November 17, 2004

No End Save Victory

Today's Musical Selection: "Civil War" by Guns 'n' Roses

Hi, everybody. Well, it's the height of the gloating season in GOP-land. I was hoping that taking a week off for the Great Debate would give the storm clouds time to pass, and that everything would be okay now.

But, of course, it isn't. We've got Condi Rice stepping in for Powell at State, the turf war between the CIA and Porter Goss, and now we have the latest revolting development from the fun-loving House GOP.

In the spirit of healing and bipartisanship, I've been trying really, really hard to find things to like about the Republican Party. I've been the soul of graciousness and conciliation to my conservative friends. I pointedly refused to fan the flames of vote-fixing in Florida and Ohio that some bitter lefty bloggers have been howling about. I even held my tongue when the right wing started smacking Arlen Specter around for even daring to suggest that maybe judicial nominations would go more smoothly if the Republicans didn't insist on cramming anti-abortion judges down the Democrats' throats. Oh, I have been a calm and peaceful man, despite my disappointment at the outcome of the election.

But see, ever since '94, Republicans have had this special knack for finding ways to be ungracious in victory. They say it's payback for the way the Democrats treated them while they (the Democrats) were in power, the political equivalent of chickens coming home to roost. I say it's their way of making sure we (the Democrats) know who's boss, the political equivalent of the end-zone dance. Either way, it can never be said that Republicans make a quiet entrance into the halls of power.

So, what did the Republicans do to get me hopped up this time? Well, it seem that the House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, is in a bit of an ethics quandary. (Specifically, he's suspected of funny dealings in connection with a PAC that helped to ram through that Texas redistricting plan that evicted almost every white Democratic Congressman with seniority in the state.) Some of his henchmen have already been indicted by a grand jury in Texas, and some GOP leaders are worried that DeLay might be next.

Now, the GOP owes a great debt to DeLay, inasmuch as he did so much to pad the Republican House majority with that crooked gerrymander he designed in the Lone Star State. So they wouldn't want to let a pesky little thing like a grand-jury indictment slow him down. So, as a token of their gratitude, they've fixed the problem:

House Republicans voted to change their rules today to allow members indicted for a felony to remain in a leadership post.

The rule change, which party leaders said could benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, was approved by a voice vote in a closed meeting of Republican House members.

Under the revised rule, members of the Republican Steering Committee would have 30 days to decide whether to take any action against an indicted party's leader. That changes an 11-year-old party rule that required any indicted member to step down from a leadership post. The full caucus also could vote to override the steering committee, which is made up of the party's leaders in the House.

The rule adopted today would apply to state and federal indictments -- a change from language proposed yesterday that would have allowed a leader indicted by a state grand jury to keep his job but required a leader indicted for a federal crime to step down.

It could benefit DeLay, they say. Yeah, possibly. Presumably, they amended it to include federal and state indictments because having it apply only to state indictments was too embarrassingly obvious, assuming that Republican leadership is still capable of feeling embarrassment.

But, you might argue, isn't this rule change, partisan in nature though it may be, a good thing? An indictment is not the same thing as an actual guilty verdict, and in the land of "innocent until proven guilty," isn't it proper to let indicted Congressional leaders keep their posts until they're actually convicted of something?

It's a reasonable argument. And it's one that the Republicans might bother to make, were it not for the fact that the Republicans made the rule in the first place. That's right, in 1993 the Republicans wrote this rule, requiring House leaders to give up their positions if indicted, in the spirit of clean and ethical government. It was, I'm sure, a complete coincidence that at the time, the powerful Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski, was under indictment for mail fraud. Just as it's complete coincidence that the rule is being written now that DeLay faces indictment himself.

Perhaps the most appalling thing is that the Republicans barely feel the need to justify this at all. They're hardly even trying to conceal the crass partisan nature of this "reform." Either they're imagining no one will notice, or they're so smug and arrogant in power that they no longer have to even pretend they're serving anyone but themselves.

Ever wonder why people hate politics? Here's a great example. The Republican Party, supposedly the party of the people, supposedly the recipient of a great electoral mandate, is prostituting any notion of "good government" in service of their own power and ambition. This is exactly the sort of action that makes people think that our political system is hopelessly venal, corrupt, and self-serving. Because sometimes, you know, it is.

To the degree that the Republicans have bothered to defend themselves at all, they're claiming that the Texas grand jury is a Democratic witch hunt, and they're not going to let their great and good friend be driven from power by a bunch of partisan hacks. ("Hello, Kettle? I have a Mr. Pot on Line 1. He says you're black.") This is the all-purpose Republican excuse for all the awful things they do: "They started it." Any of the GOP's crassly partisan moves are invariably designed to get even with some injustice the Democrats have committed, are committing, will commit, or are thinking about committing.

Even now, there are some diehard Republicans who are reading this and thinking, "The Democrats would do the exact same thing in our shoes." And if you think that's the point of this little diatribe, you're mistaken. I'm not trying to claim that the Democrats are political angels. Far from it.

My point is that the game of gotcha has to stop somewhere. I know a lot of Republicans whom I like as respect. It's people like you that give me hope for the future of political discourse in this country. So, it's to you that I direct this appeal. Please, tell me that you're you embarrassed by this. Please tell me that this crass political gamesmanship bothers you. Please tell me that you want your party to stand for something more than partisan victory any price. If you do, I promise I'll go back to optimism and thinking good things about you. If you don't, well, I guess I'll have to start studying up on the Resistance. All's fair in love and politics, right?

And lest you think I'm all complaints and no solutions, rest assured that I have been thinking about what I can do to make this country better. If you want my plan to save America... well, for that you'll have to tune in tomorrow. (It's called a teaser, kids!)

You know, blogging into the void can get depressing sometimes. You tell your story, day after day, and if people don't respond, it's easy to grow despondent and wonder if there's a point. After all, I could be spending my blogging time working to save the world, or watering my petunias, or something.

But then you get a comment like this one from reader Kathy Sparrow, and it all seems worthwhile:

Back in the '80's I produced all those radio spots that Bob Haft did as an account executive for Earle Palmer Brown, which handled the Dart-Trak-Crown-Total business. He was a fun if not difficult man to try to direct. He felt he knew what all the spots should say better than anyone else and while I for one got bored with "Books cost too much . . . " in a slightly over the top, high pitch read -- they did work. And he was always a gentleman to deal with.

On a lark today, I was searching for info on what happened to Dart as I too feel that the Target logo was a spin off of the Dart logo. So when I was on their site shopping, I checked to see who really owns the company. It was not Dart. But that made me check further.

Thanks for a great article. I enjoyed working with both Mr. Hafts (I believe I met Herb 1-2 times at big meetings where I was but a fly on the wall). Shame they let their greed and egos cloud their business judgement and destroy their families.

Thanks so much for writing in, Kathy. I'm glad you enjoyed my article. And I'm glad to hear from someone who had first-hand experience with the Hafts. At its best, a blog is a conversation between writer and readers, where I suggest topics and start the discussion and you, The Reader, chime in with your own views and experiences.

As for the substance of your remarks... your impressions of the younger Haft are in line with what I would have expected. And yeah, I can easily imagine that you got tired of the "Books cost too much!" line. Those of us in the viewing public sure did. But hey, it did stick in the mind. And my family and I still use that line as a watchword from time to time. So I guess he knew what he was talking about. The Hafts had their finger on the pulse of the consumer in a way that few people have. As you said, it's too bad that greed and ego destroyed what had been a thriving empire. (And given the fight currently underway between the Haft children and the woman Herb married just before his death, it seems the squabbling will never stop.)

That's all for today. Tomorrow, my plan to save America! See you then.

Posted by Fred at November 17, 2004 10:39 PM

I think I may have to restrict myself from your blog. Everytime I hear about some new unbelieveably stupid thing the Republicans in power are doing it makes my eyes bulge out in a really unattractive way. I've been trying to wean myself off of politics for a couple of weeks. I overdosed just a bit during the pre-election coverage. It made my brain hurt sick to my stomach most evenings. I just posted something the other day (Nov. 5th) about the current administration (and really that includes all Republicans,or, rather, most Republicans currently running our country--I'll try to be more generous) believing that it's more important to grant favors and have power than to do the right thing. Your post today confirms that thought. Aaah! Brain already hurting.

Posted by: ensie at November 18, 2004 12:24 AM

Yeah, I can't even bother to pretend this one isn't crooked.

Posted by: frinklin at November 18, 2004 01:15 AM

I've been reading you off and on, but this was an awful week at work, and I am still bummed about the election. I try to say away from "bummed," because I can get pretty despondent.

I guess all I'm saying is that you are not simply speaking into the void - at least some of us are listening. I'm just having a problem getting my thoughts in presentable order lately, and I don't want to decend into a whinefest.

Posted by: Tripp at November 18, 2004 04:36 PM

1) Why is the Republican gerrymandering of Texas any more crooked than the Democratic gerrymandering of California - or Texas pre Republican gerrymandering? It's how it's done in every state, by both parties - get over it.

2) The rule in question was REPUBLICAN CAUCUS RULE - it only applied to Republicans. Democrats have no such rule for their caucus, so they really have nothing to say on the subject.

Posted by: Richard at November 23, 2004 03:00 AM
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