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Monday, December 24, 2007

Dick Morris' Prophetic Words

I remember right after the November election that Dick Morris pointed out how difficult it was going to be for the Democratic Congress to govern. The problem, as he saw it, was the many competing factions that make up the Democratic party: The Blue Dogs, The Congressional Black Caucus, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the group allied with Soros and the Nutroots. While all of these groups fall under the Democratic umbrella, they all have competing and varying agendas. As Morris predicted, the Democrats' problem all along has been getting all of them on the same page. This is the underlying story in their continued fumbling of the Iraq issue. The agenda of the Blue Dogs (called Bush Dogs by the Nutroots) is divergent from that of the Soros wing. Without everyone on the same page, the Democratic majority no longer functions like any sort of a majority.

Some if it has come to a head this week as Democrats are pointing fingers at each other for their lack of any coherent agenda.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) accuses Senate Democratic leaders of developing "Stockholm syndrome," showing sympathy to their Republican captors by caving in on legislation to provide middle-class tax cuts paid for with tax increases on the super-rich, tying war funding to troop withdrawal timelines, and mandating renewable energy quotas. If Republicans want to filibuster a bill, Rangel said, Reid should keep the bill on the Senate floor and force the Republicans to talk it to death.

Reid, in turn, has taken to the Senate floor to criticize what he called the speaker's "iron hand" style of governance.

Democrats in each chamber are now blaming their colleagues in the other for the mess in which they find themselves. The predicament caused the majority party yesterday surrender to President Bush on domestic spending levels, drop acherished renewable-energy mandate and move toward leaving a raft ofhigh-profilelegislation, from addressing the mortgage crisis to providing middle-class tax relief, undone or incomplete...

The real problem from the beginning is that much of the Democratic victory came in Republican districts and with many of the Democrats in those districts moving to the right of their counter parts. Their leadership, on the other hand, is almost exclusively made up of traditional Northeast or West Coast liberals. From Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, to Ted Kennedy, those are the leaders of the party. Their liberal traditional agenda is not something that will get the likes of the Blue Dog Democrats re elected.

On Iraq, this problem is most pronounced. There is a group of almost seventy Congressional Democrats that make up the Out of Iraq Caucus. They are almost exclusively Soros types. Their goal is the immediate withdrawal of troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. This group willing to cut off funds if necessary, and they are so extreme in their views vis a vis Iraq that many times they are unwilling to support bills with a timeline if it isn't quick enough in their estimation.

On the opposite end of the ideological spectrum for the Democrats lie the Blue Dogs. This is a group of forty plus moderates who's position tends to match that of the Republicans. Here is how their position is described.

With Democrats in charge again, the Blue Dogs have played a key role in halting an emerging plan to place strict conditions on war funding. Their revolt helped beat back that proposal, by Pelosi ally John Murtha, D-Pa. Leaders are now considering a watered-down version.
Without unity from all these groups the Democrat's majority becomes a minority.

The Democrats face the same sort of problems on budget and tax issues. Whether it was Charlie Rangel's so called mother of all tax hikes, or any number of budget proposals from David Obey, the leadership has had difficulty getting the Blue Dogs on board with much of their liberal agenda. Where they have been able to get the Blue Dogs on board, they have then faced the threat of a veto from the President.

The Democrats have given nothing more than a token effort to any social issue besides federal funding of stem cell research. That's because on social issues the leadership's position is no more tennable.

Their ideas about marriage, abortion, and, to an extent, the death penalty, and Gun Control are sometimes more compatible with the Republican way of thinking. This viewpoint is supported by the Pew Research Center and their study "Beyond Red Vs. Blue"
The Republicans, on the other hand, have become nearly unanimously united. They have almost entirely coalesced behind the surge strategy and have never wavered in their demand for so called clean spending bills.On the budget, they haven't been quite as united however the President suddenly realized what a tool the veto is. As such, the Democrats haven't been able to get much of any budgetary agenda through. In the most recent battle over the budget, the Democrats have become so frustrated that they are now resorting to threats.

Instead, Obey said, he would rip up the compromise bill and devise a new one using the strict spending ceiling set by Mr. Bush - but would reach it by whacking GOP priorities and stripping the measure of billions of dollars in pet projects for lawmakers in both parties.

Obey's remarks to The Associated Press came two days after White House budget director Jim Nussle promised Mr. Bush would veto Democrats' omnibus spending bill for exceeding Mr. Bush's budget by $18 billion.

Nussle had accused Democrats of "trying to leverage troop-funding for more pork-barrel spending," but Obey said the opposite is true - that the White House was willing to relent just slightly on domestic spending in order to obtain up to $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the Democrats threaten, I am reminded of the last time a President took on Congress on the budget.

These showdowns were epitomized by the budget conflict with then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1995. Gingrich refused to pass Clinton's budget proposal, and the latter threatened to shut down the government as Reagan had done in the 1980s. Clinton did not back down, however, and eventually had his budget passed...

I suspect another President will also win this particular budget showdown. All in all, those words uttered by Dick Morris are quite prophetic.

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