WASHINGTON – John Mica has pulled off a feat many of us would have thought impossible. He has been elected to Congress without ever having his name on the ballot this year. His story tells a lot about what has happened to the House of Representatives, the part of the federal government designed to be closest to the people, but one that has become more like an American House of Lords. I heard about Mica from Russ Freeburg, a retired Chicago Tribune political reporter who now lives in Mica's Florida district. When Freeburg and his wife went to vote, he noticed something missing. His e-mail tells the story:
The wounds reflect the kind of war it is. The roadside bombs "shred and shatter the arms and legs," the Chicago Tribune reports, as well as send shrapnel underneath helmets, causing head injuries that might last a lifetime. The insurgents' homemade bombs burn severely and car bombs pack their own brand of explosive horror. As in any war, limbs have been lost. And the psychological problems will linger for some for decades. The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq was reported at 8,016 in figures released recently by the Pentagon. This is double what it was six months ago.
Still counting. Christine Gregoire and Paul Berendt were so busy pouting about Dino Rossi's publicity grab this week that they missed a chance to exploit it. Democrat Gregoire and Republican Rossi are fused in a dead-heat ballot count for governor of Washington. While waiting for the official results to be known, both need to be making plans for taking office in a couple of months.
I n justifying the exercise of U.S. power, all modern presidents read off the same script. The United States stands for liberty. It champions democracy. It aids the oppressed and succors the afflicted. Alone among history's great powers, the United States acts on behalf of the "inalienable rights" that form the birthright of all humankind. That script was the handiwork of Woodrow Wilson. When it comes to describing this nation's purpose, each of the dominant political figures of our own day — Ronald Reagan no less than John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush no less than Bill Clinton — has embraced Wilson's legacy. Doing so has served these presidents well, enabling them to exercise extraordinary latitude in the conduct of policy while insulating them from accountability for failure.
The illness of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the brazen announcement by Senator Arlen Specter of his own policy litmus test for judicial nominees raise very serious questions about which way this country will go at this crossroads in our legal history. The South Dakota voters' defeat of Senator Tom Daschle, leader of the obstructionists who refused to let some of President Bush's judicial nominees come up for a vote in the Senate, seemed to offer some hope that such obstructionism might subside. But Senator Specter's words suggest that the mantle of obstructionism may simply have been passed on from Daschle to Specter.
AUSTIN, Texas — Here's my two cents worth on "What Is to Be Done?" First of all, let me rush to join the Bill-Clinton-for-Party-Chair bandwagon (which I believe started with a Los Angles Times editorial). Granted, that means Hillary couldn't run in 2008, which is fine by me since I think she is: (A) too divisive, and (B) I worry about her safety. So put the Big Dog in at DNC. Let him raise money, recruit candidates and plot strategy. He knows and loves politics: who better? If he doesn't want that deal, he could at least travel about to various states to help strategize.
If a re-elected George W. Bush, with an eye on his legacy, does indeed plan to offer disappointed Democrats an olive branch (with or without the olive), he may encounter an unexpected obstacle – the new, even more Republican Senate. It's to be expected that any concessions or accommodations the president might have in mind to soften up Democrats would meet resistance in the House of Representatives. Tom "The Hammer" DeLay, the GOP majority leader, runs things there, and he believes in shooting the wounded, especially Democrats.
It's by no means the end of the argument, but U.S. District Judge William Fremming Nielsen's Nov. 3 order in the Hanford downwinder case was an important milestone. He ruled that plaintiffs alleging harm from radiation emissions during the production of plutonium in the 1940s do not have to prove that contractors acted recklessly. Under Nielsen's ruling, if it stands, the urgent nature of plutonium production made it an "abnormally dangerous" activity that put downwinders at risk. Therefore, attorneys will have to prove only that plaintiffs were harmed by it.
I have to thank Jimmy Carter for saving my sanity. Granted, his was not a presidency one looks back to with fondness. Gas lines stretched forever, Iran took our people hostage and there was disco, besides.
Life doesn't give you many second chances. President Bush got one, barely. He'd better not blow it. I say that as someone who knows and likes Bush. In fact, it's remarkable that 10 years to the month after he first was elected governor, the Texas Republican now has the chance to stand alongside GOP stars like Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Along with Richard Nixon, those are the only other Republican presidents to win two terms in the last 100 years. That's heady stuff.
Go ahead, Mr. or Ms. America, scrape that bumper sticker off the car. Pull up those lawn signs and toss them in the garbage. Throw out your Bush-Cheney or Kerry-Edwards buttons and the silly boater you were wearing when you stayed up late on Election Night, swilling too much chablis and shrieking at Wolf Blitzer and pulling for the red or blue candidate of your choice. Yes, the long national nightmare is over. We officially have a president.
It happens every time one party controls all branches of government. The lawmaking process is "streamlined," minority members are ignored and the shades are closed to the public. It happened when the Democrats controlled Congress, and it's happening now. Recently, the Boston Globe published an in-depth report showing that Congress is as buttoned up as it's ever been. The strength of the report is that it travels back to when Democrats controlled all three branches to find the roots of the abuse.
Maybe now we can get rid of the gays. Or at least relegate them to a forever-closeted existence, including the 25 percent of gay couples who are raising children. That's what American voters overwhelming said Election Day. Eleven states asked voters to pass constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. All 11 amendments passed, some by as much as 3-1 and 4-1 margins.
Spokane Mayor Jim West has no enviable task Monday night when he's scheduled to stand before the City Council and talk about a 2005 budget proposal that could leave city government lighter by up to 142 positions. We know there are those who celebrate the idea of City Hall or any seat of government jettisoning some of its payroll. But it's hard to imagine that any but the most jaded government haters would feel good about the reductions in legitimate public services that appear to be in store for Spokane.