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Monday, May 29, 2006

The eye of the beholder 


The New York Times is running a story this morning that exposes the gulf in perceptions that drives American politics at the moment: "Talk of Pelosi as Speaker Delights Both Parties":

Hoping to win a Congressional majority in November, some optimistic Democratic lawmakers have taken to referring to Representative Nancy Pelosi as "speaker," as in speaker of the House. So have some optimistic Republicans.

"She ought to be a big component of the fall campaign," said Ed Rogers, a Republican strategist and lobbyist. "There are some Democrats who make really good bad guys."

Ms. Pelosi, the California Democrat and House minority leader, lends herself to easy caricature by Republicans. She is an unapologetic liberal, with a voting record to match (the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, said she was neither a "New Democrat" nor an "Old Democrat" but a "prehistoric Democrat"). She is wealthy (married to an investment banker, she has assets listed at more than $16 million). She represents San Francisco, which Republicans love to invoke as a hotbed of counterculture decadence and extremism.

This is the best part:
Asked why she makes such a popular Democratic bogyman, or bogywoman, Ms. Pelosi shrugged, smirked and, finally, smiled.

"I am an Italian-American Catholic grandmother," she said, "very traditional in terms of values."

Well, that explains why she has a 100% rating from NARAL:
Voted YES on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
Voted NO on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
Voted NO on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)
Voted NO on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
Voted NO on funding for health providers who don't provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
Voted NO on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
Voted NO on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
Voted NO on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record. (Dec 2003)
Supported funding contraception and UN family planning. (Jul 1999)

Extended voting record here.

Now, regular readers know that I believe some abortion should be lawful and am otherwise pretty liberal on social matters, so I do not even oppose all these votes. I just don't know a lot of Italian Catholic grandmothers who would have gone Pelosi's way. But then, she did say it with a smirk.

For more excitement, see this interview of Pelosi in American Prospect. She thinks that the decisive fight was the President's failed effort to reform entitlements:
So we’re looking at 50 [seats], we’re not looking at 15, we’re looking at 50 seats and it’s very exciting. The two things we had to do to put us in play -- we had to take down President Bush’s numbers, and he gave us an opportunity when he made his assault on Social Security....The newly-President-again and he was going to save Social Security. Anyway, we had to go outside of D.C. … a thousand town hall meetings across the country to persuade the people … by September, 70 percent of the seniors were against what the President … but in the meantime the message came in -- he doesn’t care about people like you.

She also confesses that the strategy has been to "take down" the President, war or no war:
It bothered us that his number on “cares about people like me” was higher than it should be in light of what happens here on the floor every day. So, took his number down there, laid the foundation on the unethical behavior here. We’ve been doing that for a while, but it finally was taking the culture of corruption, incompetence, and cronyism. Pound away on that and then of course along came Katrina as further evidence of this incompetence, cronyism, and corruption, and the war spoke for itself.

People criticize us -- “you don’t have your own plans.” You know what? We’ll take the heat, Harry and I. We’re willing to take the heat, and we just have to keep the spotlight on the President of the United States. For these and other reasons, the President’s numbers are very low.

Quite pointedly, she barely denies that Democrats don't have their "own plans." That is beside the point to the next Speaker of the House. She is running a campaign that is at one level the opposite of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, which focused on what the Republicans would do. Pelosi believes her most important new power will be to issue subpoenas:
And one of the great triumphs of our victory in November will be the power of the subpoena. This is a Congress that is not only a rubberstamp for the President, but has abdicated its responsibility, derelict in its responsibility for oversight. [inaudible] The power to investigate, the power to subpoena will show the American people how far they were willing to go for their own agenda at the expense of the lives of our kids, the limbs of our kids, a trillion-dollar war, the cost to our reputation around the world.

Read the whole thing.

7 Comments:

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Tue May 30, 08:44:00 AM:

Pelosi ought not get the speaker's chair even if Demcrats whoop Republicans in November. I haven't been happy with her. She's a lightning rod and a newsmaker, but I haven't seen any evidence that she's an effective leader.

Harry Reid, on the Senate side, has been doing a very competent job given the circumstances.

Re: Pelosi's remarks on subpoena - this is an important issue for anyone who feels that the Republican party, who were recklessly bloodthirsty in the Clinton years, have shielded bush from even the most cursory examination of his constitutionally questionable behavior. "Subpoena power" is a very important voter mobilization phrase for those voters who want to know the truth.

Sen. Liddy Dole and the rest of the running scared Republicans are using "subpoena power" as a call to arms for their base. If you don't get out there and beat Mr. Democrat, then the Democrats will...

*OH THE HORROR*

...investigate whether the NSA program, the Cheney energy meetings, the Delaybramoff juggernaut, the Iraq War intelligence, etc. were legal or illegal.

Finding that out is, evidenced by the moral outrage from the political right, morally wrong.

Pelosi's a good person to help bring out the lefty base, but she's not the right person to lead the House.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue May 30, 10:43:00 AM:

"the Democrats will...

*OH THE HORROR*

...investigate whether the NSA program, the Cheney energy meetings, the Delaybramoff juggernaut, the Iraq War intelligence, etc. were legal or illegal."

Unfortunately, that is not Congress's function. That is the Department of Justic and Supreme Court's function. (and we've already seen what Congress thinks about DoJ investigations, haven't we?) The only time Congress should get involved with legality issues aside from actual legislation is #1 oversight, #2 budget, and #3 impeachment of officials. Anything else is just a blustering political witch hunt.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Tue May 30, 10:51:00 AM:

Dawnfire,

I agree. Things like Whitewater shouldn't lead to Congressional investigations.

However, when it comes to salient Constitutional issues, it is certainly Congress' role to provide oversight, and if it appears laws have been broken then it's up to them to initiate impeachment proceedings.

We've got lots of constitutional issues being broached and breached by the Republican administration. I for one would like to see the Congress oversee things like NSA spying, Iraq intel failures, voting irregularities, ethics breaches by Congressional members, etc.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Tue May 30, 11:54:00 AM:

It's a bad sign that the government is so afraid of having to answer questions truthfully.  

By Anonymous Liberal Percy, at Tue May 30, 12:18:00 PM:

YooHoo! Wake up! If you take a poll of the American People (you know - those folks who actually hold the values you keep talking about) most of us WANT stem cell research to continue, most of us WANT a woman's right to choose to be protected, and most of us think the whole "Don't help 3rd world countries with Family Planning because somebody, somewhere might have an abortion" thing us just plain STUPID!

Traditional moral values include helping those less fortunate, being forgiving, and being respectful of the rights of others, even if you disagree with them. All of which are lacking from the pseudo-"traditional values" Republicans.

Of course the job of the "loyal opposition" is to defeat your opponent. Duh! This is politics, you know. Karl Rove is the master of "take down" politics and you're upset because Democrats are trying to do the same?

You Republicans are the biggest bunch of whiney cry-babies I've ever seen. You spend 8 years spreading the most vicious, nasty, 99% false, personal shit about Bill Clinton, win a couple of elections while spreading the same kind of smears and lies about Al Gore and John Kerry - and then you complain about a Democrat wanting to take down Bush's poll numbers???

You remind me of the bully who whomps on the little kid for an hour, and then runs home crying to mommie when the little kid dares to hit back.

Grow up!  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue May 30, 09:13:00 PM:

"However, when it comes to salient Constitutional issues, it is certainly Congress' role to provide oversight, and if it appears laws have been broken then it's up to them to initiate impeachment proceedings."

This statement is both right and wrong. It is Congress's duty to initiate impeachments should sufficient violations be found. However, it is NOT up to Congress to interpret the law. That is why we have such a robust court system in this country. Congress and other legislatures violate the Constitution all the time; else how would so many laws and rulings be struck down as unconstitutional every year?

"I for one would like to see the Congress oversee things like NSA spying, Iraq intel failures, voting irregularities, ethics breaches by Congressional members, etc."

They did have oversight on the NSA program (the administration was very specific about that) and Iraqi intelligence. I believe I posted the other day examples of Democratic Congressmen speaking positively about the Iraqi WMD intelligence before the war, so they obviously had access. (Otherwise they were just speaking out of ignorance in order to hop on the band wagon, thought I doubt it) Voting irregularities are handled by an executive agency (FEC? I'm going by memory) and potentially law enforcement. Ethics breaches are handled by the Department of Justice, also an executive agency, except for the technicality of expelling a member of Congress from the legislative body.

Advocating the increased (and in some cases, novel) involvement of Congress in so many matters begins to infringe on the separation of powers, something we want to avoid as a political entity. The three branches are SUPPOSED to bicker and argue; any dispute between two can be settled by the third. i.e. this FBI Bribery investigation thing will be settled by the courts. So will the NSA program, and so on. In fact, if the Dems in Congress were really serious about them being 'illegal' then they'd bring suit against the administration and file for an injunction. Since they haven't (or at least, haven't succeeded) doesn't that demonstrate them to be, in fact, legal? (or, in deference to the alternative perspective, sufficiently grey that they feel that they *could* lose and thereby set a legal precedent for something they'd rather just condemn)

At work today I voiced the idea that now, with disgust with both parties running at all time highs, would be a great time for a third party to form and perhaps dethrone one of the two current ones. I was a little surprised at the unanimous agreement amongst my colleagues.

So how about this? We form the Tigerhawk Party, and whatever Screwie and Cardinalpark can agree on becomes our platform. Give such a vague and generalized platform a positive, progressive spin and we can change America!

Percy: You're an arrogant self righteous tool, unschooled in the way of politics and detached from reality. Or a troll. Go away.  

By Blogger Fabio, at Wed May 31, 06:05:00 AM:

Pelosi would be the is masculine and plural of "hairy" in Italian...

These values Pelosi is talking about sound a lot like "cattocommunism", a strange and rather typically Italian mixture of catholic and cammunist/socialist doctrine.  

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