On the Outside, Looking In
Congressional Democrats are having a field-day with the Jack Abramoff-directed payoffs to (mostly) Republican office holders. It’s kind of a grin, because all that principled positioning shields the fact that they’ve been very much cut out of the spoils.
Tom DeLay, everyone’s favorite punching bag, now that he’s sidelined with legal problems that threaten to get far worse, heralded the restructuring of lobbyist access to Congress with his Republicans only strategy. It was incredibly and alarmingly successful. Lobbyists are non-denominational in their bribery of legislators. They go where the access is and for ten years the access has been through DeLay.
It's illuminating to listen to the silence in K-Street, where the halls of lobbyist power reside and the temperament is unruffled to the point of boredom. They know the appropriate loopholes will be looped.
Democrats, lunging at the ethics issue like junkyard dogs, are actually far more angered by their being denied access to the trough than they are by moral judgments. They're also jumpy about whose name might be found next in Jack Abramoff's appointment book. Washington has become a sort of governmental eBay, where everything has its price. This latest Democratic ethical Band-Aid outdoes the Republicans because, as one might expect, Dems have far less to lose.
Grandstanding from the Library of Congress, Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York held forth that "We are going to take the country back and we are throwing down the gauntlet today." She added, "Mr. Abramoff and his associates will be held up as the beginning and end of our congressional crisis, but they are just the symptom of a larger problem. Now is the time to realize that the Republican members of Congress who put America up for sale have neither the ability nor the credibility to lead us in a new direction."
Oh my, gauntlets and new directions again. When all else fails the speechwriters, they haul out the old and shopworn "lead us in a new direction."
The unavoidable fact is that Democrats have been relentlessly unsuccessful in leading us anywhere.
Unable to get along with the last Democratic president (remember Bill Clinton?) they lay on their sides while he was savaged and allowed their congressional majority to slip out the side door. Since Harry Truman, the Dems have lost the White House nine out of fourteen times and in all 65% of their losses fielded such dismal candidates as
Adlai Stevenson, the Illinois intellectual (twice)
Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson's house cat
George McGovern, the dove from South Dakota
Walter Mondale, a vice president
Mike Dukakis, a man unknown before and after his defeat
Al Gore, the smartest and most qualified man ever to lose
John Kerry, the best reason to question presidential primaries
Most of them were eerie in their ineptness for national debate, let alone leadership. But how Al Gore managed to so bungle a slam-dunk makes one wonder who Louise Slaughter has in mind to lead us in that acclaimed new direction. We are no doubt destined to watch Hillary Clinton add her name to the losers list.
Enough new direction rhetoric, you wild-eyed Dems. The United States Congress likes the old direction well enough and like spoiled schoolchildren you may all point your pudgy little fingers and stamp your tiny little feet, but you're all unindicted co-conspirators. The money’s pretty good for a three-day week, the campaign coffers are too fat to even consider putting them on a diet and, without all those fawning lobbyists, who would actually want to spend their time legislating?
Ms. Slaughter, there is no leadership in your party. To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, you are not leading, you are following in a different direction.