Tuesday, January 02, 2007



Television is such a pitiful wasteland that I find myself blindly jumping from one hideous offering after another. Yesterday I settled for a program somewhere on basic cable that dealt with KSP, the Kentucky State Pen. It wasn't that good but at least they weren't trying to sell me something! It was somewhat interesting that there is a great divide in the KSP and it isn't a racial one. It's between the "inmates" and the "convicts," the old timers and the newbies. And there are all kinds of differences-- even in values-- between the two groups.

I wonder if Carl Hulse of the New York Times was watching the same program since he seems to have chosen to cover the new Congress from a similar perspective.

John Dingell (D-MI) has been in the House longer than anyone else-- 50 years. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) is a newly elected member from Arizona, having rid the House of extremist nincompoop J.D. Hayworth a couple months ago. The one bulls like Dingell can't get their heads behind ethics reform. Newbies like Giffords consider it, in Hulse's words, a "no-brainer." Like most Americans who aren't citizens of Inside-Beltway-World first and of real places second, Giffords doesn't see the current foxes-guarding-the-hen-house approach palatable. Dingell has as little problem with it as Tom Delay, Doc Hastings, Tom Reynolds, Duke Cunningham, Jerry Lewis, Gary Miller or Tom Foley.

"Those divergent outlooks over how best to fulfill the Democratic promise to clean up the House are just one illustration of a friction that could develop in the new Congress as the party takes control after 12 years in exile. While most attention will be focused on the divide between Republicans and Democrats, members of the new majority have their own differing perspectives, corresponding largely to length of service, that could ultimately prove more crucial to their success or failure." Just think of the Republicans as the Aryan Nation gang and the Democrats as the Bloods and then divide everybody up as inmates or convicts and Congress is a perfect parable for the KSP system. "Of 233 Democrats who will be sworn in on Thursday, 147-- 63 percent-- have been elected since Republicans won control of the House in 1994, and have never served in the majority. Those whose service predates the 1994 revolution, on the other hand, number only 86, or 37 percent. But it is this core of senior Democrats, Mr. Dingell among them, who will lead 20 of the 21 major committees and so exercise concentrated legislative power."
Leading House Democrats say the long-tenured members and those sent to Congress in recent elections broadly agree on a desire to move ahead on social programs, ethics, energy, national security and fiscal responsibility. The differences, they say, are subtler. Do issues studied in the previous Congress, for instance, need a full further examination in committee, in deference to the new chairmen? Is there need for a separate commission to scrutinize war contracting, or should this too be the province of the committees?

The freshmen, or some of them want to move fast. Showing voters that direction in Congress is changing is crucial for them. "Norman Ornstein, a longtime Congressional observer at the American Enterprise Institute, said he saw competing drives among members of the new majority. 'You have a significant number of Democrats who think the major change is that the whip is now in their hands and it is the Republicans taking the lash,' Mr. Ornstein said. 'A number of others want to keep the spigots running, but just into their own pockets. Those who genuinely want to change the House-- the way it operates, the culture of Washington-- have their work cut out for them.'"



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