Friday, November 21, 2008

Hillary Clinton Should Be Senate Majority Leader And Make The Job Worth Something


Today some Insider publication attacked me by referring to me as a "Democratic Party operative." They might be in for a surprise if they ever read DWT. Tonight, for example, I want to describe a member of Congress we've talked about before. He is a lazy, incompetent, corrupt old hack, a sleazy Brooklyn Democrat named Edolphus Towns who we talked about last summer in the context of a primary:
Yesterday's NY Times focused on the insurgent primary against shady Bedford Stuyvesant/Ft Greene incumbent Edolphus Towns, a corporate shill for Big Pharma and telecoms and one of the notorious CAFTA-15. He's another Al Wynn in terms of voting for The Man both on the bankruptcy bill that has devastated his own constituents and on the estate tax, which is basically fine for people who have hundreds of millions of dollars but not too good for inner city working and middle class families. The Times story doesn't mention any of Towns' many flaws-- a corporate-oriented Democrat in one of the-- if not the-- most Democratic districts in the U.S. (PVI is an astounding D+41.) Instead the Times focuses on Towns' ill-advised support for Hillary Clinton over Obama, something he shared with virtually every other Democratic elected official in New York City.

He won his primary and it looks like a plum assignment fell into his lap today: the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that was handled so admirably, energetically and ably by Henry Waxman (who is moving on to the Energy and Commerce Committee).

I recall that when the Republicans controlled the entire government and brazenly ran roughshod over the entire system one of the complaints was that Congress had abdicated it's oversight responsibilities and had a tacit deal with the Bush Regime allowing it to do whatever it wanted so long as members of Congress could take all the bribes they wanted. It worked great for years until some on both sides of the deal over-reached a bit more than the voters were willing to put up with. After the 2006 win by the Democrats, the slothful GOP hack, ex-Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) was booted from the chair and suddenly the committee became a hub of oversight. (While Clinton was president, the GOP-run committee issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged presidential misconduct and wasted $35 million in the process. Only 3 subpoenas were issued while Bush was in the White House and the Republicans controlled the committee. The only noteworthy investigations they did were of Terri Schiavo and steroid use in baseball.

Today when I was contemplating the Democrats settling on a nincompoop like Towns, instead of skipping down to Carolyn Maloney, Elijah Cummings, Dennis Kucinich, Danny Davis or John Tierney, the other most senior members, I wondered if the Democratic Insider Establishment isn't just as happy having a bumbling and ineffectual fool like Towns "running" the show so that there will be as much oversight for the Obama Administration as there was under Tom Davis' for the Bush Regime.

And even if the Obama Administration starts off as a bunch of White Knights, history and common sense tell us that sooner or, hopefully later, it is going to need some serious oversight to keep from straying too far off the tracks. After all, just take a look at what Obama put in as chief of staff. No exaggeration: Bush never made a more venal and hideous appointment.

The trust the American people put in the Democrats by entrusting the House, the Senate and the White House to the party, means someone has to take oversight seriously. Wouldn't it be ironic if that someone turned out to be... Joe Lieberman!

A better solution: less of a kiss ass, beholden Senate leadership. For his own sake, the current Majority Leader should hearken to the lesson of his Democratic predecessor from South Dakota and trade in the Majority Leader's role for a powerful committee chair. In 2010, which, historically speaking, could be a good year for a Republican resurgence, Reid's seat will be up and he will be target #1 in a very purple, politically unstable state. McConnell and the Republicans will be looking for some payback and Reid would be far better off running as the moderate Democrat that he is, than as someone who has to defend the somewhat more progressive bent of the whole caucus. That's how Daschle lost.

Hillary Clinton would be a far better Majority Leader. It looks like that whole Secretary of State thing isn't happening-- or is it?-- and Democratic leaders say they're "willing" to give her an enhanced leadership role in the Senate. Screw them! She should be Leader. "Clinton asked to join the Senate Democratic leadership after the Nov. 4 election, and party leaders began trying to figure out a way to accommodate her without dislodging any of the current leaders, Democratic officials said."
The uncertainty, a week after Mr. Obama met with Mrs. Clinton in Chicago to discuss the idea of her leading the State Department, kept Washington spinning in feverish speculation about whether the two former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination would team up. Mrs. Clinton was keeping counsel only with a tight circle of confidants, leaving even prominent veterans of the Clinton political operation guessing as to her intentions.

But driving her consideration, friends said, is a sense of disenchantment with the Senate, where despite her stature she remains low in the ranks of seniority that governs the body. She was particularly upset, they said, at the reception she felt she received when she returned from the campaign after collecting 18 million votes and almost becoming the first woman ever nominated for president by a major party.

“Her experience in the Senate with some of her colleagues has not been the easiest time for her,” said one longtime friend who insisted on anonymity in exchange for sharing Mrs. Clinton’s sentiments. “She’s still a very junior senator. She doesn’t have a committee. And she’s had some disappointing times with her colleagues.”

In particular, the friend said, Mrs. Clinton was upset when the leadership rejected the possibility of her heading a special new task force with a staff and a mandate to develop legislation expanding health care coverage... Mr. Reid wants to come up with some sort of leadership position to recognize Mrs. Clinton’s standing as one of the party’s most popular figures, and aides said he was confident that he could arrive at something with sufficient muscle to appeal to her.

And he should-- by resigning as Leader and nominating her to replace himself. Chance of that happening? Not nearly as good as Edolphus Towns becoming Chairman of the Oversight Committee. The reason I want her-- because she wouldn't be a patsy for Obama-- is just one of many reasons the hidebound Establishment is never going to let that happen-- anymore than the Republicans would consider giving John McCain a leadership role in their caucus.


Most people I talk to who are following this think Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is the best qualified for the gig and I'm hearing Waxman is prodding him to try for it. Pelosi's camp sees Towns realistically and realize he's a lazy, corrupt slug. It's likely that Councilman Charles Barron will challenge him again in 2010 and beat him this time. Hundred guys like Barron in Congress and we'd have a chance to move an actual progressive agenda forward!

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At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have wanted this from Day One because Hillary is sharp and effective at fighting for her principles. Much more stature than Reid.


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