Sunday, January 22, 2006

Moly Ivins: Roy Blunt Will be More of the Same - KCSTAR 21 Jan 2006

Blunt as GOP leader means more of the same

Molly Ivins

AUSTIN — It takes a Texas Republican to get that fine, hairline reading on the ethical sensitivity scale we all prize so highly.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that a couple of six-packs of Texas Republican congressmen have signed up to endorse Rep. Roy Blunt, Tom DeLay’s chosen successor, in the House leadership fight. Glad to see they’re taking this ethical stuff seriously.

Why else support a man of whom the director of CongressWatchobserves, “(His) tenure in Congress has been marked by exchanges of favors between himself and special interests, and a deep embrace of lobbyists. He is an architect of today’s sleazy, big-money politics, not the agent of change that Congress so desperately needs right now to regain credibility with the public.” Just the man for our delegation.

Texas Republicans are now being led by Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis, chairman of the critical Energy and Commerce Committee. DeLay sits in on their meetings by speakerphone. Barton is just the man for the job in theseethically sensitive times. He’s spending this weekend aboard a private trainwith lobbyists who pay $2,000 for the privilege. After a seven-hour run from Fort Worth to San Antonio, there will be cocktails, an evening tour of the Alamo, dinner and breakfast on Sunday.

It’s the delicatesse of the invite that I appreciate, and I think the price is right, too — only $2K for hours of uninterrupted access to the chairman whose committee has jurisdiction over about half of what Congress does — including oil policy, pro baseball, Medicare and environmental regulation.

Barton’s campaign manager told The Dallas Morning News:“It’s just a normal fundraiser. You’ve got to have a fundraiser if you’re going to raise money and have a campaign. Everybody does it.”

In this unhappy case it has the advantage of being true: Yup, pretty much everybody does do it. The root of the rot is the way federal(and most state) campaigns are financed. DeLay made his pact with the devil when he signed on to expand the Newt Gingrich/Grover Norquist “K Street Project” to turn the entire lobby into an arm of the Republican Party.

Members of the lobby were literally called in by Republican leaders to act as auxiliary whips, assigned to recalcitrant members from districts with a special economic vulnerability to a particular special interest.

The corruption of Congress has reached such a noxious level,the country is simply falling down a hole. Tax cuts for the rich! Recklessspending on everyone but those who need it most! Not a grown-up in sight. There is no sense of responsibility. The Republicans’ response is to elevate Mr. Blunt, a man who represents zero improvement.

I think we can rely upon the Democrats to seize the momentand punt. Their best play, of course, is to take the reform issue and own it, to go long, for the whole reform package every goo-goo group in America has been agitating for years — starting with public campaign financing for Congress. The package should include changes in House rules, lobby rules — and even though it is done at the state level, proposals for nonpartisan redistricting.

I can almost hear the condescending cynics: “You don’t really think you can get the money out of politics, do you?” I guarantee you can do it for several cycles — and do you know what happens when it starts to creep back in again? You reform again! Perpetual reform, a truly great concept. No human institution is ever going to remain perfect. They have to be watched and adjusted like any other mechanism. Why use that as a defeatist excuse for doing nothing at all?
What matters here is not what the Republicans or the Democrats do — it’s what you do before November. Sit up, join up, stir it up, get online, get in touch, find out who’s raising hell and join them. No use waiting on a bunch of wussy politicians.

© 2006 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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Rove Lays Out Road Map For Republicans - NYT 21 Jan 2006

Rove Lays Out Road Map for Republicans in Fall Elections

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Published: January 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 - Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, gave nervous Republicans here a preview on Friday of the party's strategy to maintain its dominance in the fall elections, offering a searing attack on Democrats for their positions on terrorism, the administration's eavesdropping program and President Bush's effort to shape the federal judiciary.
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Doug Mills/The New York Times
Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, before his speech Friday. Security emerged as a dominant issue for this year's elections.

Mr. Rove called for civility in politics in his speech to the Republican National Committee, and then for 26 minutes offered a lacerating attack on Democrats that other Republicans said was a road map for how the party would deal with a tough electoral environment as it battled to retain control of both houses of Congress.

In a speech that drew several bursts of strong applause, Mr. Rove criticized Democrats for their opposition to tax cuts and for what he called "mean-spirited" attacks on Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., Mr. Bush's Supreme Court nominee. And he left little doubt that in 2006 - as in both nationwide elections since the Sept. 11 attacks - he was intent on making national security the pre-eminent issue.

Mr. Rove's speeches early in election years have proved to be accurate predictors of what Republican candidates will say in the fall, and thus every seat in the ballroom at a downtown Washington hotel was filled Friday.

Mr. Rove criticized Democrats for what he described as their "cut and run" policy on Iraq, for blocking a renewal of the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act and for challenging the legality of the administration's use of wiretaps without warrants.

But he made no mention of Republican opposition to aspects of both the antiterrorism law and the surveillance program, which has posed a political problem for the White House.
"The United States faces a ruthless enemy," Mr. Rove said, "and we need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in. President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats."

"Let me be as clear as I can be. President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he said, referring to the wiretapping program. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."
The speech was a relatively rare public address by one of the best-known public officials in the White House and came at a time when Mr. Rove is under investigation in a case involving the leak to reporters of the name of a C.I.A. operative.

In his speech, Mr. Rove made no mention of his own legal situation. And even as he sought to rally his troops, he did not mention an issue that accounts for much of the Republican concern about the fall election: the influence-peddling investigation of Congress that has focused on some senior Republican leaders, including Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, who has stepped down as majority leader.

The issue of ethics was left to Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Mehlman condemned Republicans implicated in any scandals, though he sought - as part of a Republican strategy this week - to place some blame on Democrats for the investigations swirling around Congress.

"Public service is a sacred trust, and we cannot allow it to be sullied by anyone, Republican or Democrat," he said. "As Republican chairman, I am proud of my party and loyal to our members. But if Republicans are guilty of illegal or inappropriate behavior, they should pay the price and suffer the consequences."

Howard Dean, the national Democratic leader, responded to Mr. Rove's attacks by noting the investigation into his activities and challenging Mr. Bush's decision to keep him in the White House, even as the investigation proceeds.

"Rove's political standing gets him an invitation to address Republicans in Washington, D.C., today," Mr. Dean said, "but it doesn't give him the credibility to question Democrats' commitment to national security. The truth is, Karl Rove breached our national security for partisan gain, and that is both unpatriotic and wrong."

The White House's increasingly forceful defense of the eavesdropping program signals its belief that the disclosures are not politically damaging, notwithstanding criticism. Some polls so far suggest that Americans are supportive of the eavesdropping campaign.

For all his bullishness, Mr. Rove got a reminder Friday that his party is not as united as it once was.

Some Republicans at the meeting tried to push through a resolution condemning illegal immigration that explicitly broke with Mr. Bush's support for allowing illegal immigrants to participate in guest-worker programs. This issue has proved vexing for the party as it tries to expand its appeal to Hispanics while not alienating voters angered by the flow of illegal immigrants.

Randall L. Pullen of Arizona, the sponsor of the resolution, pulled it back after an officially sanctioned resolution reflecting Mr. Bush's immigration policy passed with a single dissent.

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