Feeling Icky About Pelosi's Gushing Praise for Hastert

Nancy Pelosi offered these warm words of praise to Dennis Hastert yesterday.

"I salute Speaker Hastert for reaching this milestone - it is a testament to his leadership within the Republican Conference and the halls of Congress.

"Dennis Hastert began his career as a teacher and coach; he now serves the people of Illinois and America.  While we often disagree on issues, we agree on the importance of public service - the kind of public service that has been the hallmark of his career, whether in a classroom or on the House floor.

"In Congress, we all hold the title `honorable' by virtue of our office; Dennis Hastert holds it by virtue of his character.  I salute him for his service to our nation and look forward to many future opportunities to work together."

I mean come on.

Upon election to Speaker, Dennis Hastert immediately offered audiences to lobbyists for campaign cash, and despite widespread anger at corruption, continues  to offer these meetings. Dennis Hastert was also a reliable ally of Jack Abramoff, is 'in the mix' of a bribery scandal, and weakened the ethics committee by removing members who enforced ethics rules.

I get the need for comity, and I have begun to deeply respect Pelosi's political skills.  But these compliments of Hastert's supposedly virtuous character feel icky, and I suspect they might become quite embarrassing in the not-too-distant-future.

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Pelosi's Mistake On Jefferson and Mollohan

Matt had an excellent post this morning on the CBC defense of William Jefferson.  I admire Nancy Pelosi for addressing the corruption issue head on and think she is absolutely correct on the merits.  However, she has screwed up the politics of this issue by treating Jefferson differently than Alan Mollohan.

Jefferson and Mollohan are basically under investigation for the same thing - selling their offices to enrich themselves.  I know the argument about the video tape of Jefferson and the marked bills in his home.  I also know the Mollohan argument that he made his money in a hyped up real estate market and is being railroaded.  From the evidence leaked to the press it appears Jefferson has been caught red handed.  The Mollohan investigation is more complicated and could bring out that he was doing the same thing as Jefferson just in a sophisticated manner.   We have no idea.  What we do know is that neither has been indicted yet but Jefferson is being asked to give up a seat on Ways and Means while Mollohan gets to keep his seat on Appropriations.

What should Pelosi have done?  Rather than addressing this problem on an individual basis, she should have proposed a change to the House Dem Caucus rules.  The current rules require any member of the leadership or committee chair/ranking member to step aside temporarily if they are indicted of a crime for which there is a prison sentence of two or more years.  Once the legal proceeding is completed and if the member is found not guilty he/she is free to reassume this position.  This rule should be extended to all committee positions.  While a member is under indictment, he or she should relinquish their spot on all committees until the completion of the legal proceedings.  If the member is found not guilty, they receive their committee assignments back with full seniority.  

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CBC in Revolt Against Pelosi on Ethics

I know it's not a popular thing to say, but the blogs should cut Pelosi a little slack. This is just awful behavior on the part of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Furious black lawmakers, rallying behind Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), were pulled back from the brink of open revolt against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in an emergency meeting with her yesterday.

The meeting with a handful of CBC members was called after Pelosi wrote the embattled lawmaker, who is at the center of a massive bribery scandal, a curt note requesting his immediate resignation from the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Outraged that one of its members was being picked on even though he has not been charged with a crime, the Congressional Black Caucus had intended to issue a defiant statement against their leader but agreed after the meeting to pause, at least briefly, for reflection.

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Memo to Senate Democrats: Get Meaner

Asking William Jefferson to step down from the Ways and Means Committee, which is a very powerful post, is something a leader does. Walking into the hornet's nest that is the CBC, as Pelosi did, will cause her problems, but she believes that it is worth the sacrifice.  The Senate side, not so much.  I hope that Harry Reid, a brave man and a partisan, learns a thing or two from her about whipping a caucus, because what Glenn writes is simply spot-on.

In other words, there are serious questions about whether Gen. Hayden will comply with the law and whether he believes in the rule of law, so perhaps it's not a good idea to install him as CIA Director. Is there some reason Democrats were afraid to make that clear, straightforward, critically important point?

Yet again, Senate Democrats show that they have no more concern for the rule of law and for the excesses of this administration than Senate Republicans do. Due to their really pitiful passivity, they are every bit as much to blame for the excesses and abuses of the administration as the compliant Republicans are.

I've written before that, at least to me, the principal if not exclusive benefit of the Democrats taking over one or both of the Congressional houses in November is that it will impose some checks and limitations on the behavior of the administration and, specifically, will finally result in meaningful investigations into what has happened in our country and to our government over the last five years. But I have serious doubts about whether that would really happen.

After November, 2006, the presidential elections are not far away. The same paralyzing, stagnating, fatally passive Democratic voices who always counsel against standing up to the administration aren't going anywhere...

Is there any doubt that the likes of Senators Feinstein, Rockefeller, Levin, etc. are going to follow that thinking, as they always do? I don't see how that can be doubted. I think Congressional Democrats will be more cautious and passive, not less so, if they take over one of the Congressional houses in 2006. People who operate from a place of fear and excess caution become even more timid and fearful when they have something to lose. The Democratic Congressional Chairs are going to be desperate not to lose that newfound power, and they will be very, very vulnerable to the whiny whispers of the consultant class that they should not spend their time and energy investigating this administration or vigorously opposing them on national security matters.

John Cole is absolutely right that Democrats have managed to change virtually nothing as a result of the collapse of the Bush presidency. That's because they think the same and behave the same as they did when they were getting pushed around by Bush as a highly popular "war president." As a result, there is no reason to believe they will be any better than they are now (and have been for the past four years) if and when they take over one or both Congressional Houses. One could make a compelling case that they will be even worse.

I don't agree entirely with Glenn's sweeping generalization of Democrats, but he's right about the Senate.  The House can be governed to oppose the President, and I believe that Pelosi is serious about making that happen.  The Senate doesn't have the will and never has.

On the other hand, I'm hearing bad things about goings on in the House with regards to the net neutrality bill in the Judiciary Committee.  Pelosi's been very helpful in fighting for internet freedom there, and all of us on the blogs are going to need to step up later today on the issue.

Get ready for some people-powered politics.

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A List of My Favorite Politicians

I'm wondering who you like and why.  Here's my list of favorite politicians, though it's by no means comprehensive.  These are all people that I think are courageous and smart about wielding power, as well as interested in pushing the progressive populist agenda forward in their own way.

Deval Patrick, candidate for Governor of Massachusetts.  Deval is simply awesome.  He's smart, honest, a risk-taker, credible, progressive and a fighter.  His campaign is the most innovative state-wide campaign this cycle (with possible competition from Connecticut), and he's turning out to be competitive against a very strong Massachusetts machine using an organizing base tied into the web.  As one savvy Boston-based political consultant told me, Deval is the most exciting thing to happen to Massachusetts politics in over 20 years.  I agree.  His opponents are good people, but they just don't hold a candle to Patrick.  He will be a transformative force in American politics and government for 20 years if he wins.

Runners Up
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate in New York
Bernie Sanders, Congressman from Vermont and Senate candidate
Jerry Nadler, Congressman from New York
Barbara Boxer, Senator from California
Ned Lamont, candidate for Senate in Connecticut
Ed Markey, Congressman from Massachusetts and potential candidate for Senate in Massachusetts in 2008
John Edwards, former Senator from North Carolina, former Vice Presidential candidate
Jerry Meek, Chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party
Kent Conrad, Senator from North Dakota

Runners Up, Second Tier
Chris Bell, former Congressman from Texas and current gubernatorial candidate
Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman from San Francisco (I know this is a shocker)
Bob Menendez, Senator from New Jersey
Ron Wyden, Senator from Oregon
Louise Slaughter, Congresswoman from New York
Byron Dorgan, Senator from North Dakota

I also enjoyed meeting Robert Rodriguez, a smart 29 year old challenging a corrupt and doddering old Republican in California's 25th district.  It's a tough district, but it's great the Democratic party is fielding such talent all over the place.

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