Pelosi Disincentivizes Aggressive Behavior

I blogged earlier about Pelosi selling out Louise Slaughter on her 'Cost of Corruption report, which you can still find here.   My point wasn't that the content from the report was gone, but the feebleness that backing away reveals.  It's stupid strategy, and it doesn't work.  Here we have the RNCC on queue responding to Pelosi removing the report:

- Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), the Ranking Member on the Rules Committee, is one of several leading Democrats to engage in ethics hypocrisy recently, but this week she became one of the first to cop to it, albeit quietly.

   *   Rep. Slaughter touted "America for Sale," essentially a political document that was compiled using official House resources, on her House website in a release dated February 22.  And though the release is still there, the line, "To view the report in its entirety, click here," has been removed.
    *   Rep. Slaughter also highlighted the report in fundraising pitches on her campaign Web site,, but a link to view the report in its entirety has been removed.

"Ms. Slaughter's tacit admission of guilt in this matter is a perfect example of the touch and go ethics practices that National Democrats continue to practice in order to advance their tired political agenda," National Republican Congressional Communications Director Carl Forti said. "Taxpayers funded this political document, Democrats insisted it was a proper use of official resources, and now apparently they don't believe their culture-of-hypocrisy spin."

This was a beautiful opportunity to go after the GOP on the issue of corruption.  Here they are threatening to make ethics an issue against Pelosi, but instead of swinging for the fences on this slow pitch down the middle of the plate, she pulls back.  And because she pulls back, Republicans claim that she's admitting that the attack was illegitimate, and neutralize this very good potential argument.

You might think this is nitpicking.  It's not.  This type of behavior is precisely what incentivizes members and staffers to not be aggressive.  They can almost bet they are going to be hung out to dry by their own side, by our side.

Our side, including Pelosi, better get out of their insular treehouse and start to realize the threat that these clever thugs pose to our freedoms, before it's too late.  Every day, with these small knuckle-unders, quality staffers get demoralized, creativity dies, and Members on our side think more and more in a hopeless manner.  And here we are, with the middle managers of the party, safe and secure in their riskless beds, winning another one, thinking that the ethics truce is something the Republicans actually take seriously.

There's more...

Nancy Pelosi's House Democratic Caucus and Its Insular Stubbornness

A few weeks ago, Representative Louise Slaughter came out with a report called 'America for Sale' on the cost of Republican corruption.  The link is no longer working, and I'll explain why in the next paragraph.  The report itself was well done, and actually quantified the cost to taxpayers of what has been so obvious for so long, the looting of America by corrupted elites.  The report elicited attacks from Republicans, who smeared Slaughter with charges that writing the report itself was an unethical use of taxpayer funds.  Now, Louise Slaughter is a member of the House Rules Committee, so documenting the costs of corruption was completely reasonable.  What is truly remarkable is that not one Democratic member stood by her.  Not one issued a statement.  No one from the progressive caucus - most of whom are in safe seats - came forward public to stand by their colleague. I'm sure there were pats on the back in private, but then, that's kind of the point.

And now, in a final insult, the report was removed from Pelosi's leader web site, apparently because of worries that the Republicans will file ethics charges against Pelosi for hosting it (it supposedly violates House Franking rules, which are incoherent and a huge mess and part of the tyranny of Republican rule in the House).  Enough is enough.  Whoever made the boneheaded decision in Pelosi's office is just out of touch.  Leaders serious about ending corruption do not hang out to dry members who stand up against the looting of the country.  Leaders serious about governing and wielding power do not scurry in hiding every time Republicans talk about ethics. They do not try to obey arbitrary incoherent rules that are written by Republicans and broken by the other side at will.

If Democrats win in 2006 (which is quite uncertain), Pelosi does not sound like she can do what is necessary to save this country.  She acts like a small-minded summer camp councelor for spoiled Democratic members, and unless we are vigilant and aggressive this mindset is going to carry on over to whatever gains we make in 2006.  Right now, there's this half-joke among Congresscritters that members don't speak in caucus meetings without first thanking everyone in the room.  Members waste each others' time.  Staffers are kept out of the loop, and lie to each other in vicious and pointless turf wars where the only goal is to get better offices.  This diseased culture comes from years of being smacked around by Republicans, with little indignities like Republican Committee staffers getting better Blackberries and big indignities like Republicans changing rules whenever it suits them. The way to reverse this culture is to have leaders who do not back down.

Yes, it's that bad. I've been told that the way to gain power in the Democratic caucus is to get elected, and then this is key, to not die.  That's how you become a committee leader.  And apparently to become leader you promise not to rock the boat and make sure that every gets their precious little committee assignment, regardless of merit.  Listen to this pathetic podcast by Representaive Frank Pallone, who jokes about what a bad job he's doing as the Democratic member in charge of 'message'.  Yes, in fact that's his job as the Communications Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, where he "coordinates the party's message on the floor of the House of Representatives."

And the symptom is that when House Republicans say jump, Nancy Pelosi says 'how high?' And that's not because we're in the minority.  It's because Pelosi allows this kind of stupidity to hamstring the caucus.  And if you think this will end if we ever take the majority, prepare to be disappointed.

Standing up to this ineffective, anti-progressive, anti-meritocratic mechanism that coddles Democratic members is going to be key, whatever happens in 2006.  The rallying cry for Democrats in the House should not be 'Universal health care for Democratic incumbent Congressmen', as it seems to have been since 1994.  New candidates coming into office should realize that it's time for open elections for committee slots, for leadership posts, and for every other position of power in the House.

I don't like Rahm Emanuel's politics and I don't agree with every part of his strategy in running the DCCC (as if I have proven some great capacity to win races...), but the reason he is respected is because he doesn't subscribe to this ridiculous and insulated mentality.  He is blunt and aggressive, and that is a necessary tonic, and key to understanding the New Democrats in the 1990s.  Partly they were lobbyist driven, but partly they were driven by an exasperated sense of unprofessionalism among traditional older progressives and lazy Democrats.  Now of course the New Dems have become just as captured by insider-itis, but the same motivating impulse that frustrated them in the 1980s frustrates us today.  New groups coming into Congress in 2006 should realize that it's time for a change, and time for openness, accountability, and democracy. Nancy Pelosi should realize this too. The time for kowtowing to Republicans on everything from where you host your web content to the war in Iraq is over and done with. In order to build a progressive America, we need to get a real cultural change in Congress, a change driven by strength and leadership.

That's what the netroots wants, and that's what we're going to get. It's going to take time, but we're coming.

There's more...

IAVA PAC - A New Center of Progressive Power?

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago called the House Leadership Vacuum, and I'm going to expand on it in a future post.  The gist of the post was that the House leadership and most of the House Democratic membership is rudderless, insidery, and useless.  With some exceptions (like Louise Slaughter, Adam Smith, and Rahm Emanuel), they kowtow to a vapid Nancy Pelosi, and basically act like excessively clever depressed kids at a summer camp for the kumbaya crowd.  This includes the progressive caucus, who have 'good' voting records.

Anyway, that's a somewhat provocative statement, and I'm sure I'll get lots of people who don't like what I just said.  Fine.  Let's just pretend for a moment that I'm right, and that this is true.  How do you restore strength and leadership to the caucus?  Well, one way is by creating independent power centers that have distinct funding streams.  

IAVA PAC is one of them.  It's a bipartisan PAC supporting veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They are having an event tomorrow in New York, and if you have some time and some dough, you should consider going. IAVA PAC is not just a fundraising vehicle; their 'Follow-the-money' blog describes the cost of corruption in Iraq and how it becomes a meaningful problem for troops over there.

We are spending about five billion dollars a month in Iraq. In a over two years, we have spent the equivalent to half of the 12-year Vietnam War or half of World War I with many fewer men under arms. Over a billion a week is all Rumsfeld asks. And the Congress and American public have willingly voted for this money because, as one general once told me," we need the best for our boys."

But there is a mismatch here. While the DOD is pouring buckets of water through the procurement sponge, only a few drops are reaching some of the troops. Troops will tell you that in the Green Zone or in the bigger camps "around the flagpole," where the brass hangs out, there are fancy facilities run by KBR and other contractors but that if you are deployed outside these zones, you will be hurting for vehicle parts, body armor, food and even drinking water. Even around the flagpole, some troops have told us that they are getting what they don't need but not getting what they do need to fight and win.

Various IAVA veterans tell stories about how the billion a week did not trickle down to them during the war and even months after the war. Perry Jefferies, several months after President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and declared "mission accomplished," was forced to commandeer the rare shower trucks that came to Camp Caldwell so his hungry and desperate troops could drink the water.

Progressives need to develop tighter relationships with the military, and this is one really good way to have it happen. After all, the military believes in service, internationalism, health care, addressing the roots of terrorism (fourth generation warfare) instead of refighting the Cold War, and renewable energy as a mechanism for reducing global instability. All of these things are progressive. Check out the website and learn about IAVA.  While I'm not a fan of marshal glory as more valuable than any other type of public service, it certainly proves a commitment to sacrifice, and we need a heck of a lot more of that commitment in government.  Anyway, it's quite possible this PAC and those like it could begin to create power centers that help promote strong Democratic leaders who can begin to fix this very broken and very great country.

Ok, now you can go back to disagreeing with my assessment of House Democrats.  The House Democrats are great, and all we need to do is win in 2006, build a liberal Fox News, and all will be better because our elected leaders have proven such a capacity to wield power for the progressive side.

There's more...

Obama ethics bill TOO ethical for Pelosi

Surprise, surprise!

I've not been the only one here to signal the disconnect between Pelosi's vigorous rhetoric on Congressional ethics (or rather the lack of them) and her scrupulous avoidance of any concrete step to improve them (an earlier piece).

It's happened again, according to this from The Hill.

Cliff Notes: the flurry of Dem activity on the ethics front in recent months led to the production of two bills. Pelosi's official bill is HR 4682; Obama, who supports the bill, has introduced another, S 2259, which goes further.

There's more...

The House Leadership Vacuum

Atrios highlights an important article in the Washington Post today.  Ostensibly, the article is about the Republicans in 1994, but it touches on some very key themes, such as how leadership is promoted within the two parties.  The article discusses the 'Gang of 7' backbenchers on the GOP and asks the very good question of why there is no gang for the Democrats.

There's more...


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