Friday, November 17, 2006



Ari Berman has a good analysis of the fight between Hoyer and Murtha for the leadership yesterday at The Nation. Ken and I have tended to see this as a battle between Emanuel's slick and systemically corrupt K Street-oriented political machine and lonely liberal-under-seige Nancy Pelosi. (David Sirota's incisive Hoyer vs. Murtha: A Pelosi Win-Win looks at it from an entirely different perspective, although not one that is mutally exclusive by any means.)

I spent some time on the phone with Hoyer and some time on the phone with Murtha. I wrote about Hoyer. The Murtha stuff, for some reason I can't understand, was off the record. I've been perplexed by why solid liberals like Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman and Jerry Nadler were campaigning for Rahm's boy Steny. Sure Steny has a more "liberal" voting record-- on everything but the #1 issue in the country, Iraq-- than Murtha, but he's far from a liberal. Both get C's from DMI, although Hoyer is more like a C plus and Murtha is a C minus. We started hearing that some of the Blue America candidates had endorsed Hoyer, which really perplexed us, since we had carefully made sure each one was against the kind of systemic corruption that had been such a disgrace in the DeLay-Hastert-Boehner House.

When I read that John Hall, who certainly owes nothing to Rahm Emanuel or his machine (Emanuel having supported a milquetoast, GOP-lite primary opponent and then ignored his campaign against Sue Kelly when he beat Rahm's candidate) was in the Hoyer column, I was confused. Jane Hamshire and John Amato told me to ask him if we could have a conference call so we could get some insight into how he made his decision. When the new Congressman finally reached me, Jane was on a plane, Amato was going to an appointment and I was driving to the Paraguayan consulate to pick up a visa-- although I thought I had to go to Century Park Blvd (which is where I was when Hall rang) instead of Century Blvd, way the hell on the other side of town (which is where the Paraguayans are).

Anyway, while I drove around Century City looking for an address that doesn't exist, Hall told me a bit about what went into his thinking about the contest. None of it really related to anything the outside world takes into account in these internal battles in DC. Hall seemed more concerned with the firewall situation on the computer network for his district offices and about what office he's being assigned in the Capitol and, most important, about the heady agenda of substantive issues he arrived in DC with.

He said he liked both guys and he seemed to feel that the people who had reached out to him during his race-- Chris Van Hollen, Eliot Engel, Michael McNulty, even fellow freshman Kristen Gillibrand, as well as the dean of the New York delegation, Charlie Rangel--were all Hoyer supporters. It was almost a regional thing-- and who helped out with the campaign and who knows who and all kinds of things between House members that have nothing to do with policy and issues and ideology. I think someone in there was even a friend of a relative or something.

Berman got into this too:
Hoyer's seniority, experience and deep connections helped win support from a broad array of groups within the caucus. He courted incoming freshman Democrats by emphasizing the $4.4 million he gave or raised for House members and won a majority of endorsements from them. Before the conservative Blue Dog Democrats and moderate New Democrat Coalition he touted his centrist reputation and work to make the party more inclusive. Appealing to members of the Progressive Caucus, he detailed in great depth, his "commitment to core Democratic principles," such as raising the minimum wage and protecting reproductive rights and the environment. Hoyer boasted of a perfect score from NARAL and an "F" from the NRA, the exact opposite of the socially conservative Murtha. Opposition to the war could only carry Murtha so far.

And Berman found the guy who summed it up best: Massachusetts progressive, Mike Capuano, a big Murtha supporter. "This is not about philosophy. I'm a liberal. If that were the basis, I wouldn't support Jack or Steny. They're both too conservative for me."

Yeah, I agree with that. And maybe they're both too corrupt too. But I still can't help seeing it as the Inside-the-Beltway slicksters (Rahm's venal team) against Democrats willing to listen to the grassroots (Nancy's team). I never endorsed either guy-- Ken seemed more certain which really was the lesser of two evils-- and I never tried to influence anyone I know to vote one way or the other. If I can't trust Barney and Maxine and Henry-- and John Hall... well, I'd have to start my own party.

And one last thing: all this fretting and foolishness about what a disaster this is for Pelosi is pure poppycock. You might not remember a little story about Tom DeLay, the Hammer, that better illustrates the non-issue here. In 1994, Newt Gingrich's hand-picked choice for Majority Whip, Robert Walker, was defeated by Tom DeLay, who had previously managed the party whip campaign of Edward Madigan against Gingrich. Did the press report that as a "mortal wound" for the incoming speaker? Did it prevent the Republicans from enacting their agenda? Uh... no. And that's the difference in how the Republicans and the Democrats get covered by "the liberal media." History was made yesterday with the election of the first woman Speaker, the highest ranking elected woman in the history of the United States. How did TV cover it? You saw. (I had to go to a German news agency to find the picture above. All the available U.S. ones were meant to portray a negative bias.)


At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was one small decision at the start of two full years of many decisions.

As Murtha says, it is time to get to work.

Mike Malloy, no conservative in any sphere, made the excellent point that this is what Democrats do, we discuss and we contest ideas from within. Democrats do not march to orders of leaders. We vote, we decide, we get to work.

Wasn't it Rumsfeld who said Democracy is messy...maybe Condi said it. When they said it, they meant people had to die, when we say it, we mean people can disagree and still get something done.


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