Saturday, November 11, 2006

Self Interrupting

"Knock knock."

Mrs. G. knows that a dumb joke is coming. Probably one she has heard before. Often. Nonetheless, she gamely counters, "Who's there?"

"Interrupting Starf-"

I have to digress here a moment. This is, indeed, one of my favorites. The knocker says "Interrupting starfish." Before the knockee can finish saying "Interrupting starfish who?" the knocker grabs the knockee's face with one spread, five-fingered hand. Hence the starfish. Also the interruption.

So I got as far as "Interrupting Starf-" when my wife, realizing which dumb joke she would have to put up with, put her face in her hand. And then realized that she had completed the joke for me. Self-interrupting starfish!

She suffers much for art.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Five for Fighting: A Few Fighting Dems Break Through This Time

Of the 55 Fighting Dems – veterans of various wars chosen by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to run for the House of Representatives – five won. This is actually a pretty good showing for a batch of newbies, most of whom were against incumbents and/or in Republican districts. The biggest winner among the veterans was not, strictly speaking, a Fighting Dem at all, but a Senate candidate, former Navy Secretary Jim Webb. In the race we followed most closely, the Pennsylvania 7th, the Eldest Gruntling took to the hustings in favor of Vice Admiral Joe Sestack, who unseated a ten-term incumbent.

As Garance Franke-Ruta points out in the New Republic, it did seem to matter which war the veterans were veterans off . Iraq and Afghanistan vets were better able to address the current war issue than Vietnam veterans were, a problem John Kerry had. I am hopeful that these winning younger veterans will have an immediate impact on how the Congress addresses the Iraqi quagmire that we have created.

I also hope that the other 50 Fighting Dems, and many more behind them, run again and stay in the party leadership and in the policy argument. Tammy Duckworth, the wounded helicopter pilot who drew the unenviable assignment of trying to win Henry Hyde's old seat, was the face of this group. If I were running the party, I would find a way for her to be prominently involved still. And perhaps she can run again. We will never run out of wars, and we will never run out of a need for veterans in both parties.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Elected a Centrist Government – Now Let it Govern

David Brooks has another sensible centrist column about who really won this election, "The Middle Muscles In." Since this is the rare week when his New York Times columns are freely available to all, I urge you to have a look.

I think the next two years could be a great era for government. The Republicans have the White House, Democrats have Congress, and the Supreme Court seems about even. The choices for our leaders are to work together, or to get nothing done. I vote for getting something done. This will mean compromise on both sides. The activists of both extremes hate compromise, and have long memories for politicians who they think have "sold out." Centrists, on the other hand, know that politics requires compromise. An uncompromising politician is not a leader, but an ineffective ideologue.

The presidential race has also begun in earnest. Today Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack became the first Democrat to declare for president. Vilsack is chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist/conservative wing of the party to which I belong. The DLC is committed to working with Republicans to get something done, as they did so well under the first DLC president, Bill Clinton. I hope Vilsack and others of both parties who begun to run for president in earnest will continue to push for actual achievement from the government we have now, without waiting for the promise of pie later when the other party is magically gone. Because the other party will never be gone. We will always have to work together.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Agenda for the Democratic Congress: Action, Not Recrimination

We won, and I am delighted. Democrats have retaken the House. We may even get the boon of the Senate, too.

The self-destruction of the Republican Party lately has been so spectacular that it has been hard to keep up with. One website showed films of people trying to read a list of indicted Republicans in one breath for a $100 prize. No one could do it.

A new era is upon us.

It might be natural, now that the Congress can actually find out what went on for the last six years, to spend the next couple of years in investigations. I hope, though, that they will not. Leave that to the historians. We are stuck with the mess now, no matter who created it and why. We need to do something about illegal immigration, and the trade deficit, and the federal debt, and global warming, and most of all about Iraq.

I hope Speaker Pelosi and (perhaps) Majority Leader Reid spend the next two months working with their new leadership to come up with a rich 100 Days legislative plan. Use the honeymoon to do something, and the rest of the term may be productive as well. Personally, I would start with the minimum wage.

In any case, I hope that the new government will simply move ahead, and let Tom DeLay bury the dead.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Glorious Day Is Finally Here!

Vote Centrist!

Go, Fighting Dems!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Anti-Abortion/Pro-Choice Democrats Can Win

Amy Sullivan has a fine piece in the New Republic about the unexpected rise of anti-abortion Democrats. She profiles Bill Ritter, the Democratic candidate for Colorado governor, with asides about Senate-candidate Bob Casey, Jr. in Pennsylvania, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, and Ohio Representative Tim Ryan. They are Democrats who support legal abortion and want to seriously reduce the number of them that women choose to have.

Tomorrow we will see how they, and others like them, do. A year ago you would not have predicted a big year for anti-abortion Democrats, or Fighting Democrats (the veterans who are remaking the party), or even that Democrats in general might have a big year. But Providence smiles on the party to take a centrist turn. And thus on the nation.

The Gruntleds will be following the election with intense interest.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Surprise Wiggle in the Haggard Scandal: Evangelicals Say National Association of Evangelicals is Irrelevant.

Ted Haggard, who resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals in a gay sex and drugs scandal, poses a problem for other evangelical leaders. Some, like James Dobson, stand by him as a friend. I was curious to see what Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, the loosest cannons of the evangelical movement, would say. And of course Haggard, as NAE president and megachurch pastor, was part of the famous White House conference calls with evangelical leaders – what would they do?

The White House, not surprisingly, said Haggard's part of those weekly calls was not important. As David Kuo, former #2 in the White House Faith-Based Initiatives Office has recently revealed, the White House viewed those calls as a tool for pacifying, rather than listening to, evangelical leaders.

More surprising is the tack taken by Robertson and Falwell: they have attacked the National Association of Evangelicals itself as irrelevant. The NAE under Haggard has been more politically moderate that Falwell's Moral Majority or Robertson's Christian Coalition had been. Still, they had worked with the NAE for years as the umbrella under which many evangelical projects and ministries were shaded. That both men would distance themselves from Ted Haggard personally is not surprising; that they would dismiss the NAE at the same time is.