1. The Pork
Can't remember where, unfortunately, but this week I ran across a rant on some blog about how the Republicans forced all that pork into the supplemental. The rant went on to a blistering attack on the Pubs' greed and willingness to kill or at least cripple a bill that begins to end the war unless they first got their pound of flesh. Blackmail, I think s/he called it.
The truth, I'm afraid, is somewhat less one-sided than that. Most of the $20Bil added to the supplemental was for stuff like Katrina reconstruction and more body armor for the troops, but of that which could rationally be considered pork, more than half went to states represented by Blue Dog Democrats who had threatened to vote with the Pubs against the bill. Pelosi, in time-honored Congressional fashion, was forced to buy their votes by including their pet projects in the bill.
Several of those BD's were the new guys recruited by Rahm Emanuel, the new head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC, or "D-Triple C" in pol circles).
As part of his strategy to win back the House, Emanuel has unleashed a high-octane campaign to recruit candidates to represent the Democrats next fall. He has already put forty-one House seats "in play" -- forcing the Republicans to defend their majority district by district. On the same date in the last election cycle, the number of seats in play was three. "The way you crack the strategic imperative of not enough seats is by putting more seats in play with good candidates," Emanuel says. "And one way you do that is by broadening what people think of when they think of Democrats." Indeed, the lineup of candidates he has recruited to run next year sounds more like a GOP dream team: four military veterans, two FBI agents, a pastor, a sheriff and a former NFL quarterback, Heath Shuler. Once again, the common denominator is change. "You've got to have people that look and sound like they're not career politicians," he says.Well, if so, it appears they're learning fast.
The rest of the BD's are long-term conservative Dems with track records of unbroken support for Republican initiatives who have been recruited, sponsored, and/or supported, unsurprisingly, by ex-DLC Chair and fund-raiser extraordinaire Terry McAuliffe - the man whose motto is "All we want is the money". This is typical:
For Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), there is $25 million for spinach growers hurt by last year's E. coli scare. For three conservative Democrats in Georgia, there is $75 million for peanut storage. For lawmakers from the bone-dry West, there is $500 million for wildfire suppression. An additional $120 million is earmarked for shrimp and Atlantic menhaden fishermen.Between the two of them, McAuliffe and Emanuel, BDs now represent a sizable percentage of Democratic office-holders, and the pork in the supplemental is an example of the power they wield. Without them, it would not have passed the House. It's that simple.
2. The DC Rep
But even more telling than the extortion in the supplemental was the way a bill to give DC its first voting seat in the House was sabotaged by a Pub whacko named Lamar Smith from - where else? - Texas.
The surprise development came as the Democratic-dominated House appeared on the verge of passing the measure. Many D.C. vote activists had gathered at the Capitol for what they hoped would be a historic day -- the first time in nearly 30 years the chamber would vote to give the District a full-fledged House representative.The mere threat from a Pub to turn the DC vote into a vote on gun control - or the lack thereof - was enough to send the House leadership running for cover. Why, considering the Dems have a solid majority?
But as more than three hours of debate drew to a close, Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.) proposed sending the bill back to committee with additional language gutting the city's gun restrictions.
The DCCC/DLC BDs, that's why.
Democrats retreated, fearing that conservative, pro-gun members of their party could be tempted to side with Republicans. The majority party postponed further action to give voting-rights backers time to regroup.Lamar's tactic was standard GOP: brainless, irrelevant, highly partisan, and divisive. It should have been a simple matter to vote his stoopid amendment down and go on to the more important business at hand.
But it wasn't. The tactic, about as subtle as beating somebody over the head with a crowbar, worked. It shouldn't have but it did - and fast. The DC bill was pulled and tabled in deference to the power of Pub-Lite conservative Dems with a history of backing Republican anti-gun control legislation.
It's important to keep your enemies straight, and even more important to be clear about who they are. Democrats are in the majority now, and for lefties to beat up on Republicans, while understandable and still necessary, and at the same time ignore the real problem - and the real enemies - inside the party in order to harrass friends is worse than counterproductive.