Thursday, May 18, 2006

Something to Make Dems Happy

We're Starting to Act Like Them

I noted the other day that one aspect of the White House immigration strategy is to push for a quick resolution. They will argue that the intra-party fight over immigration is the last thing the GOP needs, and that getting a bill will end much (thought not all) of the fighting. No one will be entirely happy with any compromise, but most voters will accept the resolution, and move on to new issues. The hard-core activists at either end of the debate will be angry, but 80%-90% of the electorate will regard the argument as settled - for now, anyway. This will allow officials running for election or re-election to shift attention to issues like the war on terror, and spending, and others where they think they can win.

The White House argument has some merit. Observers of the immigration debate see the split it causes among Republicans at places like NR's Corner, and Polipundit (to pick an obvious example). And it has obviously led to fighting between the White House and the House.

But immigration is not the only area where Republicas are split. Glenn and NZ Bear have chronicled the divide between the Senate and the House on emergency spending, which led Speaker Hastert to fire a salvo at the Senate.

And today Bob Novak offers details about a fight between the House and the White House over Porter Goss' dismissal.

The Speaker's wrath
By Robert Novak
May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a 64-year-old ex-high school wrestling coach, ordinarily is not a shouter. But according to Capitol Hill sources, he engaged in a high decibel rant last week when he met with Vice President Dick Cheney. The speaker was enraged by the sacking of his friend and former colleague, Porter Goss.

Hastert was so vituperative that a private session with President George W. Bush in the living quarters of the White House was scheduled immediately (although Hastert aides said the meeting had been planned previously). The speaker toned down his volume on the hallowed ground and did more listening than talking. But the president did not slake Hastert's wrath over the abrupt sacking of Goss as CIA director.

That wrath reflects the feeling in the House Republican cloakroom that Goss, who gave up a safe congressional seat from Florida for a thankless cleanup mission at the CIA, is being made a scapegoat for the government's intelligence mess. But Hastert's discontent goes beyond the CIA. The GOP mood on Capitol Hill, particularly the House, is poisonous. With pessimism rising over a contemplated loss of their majority in the 2006 elections, Republican lawmakers blame their parlous condition on Bush's performance.

...Hastert had urged Goss to postpone his retirement and seek another term in Congress, and Bush then talked Goss into taking on the arduous mission of bringing the CIA under presidential control. Two days before Goss was shown the door, Hastert met with John Negroponte. The director of national intelligence gave the speaker no hint that Hastert's friend at the CIA was being fired.

Hastert, who served with Cheney in the House for two years (1987-88), let the vice president have it in their private meeting. He said he trusted his close friend Goss, who had performed well at the nasty job of cleaning out an agency filled with critics of the president and his policies. The speaker made clear he considered the crude treatment of Goss a personal insult.

Cheney took this so seriously that he quickly scheduled a White House meeting of Bush and Hastert (that did not appear on public schedules of either the president or the speaker). With the vice president sitting in, Bush expressed his high regard for Goss. Hastert had criticized the choice of Gen. Michael Hayden as Goss' successor, and Bush urged the speaker to support the nominee.

It was not merely that Hastert and other House Republicans objected to the sacking of Goss. They resented the demeaning way it was performed. In particular, it could be inferred there was some scandalous reason for Goss' departure. It has been incorrectly tied to published reports of Dusty Foggo, Goss' handpicked No. 3 CIA official, being under investigation in the Duke Cunningham bribery and corruption scandal.

...Such interpretations suggest that there is basically non-communication between Bush and fellow Republicans in Congress. The president had to summon the speaker of the House to calm him down because he had given him no heads-up earlier. More than difficulties at the CIA need to be resolved as the GOP lurches toward the dreaded mid-term elections.

Novak is right about the last point. Republicans must figure out a way to work together and present a united front, if they are going to perform well in the mid-term elections.

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