Sometimes it’s uncanny how Bruce and I have similar thoughts on the issues of the day. Last night, before bed, I was collecting links and typing up my notes on Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha for House Majority Leader over Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer, the House’s current #2 Democrat, only to wake this morning to see that Bruce had already posted on the topic.
I see her very public endorsement — and her wilingness to lobby Democratic Members on his behalf — as a win-win situation for Republicans. Should Democrats elect Murtha, this gaffe-prone septuagenarian with a scandal-tainted past and an appetite for pork becomes the new face of their party. Hardly a new direction for Congress, rather a return to the policies which helped end the forty-year Democratic majority in 1994.
Should Democrats elect his rival, current Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer, it will be a sign that Mrs. Pelosi does not have complete control over her caucus. And members will be more willing to defy her on key issues.
It will be interesting to see if Pelosi is going to go to the mattresses to get her guy elected Majority Leader. She has made her support so public that it will be taken as a defeat for her if Steny Hoyer defeats Murtha. But a Murtha victory will immediately taint the new Democratic majority with a very strong whiff of corruption plus being tied to a guy who is a past master of pork and earmarks. Is that their new image for disposing of the “culture of corruption?”
Captain Ed agrees, saying that if Pelosi loses this one, “she’s damaged goods right from the start.” He also sees this move as more personal than ideological. She “owes” Murtha for helping him in the past and is “merely repaying the debt.” A similar attitude among Republicans helped ensure their defeat last week.
In the words of Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman, the move signals “the sizable value Pelosi gives to personal loyalty and personality preferences.” Perhaps she still harbors animus against Hoyer for challenging her in 2001 for House minority whip.
Given the potential fractiousness of the Democratic caucus with many liberals in positions of leadership and many centrists in the freshman class, Pelosi’s inability to overcome her own dislike of a member of the caucus appears to be a sign of stubbornness which could limit her effectiveness as Speaker. Let us hope that the new GOP House leadership will be willing to play the kind of hardball politics necessary to exploit the divisions in the Democratic caucus.
In backing John Murtha over a Democrat who has worked hard to build his party — helping it win back a majority in Congress, Nancy Pelosi has shown her true colors, a woman willing to let her personal animus against fellow Democrats shape her positions. It is this subordination of policy to the personal which characterizes corrupt government institutions and suggests that the Democratic campaign against Republican corruption was just an election-year ploy to exploit the majority party’s weakness.
Rather that represent a “new direction” in Congress, Nancy Pelosi has now made it clear that it is politics as usual in Washington. Should Murtha win tomorrow, she will have helped install as her party’s Majority Leader a corrupt pol committed to the politics of the past. He will become an easy target for Republicans — and a symbol of past Democratic excesses. Hardly the image of a reform-minded caucus.
Should he lose, it will be a sign of Speaker Pelosi’s weakness, a harbinger of a tumultuous 110th Congress.
B. Daniel Blatt (AKA GayPatriotWest)
UPDATE: Just after posting this, I read John Fund’s comments on the race in today’s OpinionJournal’s Political Diary (available by subscription) where he notes that some Democrats see Mrs. Pelosi as damaged no matter what the outcome:
One Democratic House member told The Hill newspaper that regardless of the outcome of the leadership race, Ms. Pelosi has hurt herself and left a great many bruised feelings in the Democratic caucus. “Either way, it’s damaging,” the member said. “She will have a tremendous road to hoe to repair the damage she’s done.”