Saturday, February 10, 2007

Novak Shows Republicans Still Don't Get It

Read today's Novak for a tangible demonstration of the value of Bill Clinton to the Hillary campaign, as well as some other interesting items. I'll highlight two.

First, Minority Leader John Boehner demonstrates that House Republicans still don't get it. He recently addressed the Republican conference and vouched for the ethical behavior of two California Republicans being investigated for their behavior related to earmarks:

House Minority Leader John Boehner, addressing Tuesday's closed-door conference of Republican House members, gave a clean bill of health to two California colleagues under federal investigation: Reps. Jerry Lewis and Gary Miller.

If he were not convinced of Lewis's integrity, Boehner told the conference, he would not have approved his continuation as top Republican on the Appropriations Committee. Lewis is being investigated for helping a lobbyist direct millions of dollars in earmarks for clients.

Lewis did not address the conference, but Miller pleaded innocent of wrongdoing in California land transactions. That won Miller a standing ovation, but a few colleagues noted the resemblance to a similar speech to the conference last year by then Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio. On Jan. 19, Ney was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

Messrs. Lewis and Miller may well have done nothing illegal. But in both cases, their advocacy of specific earmarks benefited them personally, or close personal friends and associates. While that is accepted practice in Washington, voters no longer accept it. Even if investigators find nothing that rises to the level of a criminal offense, voters thing it stinks. And it makes it much more difficult for Republicans to claim the mantle of reformists - which is a critical for a comeback at the ballot box. And surprisingly, it is the House Republicans who are having a much harder time at this. The aggressiveness of folks like Tom Cuburn and Jim DeMint, combined with Harry Reid's tone-deaf management, has enabled Senate Republicans to keep the Democratic majority on the defensive.

Item two - Republican retirements:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) staff is contacting GOP House members to get an idea of how many intend to retire and give the Democrats soft targets in 2008.

The NRCC survey follows a report in the Roll Call newspaper that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is monitoring more than two dozen House Republicans who are candidates for retirement.

No House Republican has yet announced retirement, and the only GOP senator so far to call it quits is Wayne Allard of Colorado. However, more retirements from both houses are expected as Republicans chafe under life in the minority. No Democratic resignations have been announced, and none are expected from the House. All Democratic senators up for re-election in 2008 have announced they are running again, with the exception of Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa (who says he has not yet decided).

Naturally, a low number of retirements will help GOP efforts to retake the House. One big problem here is that Democrats are the party of government. All things being equal, they're more likely to stay in office. A good demonstration of that is the fact that even though the Democrats were in the minority from 1995-2007, there are now significantly more Democrats from that last Democratic majority in the House than there are Republicans.

In other words, there were more Democrats willing to spend 12 years in the minority than there were Republicans willing to spend 12 years in the majority. That doesn't happen by accident.

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