Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Fall of Tom DeLay?

   And to that I say, "good, now let's get on with House business."

   The story broke yesterday, quite literally, as I was turning off the television to walk out of the door. Afterward, I caught a few pieces on the story, but didn't really feel like getting into it until this morning. (Why do all of the big stories break when I take time off?)

   I am inclined to agree with The Jawa Report's analysis of the situation:

Tom Delay should resign from Congress. Did he do anything illegal? I've no idea. Campaign finance laws are like the tax code: so complicated as to lose all meaning to the average citizen. But whether or not Delay broke any laws is beside the point in my mind. He is the poster child for the peddling of Washington's largess to special interests.

He is the Republican version of Dan Rostenkowski. Did Rostenskowski break some minor federal laws? Perhaps, but the larger problem with the former Democratic Ways and Means Committee Chair was not that he committed 'mail fraud' but that he used his position in Congress to take my money away from me and give to his constituents, his campaign donors, and his ideological allies.

* * *

Is Ronnie Earle a partisan hack? That's a given. But even partisan hacks sometimes get it right, even when they are motivated by, well, partisanship. I've no idea if he's gotten it right here, but again, that is the least of my concerns.

   I am hesitant to call for DeLay's resignation from the House at this time, but I think that The Jawa Report might be on to something. Perception is a profound influence on the electorate, if not the only one. Removing Delay from the picture makes it more difficult for the Democrats to paint the House with their "culture of corruption" sound bite, something I heard CNN's Joe John's use verbatim perhaps three times in two minutes this morning. (I suppose this means that congratulations are in order for Nancy Pelosi, who actually got a message to stick overnight for once.)

   As for the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, is he a "partisan hack?" I don't know, but I have one immediate nagging concern. The best defense against his status as a partisan I have heard his defenders offer is that he has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans. So what? If he had not, I would be really concerned since Travis County -- or, the city of Austin, as it is known more broadly -- is a Democratic stronghold. That Earle himself acknowledges that "power cannot be abused by those who lack it" is heartening, but you would think that his friends and supporters could offer something more. It's rather like Ted Kennedy making a big deal about supporting more Republican nominees to the Supreme Court than Democrat nominees when, in the time he has been a senator there have been (off the top of my head) roughly double the number of Republican nominees. The argument only works when the two groups are of roughly equal size, and they aren't even close in Austin, Texas.

   As a corrollary to this, look at the results Earle got in his prosecutions. Specifically, look at the apparent game of chicken he played with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 1994, when he completely dropped the charges as the case was getting ready to go to trial. Republicans familiar with the case still that whole episode was a prosecutorial travesty, and probably for good reason, though whether Earle is a partisan or merely displays flashes of incompetence, or neither, is still subject of some debate.

   And this is why I am not yet convinced that Tom DeLay should resign his seat altogether at this time, for he sets a chilling precedent if he does. If DeLay resigns his seat now, regardless of the outcome of these charges, then any member of the House will be pressured to do the same when he is placed in the role of the proverbial "ham sandwich," regardless of whether the prosecutor is motivated by partisanship or not. These prosecutions take a long time to reach resolution; the pillars of principle surrounding such a legislator (and, perhaps his party) are sure to crumble under the weight of public pressure applied for so long. Now that DeLay has stepped down from his leadership post, the rest of us -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- should consider very carefully the ramifactions of the doubtlessly numerous proposals bound to come out of this fiasco between now and its conclusion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Gone Fishing

   I needed a "mental health day" off from the blogs, so that's why I have been away today.

   I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bad Movie Roulette

   As a follow-up to this post, a comment reminded me of a game my friends and I sometimes played in law school so as not to miss out on certain entertainment opportunities: "Bad Movie Roulette". The rules follow.

  1. With a group of at least four friends, find the pre-viewed movie section of your local video store.

  2. Each person selects the worst movie he is willing to subject the rest of the group to.

  3. After everyone has selected a movie, one person collects the house keys of all participants. The keys are then given to a video store clerk, who is asked to select one key(ring) at random.

  4. The person whose keys were selected must buy his bad movie.

  5. Everyone else must join the proud new owner in watching the newly-purchased movie, which will henceforth be known as " . . . presented by [buyer]" (e.g., Save the Last Dance, presented by Brian Smith). This is done to memorialize the occasion, which is especially useful when your buddy has selected a romantic comedy for your all-male group.

  6. After the viewing has ended, the buyer must keep the movie and add it to his collection. (This rule was instituted after a member of our group detroyed his copy of Battlefield Earth after the initial viewing.

That's it. Feel free to add drinking game elements, but it's really not necessary. The game stands on its own and is a topic of conversation for months, if not years, afterward.

Today's Required Reading

   Surprisingly enough, it comes from E.J. Dionne, who I don't often read. He examines the "disarray" in the Democratic party, and some of the challenges the party as it looks ahead:

Consider that in 2004 Democrat John Kerry won 85 percent of the liberal vote and defeated Bush by a healthy 54 percent to 45 percent among moderates. But Bush prevailed because he won 84 percent of a conservative vote that constitutes more than a third of the electorate.

Or consider the lay of the land for the 2006 congressional elections. It takes 218 seats to form a majority in the House of Representatives. Kerry carried only 180 congressional districts, according to the Almanac of American Politics. Put another way, Democrats, according to the Almanac, now hold and have to defend 41 House districts that Bush carried. Republicans are defending only 18 districts that Kerry carried.

The core difficulty for Democrats is that they must solve two problems simultaneously -- and solving one problem can get in the way of solving the other. Over time Democrats need to reduce the conservative advantage over liberals in the electorate, which means the party needs to take clear stands that could detach voters from their allegiance to conservatism. For some in the party this means becoming more moderate on cultural issues such as abortion. For others it means full-throated populism to attract lower-income social conservatives. Some favor a combination of the two, while still others worry that too much populism would drive away moderate voters in the upper middle class. The debate often leads to intellectual gridlock.

Read it all.

Virginia Democrats can't be this desperate

   But if they are serious about the guy who has done little of consequence since he was the junior partner of the Good Will Hunting screenwriting duo, they can't ever say another word about Ah-nold.

Inane quote of the day

   Are you a human rights violator?

   "Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me. -- Debbie Lawson, neo-natal manager of a West Yorkshire, UK, hospital on its new policy prohibiting cooing at babies on "human rights" grounds.

[Hat tip: Tinkerty Tonk]

Monday, September 26, 2005

Best website of the week

Check out this collection of photos of puppies taken with a wide-angle lens.

Instant tranquility...

[Hat tip: Danegerus]

The Eleventh Commandment

   "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican." --Ronald Reagan

   Except today.

   I have spent a great deal of time watching the Senate over the last couple of weeks, specifically concerning the confirmation of Judge John Roberts. I have seen some tactics I liked, and some i loathed, on both sides of the aisle. I had my doubts in January when Senator Arlen Spector was due to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, but I am now not afraid to acknowledge that I was wrong and that he was the best person for the position at this time. Kudos is also in order to most of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for giving Judge Roberts a fair hearing (with the specific exception of Ted Kennedy, who I am certain had decided to vote no long before the nomination was even announced).

   And now I break the 11th Commandment:

   Will someone please silence Jeff Sessions? Every time he speaks, I want to bang my head against the wall. I get the distinct impression that he is the dimmest bulb in the Senate and everytime he speaks people make a negative association with the party. But wait, there's more...

   It seems that he wanted to find a victim of Hurricane Katrina who is subject to the estate tax as an exemplar of the perverse effects of the test. Reasonable people can disagree about the efficacy of the tax (I tend to lean against it), but would someone please shut up this senator who has a complete lack of self-awareness? Senator Sessions, time and again, damages the party.

   And, finally, Sessions rambled repeatedly during the confirmation proceedings, performing a precarious jig on the edge of coherence. His pontifications and softball questions were so simplistic that even Judge Roberts looked uncomfortable during Sessions's time.

   And to think that some people suggest he could be a nominee to the Supreme Court. I hope not.