Democrats serious about ethics reform

Nancy Pelosi got off to a rough start last week, but her strategy for passing ethics reform is brilliant. Pelosi and the House leadership plan on breaking up the ethics package into distinct pieces, and each piece will be introduced by incoming freshmne and debated seperately on the House floor. The Democrats want to demonstrate that they will do business differently than their Republican predecessors by permitting more debate and amendments.

As a result, this reform agenda will get more coverage in the press as each piece, such as gift ban, earmark reform and the pay-as-you-go rules, will be debated separately.

Lame GOP sticks with lame leadership

After getting humiliated in the midterm elections, you would think that House Republicans might consider going with new leadership. Guess again.

Minority whip Roy Blunt also issued a combative and obnoxious statement indicating that he and the other Republicans are not interested in bi-partisanship:

“For twelve years, the Democrats have gotten away without leading, without offering an agenda, and without saying what they’re actually for. Now they will be forced to govern.

“Under this Republican leadership, the job of the Minority Whip will no longer be to go to the House floor every day and lose. Instead, each time we hold our team together and force the Democrats to vote like Democrats, we’ll be taking one more step toward recapturing our majority in 2008.

“One-hundred-forty-nine Democrats demonstrated yesterday that they are willing to buck Nancy Pelosi. We’ll work each day to give those Democrats a viable alternative to her liberal, San Francisco agenda.”

It will be fun to watch these hacks get their heads handed to them now that they are in the minority. Every Democrat who reads this statement will probably forget about the divisive race for majority leader and focus on keeping the minority Republicans in their place. Blunt just did Pelosi a huge favor.

Fighting terrorists as we leave Iraq

Newsweek’s Christpher Dickey has been one of the nest reporters covering the Iraq War from the beginning. If you read his columns, you knew that the chest-thumping and rosy scenarios coming from the Bush administration were not to be believed.

As we look for an exit strategy from this mess, Dickey explains how our withdrawel is playing around the world. The facts are grim – the terrorists will be emboldened.

Terrorists will indeed believe that all this is a triumph for their God, their vision, His design. But the United States and its friends would be repeating one of the egregious mistakes that got us into this sorry mess if we allowed the bad-guys’ opinions to dictate our strategy and tactics.

The signal error of the Bush administration was to embrace the terrorist rhetoric of war, and then to militarize a conflict that should have been handled all along as a matter for the police, the intelligence services and public diplomacy. The struggle ought to have been focused as a fight against malicious individuals, not their aberrant ideologies, against small criminal groups, not the vast civilizations they claim to represent. (A report from the James A. Baker III Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations in 2002 tried to make this point before we went into Iraq, but alas …)

Dickey again presents a powerful argument. We have to be smart about our counter-terrorism techniques.

Webb declared the winner in Virginia

Every once in a while, and election comes along that restores my faith in Democracy. Not simply because my candidate won, but because the more qualified and honorable candidate won.

Jim Webb’s victory over George Allen is one of those elections.

The question of hearings

We’re starting to hear the pundits explain why the Democrats shouldn’t start holding hearings and issuing subpoenas. Idiots like Lanny Davis are making this case, arguing that the Democrats shouldn’t make the same mistake that the GOP made in the 90′s when they mercilessly investigated Bill Clinton.

Certainly, there is potential for abuse of this power, but the differences between now and 1998 are very stark. We are three years into a disastrous war, and the GOP has done little oversight over the past six years. The investigations of Bill Clinton seem trivial compared to the isues facing us today.

The leadup to the Iraq War and the prosecution of the war were marred by deception and incompetence by the Bush administration, not to mention tremendous waste and likely war profiteering. It is the duty of the Congress, regardless of party affiliation, to investigate these matters. The public will accept it, and embrace it, if it is done in a fair manner. Republicans like John McCain, John Warner and Lindsay Graham will support responsible inquiries as well.

The Democrats have no choice – they ran on the need for oversight; now they must deliver.

Dems will push for tax reform

The Democrats will be working on serious reforms of the tax code, including a sensible compromise on the Estate Tax.

Donald Rumsfeld has resigned

Finally.

Update: Former CIA director Robert Gates will take over as the new Defense Secretary. This might signal a willingness by Bush to listen to his father’s old advisors. Bush also cited the highly anticipated report from the Iraq Study Group chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.

Ballot initiatives break against conservatives

Last night on MSNBC, Pat Buchanon argued that the voters were rejecting the GOP but were supporting socially conservative ballot initiatives. It turns out he spoke to soon. Conservatives suffered significant defeats in South Dakota, Missouri and Arizona.

In conservative South Dakota, the voters overwelmingly rejected a ban on all abortions by a 55-45 margin. This is a huge loss for cultural conservatives and a significant win for liberals and for libertarians. This, coupled with the outrage over the Terry Schiavo fiasco, makes it clear that most voters do not want government officials intruding into their personal lives. The social conservatives have reached too far. Hopefully Republicans will pay attention and start moving back towards the middle on social issues. As for Democrats, hopefully they will develope a backbone on these social issues. Their unwillingness to stand up to the Republicans during the Terry Schiavo controversy was shamefull.

Missouri provided the next big win for liberals by passing the stem-cell research initiative. This has become a huge wedge issue for Democrats. Hopefully this vote, along with the gains by Democrats in the House and the Senate, will lead to passage of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research with margins sufficient to override a veto by President Bush.

Finally, Arizona is the first state to reject a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The proposed amendment would have also banned civil unions. Again, many voters apparantly believed that the social conservatives went to far. A wide majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, but more and more Americans are open to the concept of protecting legal rights for civil unions.

MSNBC is so lame

MSNBC can’t help themselves. John Kerry botched a joke, and they can’t stop talking about it. The fact that we lost 103 soldiers in November hasn’t been mentioned yet this morning. They also haven’t covered the story of how the Iraqi government is stopping oir military’s operations in Sadr City.

The executives at MSNBC made a smart call when they decided to devote this week to coverage of the upcoming elections, but they destroy their credibility when they focus on tabloid-style stories like the Kerry quote.

While we’re on the subject of losing credibility, John McCain seems determined to destroy his reputation as a fair and reasonable politician. His attack on Kerry was shocking, given that Kerry explained that he mispoke. Any serious lawmaker not obsessed with scoring partisan points would take him at his word. McCain is becoming a political hack.

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