Monday :: Apr 24, 2006

You're Pumpin' Less Gas For More Cash! Cash!! Cash!!!

by pessimist

The GOP is discovering something that not enough of America's citizens knew until just recently: following George W. Bu$h anywhere is a recipe for disaster. But with no one else to turn to, the party is maintaining the course and trusting Der Kriegsfuhrer von Crawford to pull a magic oil boom out of his Stetson hat so they don't lose power:

Bush focus: Keep Congress Republican

Recent efforts to stoke Republican popularity through audacious proposals, such as a plan to privatize Social Security, have fallen flat. Many see the White House changes more as a public relations move to show Bush responding to concerns about his leadership than as an actual transformation. That's an indication, party strategists say, that Bush overreached. It is also an acknowledgment that the president, buffeted by public anxieties about the war in Iraq and other issues he can't do much to control, is not in a position to pursue big plans.

"Republicans have kind of put themselves on thin ice with their own base largely over spending and budget issues," Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader from Texas. Salvaging Bush's agenda, though, might be a tall order, given the president's waning influence and his party's focus on elections - both this year's and the one in 2008.

Some Republicans believe instead that Bush's priorities, such as creating a guest worker program for immigrants, might have to wait until after the November election, when lawmakers - now reluctant to follow Bush - would be less concerned about their own survival.

Their own survival, thanks to Hizz Hindni$$, is certainly not being helped by those who no longer desire to risk their political futures by standing with Duh King.

George's polling numbers have sent GOP incumbents scurrying down a path of self-preservation:

For Republicans, It's Crunch Time On Agenda Goals
Looming Elections Narrow Window for Resolving Issues Like Taxes and Immigration

As Congress returns from its spring recess, the next five weeks will show if divided Republicans can salvage any meaningful legislative agenda from this election year. Mr. Bush's drop in the polls has emboldened opposing wings in his party. "We want to see the money" said Rep. Mike Castle (R., Del.), leader of a group of moderates trying to stave off Mr. Bush's domestic spending cuts.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R., Calif.) and younger conservatives are in open battle over proposals to curb his panel's ability to provide emergency funds outside the budget caps. Both the budget and the lobbying bill are at risk unless a deal is reached, and to the surprise of the leadership, Mr. Lewis has dug in publicly: "I have to draw a hard line," the chairman says.

In the tax negotiations, both Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R., Calif.) are confident of agreement -- if the other would only give more ground. The problem is how to package what would be really two bills.

Meanwhile on immigration, it is conservatives who most stand in the way of the president.

Most striking are the rising divisions within the body of generally conservative members who dominate the House. Speaker Hastert and the new Majority Leader, Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio) are both practical men, but often send off contradictory signals depending on how each reads the direction of his party. That could spell trouble in November.

A juxtaposition of events on Friday illustrated how much Congress and the Republican majority appear in denial over the negative impact of recent scandals -- and the drift of this year.

After days of orchestrating telephone calls into his district, Republican campaign officials celebrated Rep. Alan Mollohan (D., W. Va.) being forced to step down from the House Ethics Committee because of controversy surrounding his real-estate partnerships. That same afternoon, the Rules Committee posted a final text of a Republican that showed a weaker product than the widely criticized Senate-passed version.

As recent developments in the Tom DeLay scandals demonstrate, a weaker lobbying overhaul bill isn't going to inspire confidence in the citizenry that Congress knows anything about ethics:

DeLay's scandals may not be confined to Texas

Tom DeLay isn't involved in every Republican scandal, although it's easy to see how you could get that idea. As Democrats prowl through evidence in a growing phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire, what should pop up but DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee.

Perhaps we'll find out if there's some DeLay-Abramoff-tribal connection if Judge Philip Mangones of the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester, N.H., allows a civil suit against the state's GOP to proceed. Republican defendants have asked Mangones to throw out the civil case. But now that a federal criminal investigation, which has already nailed three Republican operatives, is winding down, the Democratic plaintiffs have asked Mangones to allow the discovery phase of the civil case in his state court to proceed.

GOP incumbents can see the handwriting on the jailhouse walls, and are seeking to find a way to remain in the House and avoid ending up in the Big House:

With Ethics in Question, GOP Seeks Answers
By Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza
April 23, 2006

Republicans are increasingly nervous about their ability to hold the House in November, and not only because of the sour national mood over the war in Iraq and rising gas prices. Increasingly, local media and political opponents are putting the ethics of GOP House candidates under a microscope.

* Rep. Tom Reynolds, who heads the GOP reelection effort, is feeling some heat. The four-term New Yorker is being targeted by a liberal watchdog group, New Yorkers for a Cleaner Congress, for taking "more lobbyist-funded luxury trips outside of western New York in the last three years than he has returned home to western New York." The group singles out jaunts to Pebble Beach, Calif., by Reynolds that have totaled $205,185 over five years.

Reynolds's office dismissed the criticism as politically motivated. "Just like the national Democratic Party, Jack Davis and his friends can't put forth any positive ideas, so instead they have to run negative ads and spread misinformation," said L.D. Platt, spokesman for Reynolds, referring to his boss's Democratic opponent.

* A Youngstown newspaper found that Charles Blasdel, the GOP front-runner in an open-seat race in Ohio and a financial adviser by profession, has about $50,000 in delinquent business taxes.

* Rick O'Donnell, who is seeking an open seat in Colorado, has drawn fire from Denver newspapers for including Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen L. Johnson's title on a fundraising invitation -- a violation of the Hatch Act. The event drew oil and gas officials with business before the EPA.

* Ten-term Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon's close ties to lobbyists are getting a close look.

* Rep. John Sweeney of New York has drawn flak for taking a ski trip to Utah with lobbyists.

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, which Reynolds leads, said the Duke Cunningham corruption case appears to have stirred a hornet's nest. "Anytime a member of Congress is going to jail, it's news," Forti said. He noted that some Democrats are also under scrutiny. Among them are Rep. William Jefferson (La.), the subject of a federal bribery investigation; Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Ga.), accused of striking a Capitol police officer; and Rep. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House ethics panel, who stepped down from his post Friday amid allegations of improper financial disclosure.

Two can play that game, as my paraphrase of the statement from the representative of Tom Reynolds demonstrates:

[Democrats dismissed the criticism as politically motivated. "Just like the national Republican Party, Ken Mehlman and his friends can't put forth any positive ideas, so instead they have to run negative ads and spread misinformation." said spokesman I.M. Knott Gopper.]

The Republicans don't appear to know how to live life without an enemy to fight against. Why else would they be tearing down the middle and taking sides against one another?

How the GOP Lost Its Way
Craig Shirley, of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, is the author of Reagan's Revolution, a book about the 1976 campaign, and is now writing Rendezvous With Destiny about the successful 1980 campaign. His firm has clients concerned with immigration issues.
[Just so you know where his loyalties lie in the screed which follows - ed.]

The Republican Party is now unraveling. Sept. 11, 2001, and the war on terrorism stanched a lot of wounds inside the party, but resentment is growing over steel tariffs, prescription drug benefits, a League of Nations mentality, the growth of government and harebrained spending, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the increasing regulation of political speech in the United States and endemic corruption. On top of all the scandals, it has just come to light that the RNC paid millions in legal bills to defend operative James Tobin, who was convicted with associates in an illegal phone-jamming scheme aimed at preventing New Hampshire Democrats from voting.
In doing so, the GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party.
The immigration reform debate has highlighted a long-standing fissure in the GOP between the elitist Rockefeller business wing and the party's conservative populist base. The two camps are deeply divided. The business elites are interested in a large supply of cheap labor and support unfettered immigration and open borders. The populist base supports legal immigration but is concerned about lawlessness on our border, national sovereignty and the real security threat posed by porous borders.

There is nothing new about this division. It is a 40-year-old fight that has its roots in the cultural, economic, regional and ideological differences between the two camps. Still, most conservatives [note the shift in labels - ed.] felt that after the victory of Ronald Reagan and the Republican Revolution of 1994 their point was made and the country-clubbers would know their place.

They were wrong.
The Rockefeller wing is now attempting to reassert its control over the party and is openly hostile toward the Reagan populists [note the desperately reaching appeal toward the sacred image of St. Ronnie the Conservative Icon - ed.] who created the Republican majority in the first place.

The elites in the GOP have never understood conservatives or Reagan; they've found both to be a bit tacky. They have always found the populists' commitment to values unsettling.

To them, adherence to conservative principles was always less important than wealth and power.
Whether the two groups can continue to coexist and preserve the Republican majority is increasingly doubtful as conservatives begin to consider -- and in some cases cheer -- the possibility that the GOP may lose control of Congress this fall.

This would explain the reemergence of Newt Gingrich, and maybe Trent Lott, now wouldn't it?

But I digress.

Being careful what one wishes for is always a wise thing. As the GOP just might soon find out, one can evoke too much of a good thing:

More Fuel on the Fire Under the GOP's Feet
As gas prices climb and approval ratings drop, lawmakers grow more worried about their electoral prospects.
By Janet Hook, LA Times Staff Writer, April 24, 2006

This month's abrupt rise in gas prices is fueling new worries about the party's prospects in the fall elections, which have been roiled by controversy over GOP policies on immigration, the federal budget and Iraq. For lawmakers, the rise in gas prices is especially worrisome in an election year because it hits voters' pocketbooks immediately. [G]as prices have shot up to more than $3 a gallon in some places.

Republicans worry that because their party is dominant in Washington, they will bear the blame for high gas prices. "The Republicans are in power; Bush and Cheney are identified with the oil business," Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said on Fox News Sunday. "It's not a hard issue for a Democratic challenger to demagogue."

Democrats are trying to pin the blame for price hikes on GOP energy policies that put more emphasis on oil drilling than on conservation. "We cannot drill our way out of this problem," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said in the Democrats' radio address Saturday.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found anti-incumbent sentiment running stronger than at any time since 1994, when Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

The poll found that 41% of those surveyed thought
that this Congress had accomplished less than its recent predecessors
the most negative evaluation of Congress' record since 1997.
"I don't see panic setting in yet, but there's certainly increasing concern when the president is in the 30s [in approval polls] and we're in the 20s," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

Even Republicans who believe the GOP will retain control of Congress are resigned to losing many seats. "There's not any margin for error here," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

House GOP leaders will have a tough time passing a budget, which stalled before the recess amid party infighting. Moderate Republicans objected that the proposed budget allowed too little for education and other social programs; conservatives complained it provided too much. And Republicans on the Appropriations Committee objected to a crackdown on earmarking money for pet projects.

"The president has to be like Moe Howard: At some point in every 'Three Stooges' short, Moe slaps both Curly and Larry and says, 'Get to work,' " said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Instead of emulating Moe Howard, King George is emulating Shemp:

Bush Seemingly Resigned to High Gas Prices

Bush's poll ratings are at their lowest point. Democratic efforts to score political points by focusing on gas prices have Republicans worried that their majority in Congress could be at risk in the fall midterm elections. Critics say Bush's ideas are too modest and focus on solutions that are far from being a reality in the marketplace.
Bush offered only a pledge that "if we find any price gouging it will be dealt with firmly."

And that is the forceful and decisive leader who dragged his country off to war against a nation whose military strength (on paper) was about 1/10th of that of the US - and can't win it???

What happened to that ass-kicking, name-taking rabble-rouser that the Red Staters turned off their brains for? The one 'God Wanted' to be president? The one who was going to establish a thousand-year reign? (Oooops! Wrong tyrant!)

it's no wonder that the GOP can only rouse majority support in only four states anymore. Even sheep won't follow a leader who has lost his way back to the manger - and in the process lost the safety, security, and stability of the flock.

I guess you followed the wrong Biblical 'J' person, George. Judas didn't know what to do either.

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