Friday, July 29, 2005



The 2006 midterm elections are still far away-- unless you're an incumbent, or trying to run against one. Then they're right around the corner. And all the brouhaha over the Republicans' chief political strategist, Karl Rove and his part in leaking the name of an undercover agent to the press to exact cheap political revenge against her husband, is not playing well in the heartland. GOP incumbents and candidates are getting a lot of flack from hometown papers and from voters. So far only one GOP candidate, Dennis Morrisseau of Vermont, is ready to call for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, but others are starting to distance themselves from the White House and Rove's "Treasongate" scandal.

You don't get more garden-variety conservative than Peter Hoekstra, since 1993 (think Gingrich and the Contract On America) he has represented Michigan's 2nd congressional district. A very partisan political hack, Hoekstra became the chairman of he House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last year. Born in Holland, Hoekstra is best known as a poorly educated (Buy Bull school) die-hard corporate shill who represents large corporations more than the interests of the constituents of his western Michigan district (which has the nation's largest concentration of Dutch-Americans). Yet even a hack like Hoekstra is feeling the heat.

He and other Repugs are starting to become unhinged as Democrats call for congressional investigations into the headline-generating leak of Valerie Plame's identity by Rove and Cheney's chief operator, "Scooter" Libby during the run-up to the Iraq war. Now Hoekstra, in a desperate attempt to try to get ahead of the story and save his own neck, says his House Intelligence Committee will consider crafting legislation to help the Justice Department prosecute individuals who leak classified information. He told an audience of far right-wing loons at the Heritage Foundation that deliberate leaks of classified information have "probably done more damage to the intelligence community'' than espionage. Although he isn't advocating a treason trial for Rove and Libby yet-- let alone impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney-- he said he wants to create a culture where "zero tolerance'' is the norm. "It's time there is a comprehensive law that will make it easier for the government to prosecute wrongdoers and increase the penalties, which hopefully will act as a deterrent for people thinking about sharing information,'' he added.

A couple days ago Democrats sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, both right wing hacks and Bush-enablers, requesting that Congress investigate. "Americans deserve a Congress that holds Washington accountable for the truth about our national security,'' said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., one of the signatories. Meanwhile Americans are growing increasingly restive with the constant stream of lies-- big and small-- emanating from the White House and the degree of wariness voters have towards Republicans is growing palpably. Republican candidates in 2006 will be running away from Bush/Rove and, at the same time, trying to distance themselves from all the corruption swirling around their own leadership, not just in Ohio, but from a string of crooked legislators from Tom DeLay, Richard Pombo, Charlie Taylor, Robert Ney, Randy "Duke" Cunningham (who has already announced retirement before indictment), Jerry Lewis, to Conrad Burns and at least a dozen other Republicans in both Houses facing indictment and possibly prison.


At 5:11 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...


Charlie Cook is widely considered one of the most astute political analysts in the country. Last week his National Journal column talked about the impact GOP scandals could be having in congressional districts nationally.


The political impact of the news that White House senior adviser Karl Rove leaked the identity, if not the name, of CIA officer Valerie Plame is impossible to predict with any certainty. But this strange development is a timely reminder that while close 2006 midterm contests may well hinge on the "micro" particulars of each race, they could end up hinging on some "macro" national factor.
One method of forecasting election outcomes is to focus on contests individually -- assessing voting trends in a particular district or state, the candidates' strengths and weaknesses, and any issues or circumstances that loom as potentially decisive factors. While the year's general tone may be taken into account, this method largely agrees with the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill: "All politics is local."
The macro alternative is to assess the national issue agenda, the tilt of the national political terrain, and the parallels to previous election years. This is essentially a sophisticated way of licking one's finger to ascertain which way and how fast the wind is blowing, and making a guess based on historical patterns, national polls, and subjective judgment.
For House elections, the race-by-race micro method usually works best. But about every four elections, it simply doesn't. It just didn't in 1974, 1978, 1982, and 1994, and (to a lesser extent) didn't in 1998. (In big macro elections, when a tsunami develops, even the most sophisticated micro analyses prove useless, because first-rate candidates often lose to inferior ones simply because of party affiliation.) Micro analysis once worked reasonably well as a predictor of Senate outcomes, but that hasn't been true in the past four elections. Close Senate races have tended in recent years to break in one direction.
At this stage in the 2005-06 election cycle, just about any micro analysis would predict minimal changes in the House and Senate: Too few seats appear to be truly in play for either side to roll up a big win. Yet, history reminds us that the midterm election during a president's second term tends to deal a setback to the president's party -- generally because that party's members felt discouraged and failed to show up at the polls while the opposition felt energized and turned out in large numbers. The presidential party can get into electoral trouble because it has run out of intellectual gas, grown lethargic, overreached, suffered a scandal, or hit economic hard times. Any of those factors could, at least theoretically, turn 2006 into a macro election.
The scandals surrounding Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are making a lot of Republican strategists very nervous. And Rove has a far higher public profile than DeLay. So, GOP strategists have a new reason to fret over whether Rove knowingly disclosed the identity of an undercover CIA operative. We don't yet know which reporters Rove talked to, what he said, or whether he realized that Plame was a secret agent.
Rove's involvement in the Plame case is already creating a political problem for the White House and the Republican Party. We just don't know whether the problem will escalate into a GOP nightmare capable of damaging the party in the 2006 midterm elections.
The irony, of course, is that the Rove story is developing just as President Bush has tipped back "right-side up," as pollsters say, with his job-approval rating higher, although just barely, than his job-disapproval rating. His uptick is most likely the result of the London bombings. The two Gallup/CNN/USA Today polls conducted in June had pegged the president's overall job-approval rating at 45 percent and 46 percent. Now it's 49 percent, with his disapproval score, which had been 53 percent and 51 percent in June, 48 percent. Pew Research Center polling showed a bit more of an upward jump -- from 42 percent to 47 percent in approval, with disapproval dropping from 49 percent to 46 percent.
Obviously, hundreds of things will happen between now and the 2006 midterm elections. And the long-term political impact of the Rove/Plame affair and of heightened concerns about terrorism is impossible to know. But suffice it to say that Republicans certainly don't need another scandal right now. The current spotlight on Rove's behind-the-scenes maneuvering isn't something that heartens anyone in the GOP. The same can't be said, of course, for Democrats.


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