Sunday, November 12, 2006

Changing the Tone in the House

One of the most encouraging things I've heard since election night was Pelosi's vow to change the tone in the House. You probably know that the Republican House leadership turned the atmosphere there poisonous over the last ten-or-so years, but in case you've forgotten how bad it really is, I refer you back to this classic New Republic piece, "Oppressed Minority."

Now, the Democrats were far from angelic when they ran things in the House, but the Republican leadership ran, in the words of George Miller, "a fascistic system." Among many other things, they would routinely refuse to grant the Democrats rooms in which to meet, forcing them to find space in the Senate office building. Most shockingly and notoriously, Republicans would often refuse to allow Democrats to even read legislation before it was voted on. Democrats have, in effect, been completely cut out of the legislative system

Such anti-(small 'd')democratic actions should have lost the Republicans the House years ago, but apparently the electorate either didn't know or didn't care that this was happening.

Now the Democrats face a choice: do they retaliate against Republicans for these despicable actions, or do they try to forget the past in the interest of returning sanity to the institution?

Well, perhaps those aren't mutually exclusive. I favor massive retaliation against the soon-to-be-former Republican leadership, but not against rank-and-file Republicans, and certainly not in any form that would recapitulate the injustices of the Republican era. The Democrats must not, of course, deny the Republicans space to meet, nor deny them access to legislation before voting, nor any such thing. That would be despicable.

What can be done against the former leadership? I don't know enough about the House rules to have any good suggestions, unfortunately. Perhaps nothing can be done. The evil Tom DeLay is, of course, gone in disgrace, so he's beyond the reach of justice in this regard, anyway.

Though some kind of retaliation is important here, returning sanity and civility to the institution is far more important. Let's hope the Dems don't forget that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, just returning sanity and civility to the institution would itself be a sort of retaliation, but I wouldn't expect the Republicans to be perceptive enough to recognize it. "Heap[ing] coals of fire on his head" has little effect on true numbskulls.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Scorpio said...

Perhaps stamping Republican copies of legislation "This copy is brought to you by the fairness of the Democrats in Congress, who are more Christian than those who would deny copies to their opponents."

Meeting rooms could have a copy of something similar posted on the door and placed at each seat within. Two years of that should be interestingly obnoxious.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Now that's a damn fine idea, S.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that Bush is afraid that the Dems can do something about him. Why else would he quietly send Jenna to purchase real estate in Paraguay (where he would be immune from national and international criminal charges) shortly before this election?

6:04 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course, this is nothing new. The colors have just reversed again.

It does seem the GOP were even worse than the Demos in some respects, and they have some abuse coming for what they did to Clinton.

We shall see if the spiral continues downward.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yes, the GOP was worse--way worse. On the other hand, they were way worse, but for a shorter period of time. I've often thought that lower levels of abuse for longer periods of time can be just as bad as higher levels for shorter periods.

Though the "Indiana 8th" business was pretty bad...

Things will certainly get better, as the Dem leadership is neither as mean-spirited nor as partisan as the GOP leadership has been.

Still, I hope they do better than merely *better*.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another uniquely Republican sin: The refusal to allow Democrats into conference committee meetings in many cases.

Just punishment by the new Democratic leadership: No conference committee assignments for any of the previous Congress's Republican leadership, including committee and subcommittee chairs.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm wary of claims that one's own side is inherently more virtuous than their opponents.

I allowed that the batch of Republicans who were just turned out did appear to be worse than the Democrats they themselves turned out, primarily (and exclusively, really, because they had a lot of gamesmanship in common) for the manipulation of the legislative process itself. There may be another side to the story, however, altho I doubt it will be told in the media.

But there are indications that aside from the Gang of 14, there was a commitment on the Democrat side to pure obstructionism; certainly that was what Sen. McCain chided Sen. Obama for when the latter caved in to pressure from his party and withdrew from a piece of joint legislation.

And, tho admittedly from a right-wing source:

Their sources claim that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), a six-term member of Congress, who has cooperated with Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, will be a priority target for Pelosi's iron-fist approach to leadership.

"Nancy Pelosi wants total party discipline," a source in the Democratic Party leadership told Insight.

"If you played ball with the Republicans during this session, then you're not going to be given an important chair in the next session," said the source.

Apparently, it was possible to work with the GOP, then.

I once ran across a comparison of liberal and conservative group ratings that had Jane Harman as the most centrist member of congress. Whether this bunch of Democrats is any "better" than the GOPers they turned out is not certain. Even before they have the chance to spill some GOP blood, they seem determined to extract some of their own.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Um, why think that the other side of the story is any different than the story we know?

Our best evidence indicates that, as you've admitted, the GOP leadership has been worse.

We have no evidence that that's wrong, so vague, hand-waving references to possibly possibly possible other sides of the story which may or may not be accurate and may or may not tell us something different does no good at all.

If such appeals were allowed to carry weight, we would then have to postulate similarly vaporous third sides of the story, fourth sides, and so on.

And an admittedly right-wing source *asserts* that in *one respect* the Dems have at some times been as bad as--but not worse than--the GOP.

AND that was in *response* to GOP viciousness, not to mention the crimes and incompetence of the Bush years.

C'mon, Tom, this is seriously lame.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Admittedly from a left-wing source:

2:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And an admittedly right-wing source *asserts* that in *one respect* the Dems have at some times been as bad as--but not worse than--the GOP.

That link was from the Washington Post.

As for daring to suggest that things aren't so black and white, that it takes two to tango and the Democrats may have been more obstreperous in opposition than the pre-1994 GOPs were, I can live with accusations of lameness. Condemnation is easy, understanding is not. Some call it nuance.

Um, why think that the other side of the story is any different than the story we know?

Because you refuse to consider anything that doesn't issue from left-wing sources like the Washington Post? Just a thought, because it's out there.

As for a change of tone in the House, I remain hopeful, but the early returns on Ms. Pelosi's speakership are not encouraging.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Give it up, Tom. Mere insistence isn't going to work. Consider the point, and either present pertinent evidence or don't. But don't waste my time with this crap, please.

I can only point out what the real point is here so many times. I'm not going to keep doing it.

Posting more and more links that don't address the actual issue isn't going to change anything.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, you've declared yourself right and me wrong. As to who is insistently beating whom over the head without offering facts, we shall leave to the fates to decide. Cheers.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

See, were I a pettier person than I actually am, I'd point out that one can see that your claim there is incorrect, and that even a casual perusal of the above discussion shows that.

But then you wouldn't get the last word...and we know what would happen then...

10:12 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

That's three fact-free posts in a row that you've hammered me with, WS. My point is that the Republicans appeared to have been worse. Your point is that they were far, far worse. You are right and I'm wrong, and you won't give up until I unconditionally surrender.

The question of degree is a value, not a fact, of course, but if you poke through that Rolling Stone screed that presents itself as journalism you'll find that on the key issue of manipulating the legislative process, altho the GOP cut the number of amendable bills to a little over 10%, the 1994 Democrats had already cut them from 85% to 30%.

Worse, sure, especially if you ignore who started the jerking around, which, as is your custom, you apparently do. Far, far worse? I don't think so.

I won't get into the question of pettiness, but you're not setting records for magnaminity. The "New Tone" hasn't hit your house yet, it seems. I already yielded the last word in the "I have a constitutional right to be a yahoo" thread (altho if you train your children that way, you can go pick them up at the mortuary some day), so I thought that splitting the difference was quite fair. I don't think I deserve this.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider what someone who covered Congress for many years had to say when finally freed from the yoke of faux-fairness that has generated mountains of 'on the one-hand' BS:

There simply is no match for the utter depravity and hypocrisy of the past twelve years of Republican rule, particularly in the House.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two problems with the CBS opinion piece:

- Isn't it the media's job to call a duck a duck in real time, not years after the voters would have been well served? Or are the emperor's new clothes beneath the comment of the lapdog pundits - until they have someone new to suck up to?

- Why should we care whether the House is led by "weirdos"? If journalists would stop trying to relive high school, where they learned to pick on the dorks to preserve their own tenuous claims to coolness, America would be better off.

Ok, three problems:

- The Kewl Kidz were all too happy to call Al Gore and John Kerry dorks, fantasists, and frauds. Why didn't the rank hypocrisy of the Republicans on sex, military service, budget-busting, large lies and inaccuracies (in contrast with small Democratic lies and spin), or even games of dress-up (Gore's suits vs. Duhbya's love of costumes) - why didn't any of these become raging controversies for Republicans the way they did for Democrats?

Of course, the answer is that the media has double standards, fed by the well-paid screamers on the right, who lack a counterbalance on the left - well, other than people like me, and we don't have a TV network to spread our opinions.

10:48 PM  

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