will pay a political price.

The Constitution is meant to reconcile us all. To conclude, and in a big stretch for overly partisan Democrats, this is a clever and fun piece of writing about the constitution that focuses on Warren Buffet and Republican candidates. It is "Sharing the secrets of the Constitution" by Roger Simon at (6/28/07). To quote just a bit,
Don't you wish the U.S. Constitution was not a secret document, its contents known only to a few?

Don't you wish there were copies of it that we could distribute to schoolchildren so they could become better citizens? Or maybe we could put it up on the Web for everybody to read?

What? The Constitution is not a secret document? Schoolchildren do learn about it? And it is on the Web.
A Democratic Congress must succeed when it comes back into session, against the destructiveness of the current administration. And Democratic Congress watchers must find reconciliation with erring legislators, find ways not to "eat our own kind" for behaving badly. It is hard and a stretch, as I said last week in "Dems get mixed reviews," but it will pay off for the country in the end.
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The Future Was Yesterday said...

every good Democrat will have his talking points memorized for the August recess.
I've come to think "Good Democrat" is an oxymoron..(:

Were this just another ho hum election, their talking points would be very valid. This is not. They were sent there explicitly by people who worked tirelessly, to stop this war, and rein this lawless President in. In that regard, they must be regarded as utter failures.

They better start looking under the bed for votes to keep them there, because the votes that put them there, are damn mad, this voter being one of them!!

Carol Gee said...

Future, I vascillate back and forth between where you are and where I was when I wrote this post. I guess it is mainly because I tend to be an optimist, and because I believe in the resiliency of the constitutional government under we have lived for so long. As I think about it, that resiliency is there precisely because we can eventually "throw the rascals out."
Uh, if we can get a reliable election process. Future, my optimism is flagging as I write. Kidding. . . Thanks for your passionate comment.