Column for 19 November, 2006
“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Okay, so now what? The dog has caught the car, Charlie Brown has kicked the football, and the Democrats have retaken Congress. Sing, hallelujah! Of course, there are some discouraging signs that the Democrats didn’t quite get the memo that this election was about the corruption, stupid. The battle for House Majority Leader is between Steny Hoyer and Jack Murtha, both good people and (in Murtha’s case) courageous, but both have tin ears when it comes to ethical issues. And Alcee Hastings, formerly impeached, convicted and removed as a federal judge, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee? Yes, there were some problems with his impeachment, but that’s not the point. By winning on corruption, the Democrats will now be held to a double standard and will be raked over the media bonfire for ethical lapses that barely made the news scroll when Republicans did them. Get over it, guys. And get used to it. Besides, I have a simple solution to both problems. Make Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) chair of the Intelligence Committee and Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) Majority Leader. Reyes is smart and a former Border Patrol agent. Doggett has the political skills to keep Blue Dog moderate Democrats from teaming up with the Republicans to thwart the narrow Democratic majority. Of course, by the time you read this, it will be readily apparent that nobody in Washington is listening to me, but then, if Nancy Pelosi has one thing in abundance right now, it’s free advice from pundits. The advice ranges from “stay moderate, don’t do anything stupid,” to “impeach them all, let God sort them out!” to “don’t go nuts, but bash the Republicans with their own hammer.” This last argument, which I tend to agree with, is that Democrats should push an aggressive but not stupid agenda of items with broad public support and should feel free to use the same strong-arm tactics Republicans used to shut them out of virtually all Congressional debate for the last twelve years. President Bush will, of course, veto some or all of this. Great. Let him. The Presidential election of 2008 will then be like Harry S. Truman’s legendary 1948 run, only in reverse; a hard-working Congress bashing a “do nothing” White House. It’s really all about laying the groundwork to get a Democrat elected President. With that in mind, and since Christmas is coming, I now present my own little wish list for our new Democratic overlords in Congress: 1) Public Financing of Congressional campaigns. I hate this idea, but it’s the only alternative left as long as the Supreme Court insists that money equals speech; 2) Abolish electronic voting without a paper trail. In order for democracy to work, people have to be able to trust that their vote will actually be counted and right now, they don’t; 3) Mandate once-per-decade redistricting by non-partisan panels with no regard for protecting incumbents. Schwarzenegger was actually right on this issue. And, in fact, I think a good argument can be made that Congress can simply impose this reform using its’ Constitutional authority under Article 1, Section 4; 4) Repeal the foul-smelling Patriot, Warrantless Wiretap and Legalized Torture Acts and start over from scratch. We do need laws to help combat terrorism, but these acts are all abominations and an affront to very spirit of liberty this country was founded on; 5) Expand subsidized national health care for children on the CHIPs model. It’s time we really did start putting children first; 6) Implement lifetime free medical care for all honorably discharged veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, regardless of length of service. It is the very least we can do for them; 7) Implement by legislation the provisions of the Kyoto Accords on climate change. God demands it. And our grandchildren will curse our names if we fail to take action to slow down global warming; 8) Impose a lifetime ban on lobbying for all members of Congress and their staff. If you are only marking time in government service until you can get out and get rich, you have no business being there in the first place; 9) Ban all gifts to members of Congress of any amount. No golf vacation junkets, no meals in fancy restaurants, not even a stick of gum; 10) Abolish ear-marking, the coward’s way to pork barrel politics; 11) Repeal NAFTA and withdraw from the WTO (World Trade Organization). “Free trade” as it is currently practiced is neither “free” nor “fair”; we’re being played for suckers by our economic competitors in the world and our own treacherous corporations, who are systematically destroying the American economy and converting us back into a colony. Is that “protectionism”? Darn right it is. Corporate special interests should not be allowed to con us into allowing foreign corporations to eviscerate our economy; 12) Re-impose Clinton Era proscriptions on environmental exploitation in the National Parks. We are robbing our children and grandchildren by denying them at least some unspoiled wilderness to enjoy; 13) Revive a New Deal proposal to allow Indian tribes to administer certain public lands. This would have the dual benefit of protecting the environment and alleviating the crushing poverty on many remote reservations. I would begin with turning over the Black Hills (the Sacred Paha Sapa) to the Sioux, part of the Great Smoky Mountains to the Cherokee and the Grand Canyon to the Navajo. Hmm, well, I notice that the longer my list got, the less and less politically realistic it became. Oh well. That’s what wish lists are for, right?