Monday, November 22, 2004

Republicans Have a Tough Week (and no one to blame but themselves)

Sorry for the spotty posting as of late -- again, work doings have to take precedence now and then.

The biggest political news (other than John Kerry's apparent announcement that he will seek the nomination in 2008, should Democrats want to try the Adlai Stevenson approach) has been that the Republicans, fresh from receiving their self-described mandate, decided to take their fearless leaders advice and spend some political capital. Unfortunately for them, people were actually paying attention.

The first misstep was the bold move of protecting House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) (CNB refuses to call him the Hammer, reserving that for the original, NFL Hall of Famer Fred Williamson). Some may recall his rebukes from the House Ethics Committee -- in May 1999, the House Ethics Committee privately chastised DeLay for threatening a Washington trade association with retaliation for hiring a prominent Democrat as its president, and most recently in October for appearing to link political donations to a legislative favor and improperly persuading U.S. aviation authorities to intervene in the Texas redistricting dispute (which is not over yet. . . )

Three of Rep. DeLay's staff have been indicted in Travis County, Texas, relative to charges involving illegal use of corporate money to help elect Republicans in state legislative races in 2002 (Republican victories in those contests enabled DeLay ultimately to win support for the aforementioned congressional redistricting plan that resulted in the GOP's gain of five House seats in Texas). Because the prosecutor is a Democrat, DeLay supporters (or "morons" as they are commonly called) are calling this a "partisan attack," in brazenly political fashion.

Even though there is no indication that DeLay will receive an indictment himself (maybe he knows more than he is telling??) and on Wednesday, the House Republicans voted to change their internal rule, which had stated that any party leader indicted of a felony punishable by jail of at least two years (a standard that the possible charges against DeLay would meet) must resign. This was passed in 1993 to make the Democrats look bad for allowing Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) to remain as chair of the Ways and Means Committee after being indicted (he was eventually convicted of mail fraud, served time, and now works as a political commentator).

The Republicans evidently felt they needed to change the rules to protect DeLay, in light of the potential indictment. Under the new guidelines, a committee of House Republicans will have the discretion to determine whether the leader could stay in power.

The representative who initially brought charges against DeLay in the House, Chris Bell (D-TX) was rebuked by the House Ethics Committee last week for bringing too broad of a complaint against DeLay -- he included speculative assertions. This was heralded by the morons as proof that DeLay is innocent, even though the House action did not speak to the merit of the claims, merely the form of certain statements concerning bribery law. Thus, it would seem that the moral high ground is indeed a slippery slope.

The House Democrats have a step-aside provision that applies to federal and state proceedings similar to the current Republican rule. They have not moved to repeal their rule.

The other major event embarrassing Republicans was the inclusion of an obscure provision in a huge end-of-session spending bill that would allow Appropriations Committee chairmen and their assistants to examine Americans' income tax returns. Let's repeat that, because it cannot be overstated -- a provision provided the ability for some butthole, who happened to lick the shoe leather of enough people to get a chairmanship, to get your tax records (CNB paraphrased that last part).

Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) is evidently the person responsible for inserting the provision in the 3,000-page, $388 billion legislation (which provides funding for most of the government -- Mrs. CNB took a closer look at it). Rep. Istook issued a statement yesterday saying that the language had been drafted by the IRS, and that "nobody's privacy was ever jeopardized." Rather, he says this was done merely to allow the chairman to to oversee the IRS. The good news: the Senate approved a resolution nullifying the idea; House leaders promised to pass it Wednesday.

In what is expected to take the snail's pace of the investigation of the Valerie Plame leak, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Majority Leader, has promised to get to the bottom of it, saying that "accountability will be carried out" against whoever slipped the provision (again, that that would have allowed two committee chairmen to view the tax returns of any American) into the omnibus spending bill.

CNB expects the resignation(s) of some expendable aide(s) and/or some low-level representative. The protection of DeLay shows that they are not giving up their own.

Although the CNB previously stated that no one should give advice to Democrats, CNB does want to offer one little helpful hint: keep your noses clean and keep giving the Republicans rope, as they appear adept at tying nooses.