Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I plan on making this a semi-regular feature here at TPS. Maybe it'll get some decent convo going. Yes, I'm lifting the idea from Time Magazine. But since Time chose me (and you out there too!) as its 2006 "Person of the Year" for my contributions to the internet, I figured they won't mind.

For now, we'll look at the top 7 contenders for each party's nomination. The corresponding odds I assign will refer only to each candidate's current potential for winning the nomination. We all know that the general election will encompass much broader forces, so we'll save for a later day.

Pick your horse and bring on the disagreement!

THE DEMS: "A Top Heavy Field -- Trust Me, No Pun Intended, Ms. Clinton"

Hillary: 2-1 (Big time frontrunner here; I've believed that for years; she may end up raising more money than all other Democratic candidates combined; it's Hillary's race to lose both in the primary and the general; but that's still very possible; she's not the speaker, nor the campaigner, nor the politician that her husband was; capable of derailing her chances by f-ing up via foot-in-mouth disease)

John Edwards: 5-1 (Will become the standard bearer for the traditional FDR/LBJ Democratic interests; indicated as much by declaring his candidacy in New Orleans and it works well with his "Two Americas" theme; great speaker, he looks good, wife is a breast cancer survivor; last 3 Democratic presidents all came from the working poor the South like Edwards)

Barack Obama: 10-1 (Consensus is that he can't win, he's merely a media creation; well, I think he knows that and he also realizes that there's not a damn thing wrong with it in modern politics; the guy is running for a place on the ticket as vice-president; if he can show like-ability, strong oratory, and a positive personal background during a solid primary campaign, Hillary or Edwards will have no choice but to give the veep spot to him)

Al Gore: 15-1 (following the 2000 election, Gore only runs if he can win; in the current politcal climate, he cannot; but there's enough time for the unknown still to happen; so he sits back and waits to see if Hillary screws up; then he answers the call of his party if it comes)

Bill Richardson: 100-1 (Former Congressman, Secretary of Energy, US Representative to the United Nations, and the current Governor of New Mexico; by far the most qualified candidate on either side; too bad that's never determined our presidential elections!)

Joe Biden: 200-1 (first ran for president way back in 1988 but is still 6 years younger than McCain; perhaps the most appealing candidate to the Democratic base on Iraq; only a major negative development in the war could bolster his longshot chances)

Dennis Kucinich: 500-1 (Someone has got to be there to score the far-left votes; I'm sure he'll raise money from the internet and it'll be enough to keep Kucinch around for the debates; I read where his campaign bus in 2004 burned vegetable oil for fuel and thus he smelled like french fries wherever he went!)

Others: Tom Vilsack, Chris Dodd, Al Sharpton, John Kerry (says not running).

THE GOP: "Parity Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing"

John McCain: 3-1 (Fits the Republican tendency to reward the loyal party man who patiently waits his turn a la Bob Dole; a proven fundraiser who has already assembled a strong machine; voting record will appeal to social conservatives critical to key primaries; Iraq and age may not cause real damage till the general)

Mitt Romney: 7-1 (Perhaps the most dynamic Republican candidate; impressive background in private sector plus executive experience as a governor; has a small but natural GOP base in New England and Utah; social positions will hurt him in heartland primaries)

Rudy: 10-1 (Scores high on name recognition; certainly can raise money from his many strong supporters; but many skeletons reside in his closets; social liberalism will haunt him in primaries; I still don't see him running)

Newt: 20-1 (Ditto the Giuliani comments above, save the liberalism thing, of course!)

Sam Brownback: 25-1 (It's right there for him to be the conservative dark horse of the race; only problem is that he's not the roll-up-your-sleeves/fire-and-brimstone speaker one needs to be in this role a la Pat Buchanan or Howard Dean; will need to spend lots of that Dominos Pizza money of billionaire supporter Tom Monahan)

Mike Huckabee: 50-1 (Effective speaker; good track record; the Governor from Arkansas format has worked before; but will likely have money problems and has a lot of catching up to do quickly)

Jim Gilmore: 100-1 (Included Gilmore over other Republican contenders because he's from Virginia; this state will be critical if the GOP is to reverse the trend of recent failures; Gilmore is a former party insider and that always helps too)

Others: Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Chuck Hagel, Tommy Thompson, George Pataki, Ron Paul, Condi Rice (says not running), Jeb Bush (says not running).


Read more!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Populism Run Amok (as usual)

Regular readers of this blog will (hopefully, I know its been a while) recall that generally speaking we are not big fans of populism. In fact, it is one of a surprising many subjects on which we all tend to agree, regardless of political party affiliation. With this in mind, I’d like to rant a bit about the most recent attempt to bring “populist” ideas into our republic. This time, however, it involves something else near and dear to many of our hearts, the Electoral College.

There is a little known movement afoot to effectively rid the nation of the Electoral College. What’s even more hideous is the fact that this movement seeks to achieve this goal, not by amending the Constitution or even through an activist judiciary (whatever that means), but rather through the state legislatures, and where necessary, the ballot box. Before you all blow a gasket and call me crazy, let me explain. Let’s start with a few basic principles. Recall that electors are appointed by the state legislatures, not “elected” by the voters. In some states the names of the electors who have been appointed actually appear on the ballot, but in most states the candidates names appear giving people the false sense that they are voting for say Kerry or Bush. In reality you are voting for a slate of electors that will go to DC in December and cast an official ballot for the candidate who will be President. This technically of our Presidential election system is simply ignored by the vast majority of citizens who are woefully ignorant of the finer details of our republic. Most, but not all, of the States control how their electors vote. In other words, in most states the electors are to cast their vote according to the winner of the state’s popular vote. In these states the electors have no discretion. For example, if, say a Republican wins the popular vote in Virginia, the electors, regardless of whom they personally voted for, are arguably legally bound to cast their Electoral College vote for the Republican candidate. Interestingly, our own GipperClone, in a legal publican of some national repute, has discussed the constitutionality of these types of state laws in light of the First Amendment. While I am aware of several historical instances where individual electors have disobeyed the public will and “voted their conscious,” it has never, to my knowledge, actually affected the outcome of a Presidential election.

Thus, if the states can pass laws requiring electors to cast their votes for the winner of the state’s popular vote, it should follow then that states could also pass laws that require their electors to cast their vote based on any other rubric that the state legislature deems relevant, right? Such is the theory that a group of scholars and “populists” are attempting to use to circumvent the Electoral College. What this group of activists is proposing is that each state adopt a law that requires their electors to cast their vote, not for the candidate that prevails in the state’s popular vote, but for the winner of the NATIONAL public vote. To use the 2000 election as an example, under this theory, since Al Gore won the national popular vote, states would have required their electors by law to cast votes for Gore, regardless what the outcome in their state was. End result, President Gore, period dot end. Never mind the fact that President Bush actually won more states, he lost the popular vote, and in these people warped mind, should have never been elected President.

Long story short, proponents of this popular election system argue that it is constitutional because it doesn’t interfere with the functioning of the Electoral College. Rather than repeal that part of Article II, they simply assert that the state’s power to appoint and control the votes of the electors can render the College effectively dependent on the popular vote. In other words, they are purporting to use one provision of the Constitution – the state’s power to appoint electors – to trump another, the Electoral College.

Thankfully, thus far the group hasn’t experienced any success. However, rumor has it that bills putting this plan into law have already been introduced in small states like North Dakota, who, because of their small number of electoral votes and virtually homogenous Republican population, are basically ignored in Presidential elections because everyone knows how they’re going to vote anyway. Of course, one could say the same about many states, where the outcomes, based on population demographics, is virtually assured anyway. This list includes, for the most part, states like NY, CA, and TX, large states with big populations who also see very little action during the Presidential election season.

So some states don’t get their fair share of attention every four years. So what? Is that really a reason to change our method of electing the President, which, by the way, has produced numerous peaceful transitions of power throughout our history? Only 3 times has the election, hence the Electoral College, ever been in doubt 1800, 1876, and, of course, 2000. That’s a pretty good record, no? More importantly, however, is that fact that like it or not, we’re not supposed to directly elect the President. We’re not really capable of it, at least not in my opinion. The Electoral College, antiquated as it may be, provides a very real, very important buffer between the election of the single most powerful individual office holder in the country and the general population. To turn such a thing over to the popular will is simply crazy, not to mention antithetical to a republican form of government. One can question the wisdom of even the existing controls on state electors, and I do. I don’t think such laws are unconstitutional, but I’m not 100% convinced they are a good idea. That said, I’m sure this movement is a bad idea, and I hope that those of you who hear about it in your states, will alert your state representatives to its folly.

I’m also not convinced it’s even constitutional, as I question using one part of the document to nullify another. But, unfortunately there is little case law or theory that I could point to in support of my instincts. It’s not as though we were amending the document, in which case the amendment would trump the original text of the Articles. Rather, this is using two equally situated provisions in a manner that renders one null and void. Generally, with respect to statutes, such a construction is not permitted, as the reader is supposed to read the document in a way that gives full force and effect to each provision. Thus, I think as a matter of statutory construction the Constitution should not be read in a manner that would permit such a move. However, I’m far from 100% confident in this assessment. Anyway, just some food for thought. I’m curious to get the reaction from the TPS regulars. Is this as offensive as I think, or just no big deal?

Read more!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thank God for the 2nd Amendment!

It always feels good to be an American and a gun owner when I see stories like this. In the past decade, Great Britain's Labor government led by Tony Blair (that hero to many George Bush fans) has all-but-destroyed the right of British people to protect themselves through the lawful ownership of firearms. For many left-wingers, this was the test-case for those who hate guns and see them as the root cause of all crime. So by following the very example employed by Hitler's Nazi party in 1930s Germany, the Labor government proclaimed that people would be safer if legal handguns were rounded up and (supposively) taken off the streets.

Well, whaddya know? The figures are in and crime in Britain is way up. Naturally, gang and drug violence are at an all-time high because such criminals never have any problem skirting new laws to get their guns. However, the really frightening part is how armed robberies of both homes and business have also skyrocketed. These thugs realize they can now attack with their guns and be confident that their victims will be powerless to defend themselves. Sadly, they're usually right -- in Britain. Thankfully, here in America, we still have a Second Amendment.

The moral of this story is don't take this for granted. And remember, GOPers, "America's mayor" and liberal presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani may actually be the leading anti-gun candidate out there. He's consistently been an opponent of gun-owners' rights and even led the charge by suing gun manufacturers to get a piece of that cash in the wake of the cigarette and fast food lawsuits.

LONDON -- Labour has been accused of losing control of gun crime as new figures show a sharp rise in armed robberies.

Guns were used in 4,120 robberies last year - a 10% jump - including a 9% rise to 1,439 in the number of street robberies where guns were used.

There was also a rapid and unexplained increase in the number of times householders were confronted in their own homes by armed criminals. Residential firearms robberies show a 46% leap, a record 645 cases in England and Wales - up 204 on the previous year and four times the level recorded in 2000-01.

Read more!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

I know there's a tradition here at TPS at paying homage to every political junkie's favorite night of the year, the President's State of the Union address. So I thought I'd keep it going with a few thoughts tonight. My longtime criticism of President Bush is well-known, so I'll begin with some praise.

I was happy to hear Bush's simplified tones. No stark denunciations like the "Axis of Evil," no shady intelligence like the "uranium sold by Niger" line, no bold and politically risky proposals like the social security reform of his 1st term, and no overtly thumping-his-chest "America rocks and everyone else sucks" attitudes, all of which had been seen in States of the Union past. This time Bush kept it simpler and, in turn, I think much more dignified.

When you look at it, he merely presented a series of brief talking points -- none of which enthused a great majority of the chamber. The Republicans liked his message of "staying the course" in Iraq, fighting terrorism, increasing the size of the military, and new tax deductions. The Democrats, on the other hand, applauded mightily at the mention of a guest worker program, our dependency on foreign oil, increasing ethanol subsidies, and addressing the "global climate change."

That's quite a change from past speeches in which Bush attempted to drive home his points to both the Congress and the American public. Bush knows he has lost the Congress. He knows he has lost the American people. And this speech, like his Iraq policy itself, seemed to have the attitude of "let's pick up the pieces and see what we can do with them."

And in the end, the answer is usually "nothing." You end up throwing them out. It's too much work to glue them back together and they'll never look as good again. So you wait until you're able to buy a new one and then you replace it.

Such is the presidency of George W. Bush as we wait for 2008.

I will give the President credit for properly acknowledging Nancy Pelosi as the new Speaker of the House. I do think it is a big deal. And I think that he addressed it tonight with class. Afterall, there's no doubt that Mr. Bush is a good person. Even his critics should concede that. There's plenty of criticism to be saved for his politics, but I'm not surprised that he was gracious to Ms. Pelosi.

Also, did anyone else find it interesting how Bush kept the traditional visiting dignitary applause for the very end of the speech? Usually you get those out of the way somewhere up front, right? I guess he was hoping that the mistakes of Iraq or the failure to establish border security might be blurred by all 7'6" of Dikembe Mutombo for those last few minutes?

Finally, in a trivial note, I commend Bush for ending with a simple, straight-forward look at the audience and saying, "God bless." It felt to me like he actually meant what he said when he uttered those all-powerful words that have sadly become cliched. As a Christian, this felt good. I've gotten so tired of the words, "Thank you and may God bless the United States of America." There's certainly nothing wrong with that sentiment, but after hearing 4 presidents over the course of my political lifetime conclude seemingly every speech with those 11 words they've gotten a tad stale. Bush's words "God bless" were more consistent with his simplified tone and personally I found it a welcomed change.

Read more!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gradually Getting in Campaign Mode

At first glance, Senator Sam Brownback appears to be one of the few announced 2008 presidential contenders who interests me, with Tom Tancredo, John Edwards & Joe Biden being the others that I'm currently taking a look at. However, I must say that things don't look all-that-good yet for Brownback. Firstly, he's a Republican senator from Kansas running for the White House. That combo sure didn't work well for Bob Dole the 4 or 5 times he used it. Secondly, the guy can't even get any press on the very day he announces his candidacy before thousands of supporters.

I signed up for Brownback's mailing list awhile back and got lots of e-invites from Martin Gillespie to watch for the big announcement from Topeka today. But when I woke up this morning, all the headlines were already dominated by the news of Senator Clinton using this same day to announce the forming of her presidential exploratory committee. Clinton had to keep up with Obama, afterall.

And now it's Sam Brownback who? As of Saturday night, no story on the conservative senator appears anywhere on the Drudge Report. Meanwhile, a total of 6 stories are listed there for Hillary, plus she's also got a tough but favorable Thatcher-esque photo above the byline.

I'll continue to hold some hope in the campaign of Brownback. I recently read where fellow Opus Dei member Tom Monahan has pledged to help Brownback's campaign with his Domino's Pizza billions. Brownback sure will need it, as we wayward conservatives continue to walk wayward across this Sinai looking for another Moses. Meanwhile, the Democratic roll just continues.


Read more!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Why the Dems are so wrong on John Bolton.

Over the years, I have come to understand just how necessary and irritating the “straight-shooter” is in organizational dynamics.

No one likes the person that tells the uncomfortable truth; who pushes others to explain their actions and adjust their institutions to meet obligations. The Boltons of the world are abrasive and dogmatic. Their adherence to Truth and Right, challenges the rest of us in ways that make us uncomfortable.

John Bolton was rubbed out because he spoke the uncomfortable truth that the UN is an utterly dysfunctional organization, so badly in need of reform that it should no longer be supported without a thorough house cleaning.

Internationalism requires faith in institutions that Bolton, among others, warned us were bloated and corrupt. He challenged civil servants and diplomats in the UN to live up to their obligations. He took the institutions to task for its unwillingness to embrace reforms that were clearly required it if was to be placed back on an even footing.

For this he was pilloried.

Now we find out that the UN’s money was unaccountably spent by the North Koreans.

It is naïve to imagine it was spent for the purposes stated or intended.

Worse than this is that the UN’s institutions hid the problem at every turn and made no changes to correct blatant deficiencies as they were uncovered.

It appears that the UN has been providing the very capital that the Midget King needed to stay afloat after the US cut off his drug and arms sale monies. We will likely never know how much American money was funneled to terrorism and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Bolton made much of the Oil-for-Food scandal. Internationalists excused it as an anomaly, not indicative of any fundamental problem. It looks like Bolton was right.

Will they listen now?

Read more!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stop Hailing the Chief So Much

My take on Obama has garnered some interesting feedback, and to a point I can understand Jeff and Mouldy's points about him being no different than the rest. That of course does not address the larger issue that someone who has such a limited resume and whose sole qualification to be President is being articulate is drawing so much praise and adulation. Of course there's much ado about his platitudes about bipartisanship, and I've addressed that elsewhere. That Obama is no less substantive than many of the other contenders is really besides the point. We shouldn't just settle for politicians of this sort.

I'll admit that my expectations about the presidency are somewhat idealistic. Silly me, I actually want someone who is articulate and can also advance right-leaning policy. You know, someone not like our current president but more like the one we had in the eighties.

But even while I hold these idealistic thoughts, overall I'm something of an anti-idealist. This stems from my belief that the presidency is overhyped. I'm sure I'm repeating myself, but the Presidency has become something so much larger than what the Framers anticipated, and this is not a pleasant development. We spend inordinate amounts of time discussing one man and his office, to the point that we're analyzing an election that is 22 months away, and said analysis begins farther out than that.

Our views of the presidency are warped in certain crucial ways. We view the President as some sort of super-legislator. Especially when the President and Congress are of the same party, but even otherwise, we always look to the President to deliver from on high his legislative agenda. Congress has become so lax in its duties that in 2004 we witnessed a man who had been in the Senate for two decades, and who had proposed little in the way of legislation in all that time, suddenly becoming a font of legislative proposing wisdom when he ran for the presidency. Sure we'll see some activity with the Democrats in Congress, but ultimately all eyes will be on the presidency.

The problem with this, aside from the diminishment of Congress' power and influence, is that it also diminishes or at least lets us overlook what is an important aspect of the presidency: administrative and managerial competency. The President is the head of the Executive Branch, and he is meant to be just that - the chief executive. But when legislative functions encroach upon the office, the executive nature is overshadowed. So we don't even consider whether the man (or woman) running for office has the managerial competence to lead the executive branch of government, when this should be one of the primary considerations. Instead, we judge them mainly on public policy and other superficial factors like appearance and speaking ability.

That's not to say that one's views or even rhetorical skills should be non-factors, but they shouldn't be the only facotrs that we consider.

Can Barack Obama manage the national government? Or Rudy Giuliani? What about McCain? Something tells me it's not going to be a question often asked in the coming months.

I also think we demand too much perfection from our candidates. Now, this might seem to contradict my earlier comments about Obama. But while I disdain the utter lack of substance, I also don't expect to find the absolutely ideal candidate. Every candidate will have faults. I'm sure if I had been politically conscious in 1980 I would have found fault with Ronald Reagan. The idea is to choose the best man for the job, not the perfect.

Awaiting perfection only sets us up for disappointment. In the history of our republic we have had only two presidents that are undeniably great and approach perfection: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (and even then I'll get disagreement, especially on Lincoln). That's two out of the 42 men that have occupied the office. The other 40 have been quite fallible, though some quite more so than others.

Of course, we should hope that there will be candidates that, even if not perfect, will be at least be very good. So far the field is disappointing. Brownback and Romney are my two favorites at this point, and there are serious issues with both. For instance, Romney seems like an ideal candidate, but how seriously do we take his committment to social conservative causes? As Kate O'Beirne pointed out in the latest issue of National Review, many other prominent conservatives also changed their minds on issues like abortion, including Ronald Reagan. But have any done so in such a short period before their run for the presidency?

Then there's Rudy. Setting aside his social views, one would think that he possesses the managerial skills I discussed earlier. After all, he was the mayor of a city that is larger in terms of population than about 38 states, and was an outstanding administrator and manager. But what of his temprament? Can he be counted on to effectively manage such a large office, and can he be diplomatic when needed to be so?

In the end, maybe we should be comforted that most of our presidents have been less-than-great. Maybe it just shows how little we need to rely on that person. That would be the positive lesson to take from all this.


Read more!


I posted this on an Obama thread over at The Cranky Conservative. Thought it might be worth posting here if anyone wants to talk of the media darling of the moment.

Firstly, I don't plan to support Obama due to specific positions on specific issues. But I do have a lot of respect for him and am glad he's going to run. Specifically, it's great to see a Democratic leader who embraces his Christianity and proudly proclaims Jesus Christ as his lord and savior.

But let's dispel a few myths here. As Mould correctly noted, Obama is hardly an unique example of a media-propped presidential creation. In fact, most successful presidents in modern times shared that distinction. It makes you wonder if the media/system uses these people or it's actually the media being played like a fine fiddle by men like Obama, Clinton, Reagan, and Kennedy.

I also don't share the opinion that Obama is all sytle and no substance. Look at Iraq for example. He has a clearly stated position that hasn't changed since 2002. If only we could say the same of our president! Beyond that, however, style does matter. Imagine if our current president could articulate like Obama? If he could reach out and actually speak to America's heart? He'd be in a lot better shape than he is. After 6 years of mummbled talk both in style and substance, I really want a president who can communicate. Obama's not my choice here, but I do respect his abilities to articulate that our current president desperately lacks.

Finally, I think Obama's resume is more than sufficient to warrant his hat being in the ring. I used to follow the old "a governor has experience being an executive" logic prior to GW Bush. But all Bush's experience guiding Texas for 6 years has proven absolutely worthless in guiding a Republican Congress (no less!) and handling our nation's foreign diplomacy. Consider: Obama does not come from money; Self-made; Harvard Law; Successful businessman; Held officie in Cook County govt and Illinois State Senate; US Senate. That all sounds pretty good to me. BTW, let's not belittle his 2004 camaign by saying he only won because Ryan was a freak and Keyes was from Maryland. Obama hit a home run at his DNC keynote address while also managing an effective campaign. And it's not like Illinois is a bastion of Republicanism anymore. Durbin has won there safely. The state even elected Carol Mosley Braun for goodness sakes! I'm no expert of Illini politics, but I will give Obama his due.

Read more!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Congressional Ethics Reform, Good in Theory, but be Wary of the Pitfalls

It always saddens me when politics, pure raw politics, overtakes good common sense and threatens the integrity of our most treasured government institutions. My latest screed after a long, mostly work-related hiatus from the blog is against the proposed Office of Public Integrity. A proposal so incredibly stupid that its popularity can only be explained by the overwhelming misunderstanding of Congress and the way it works by the general public combined with the general apathy and low regard that many, if not most, people hold politicians, especially Members of Congress.

Okay, so it occurs to me that many might not know what I’m talking about, so here’s the brief background. In the wake of so-called “congressional scandals” involving people like Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Robert Ney, William Jefferson, Tom DeLay (to a much lesser extent), Conrad Burns, and Jack Abramoff, there has been a heightened sensitivity around Capitol Hill to “corruption,” broadly defined. As a result, Democrats across the country campaigned on “the culture of corruption” to, depending on who you ask, varying degrees of success. These campaigns promised, among other things, to “clean up Congress” and rid the institution of the corrupting influences of lobbyists and the ever-dreaded “special interests.” One of the major proposals, albeit one defeated by the Senate late during the last Congress, is the creation of the Office of Public Integrity (OPI). OPI, according to most versions I’ve seen or read about, would be a legislative branch office with members appointed by the congressional leadership consisting of former members, former staffers, retired judges, and other public figures. OPI would have responsibility for conducting oversight of lobbying activates and “ethics” violations by Members. Presumably, thought its far from clear, OPI would be able to make and enforce some rules with respect to ethics and lobbying issues. It appears that OPI wouldn’t be able to directly punish or sanction violations of House or Senate rules -- though it may be able to punish for violations of its own rules and regulations -- but rather would report violations to the House and Senate Ethics Committees who would then take disciplinary actions as warranted. This outside oversight body, according to supporters, would ensure objectivity, non-partisanship, and stronger enforcement over the rules, procedures, and ethics of government.

Politically, ideas like OPI are precisely how Congress dupes the public by making it look like they are doing something without actually doing anything. On its face it doesn’t sound bad at all. Bring in a bunch of outsiders to enforce the rules Congress won’t or can’t enforce upon itself. Sounds great, right? Which is probably why such an idea enjoys so much public support I fear it might actually become law. Hence my opening salvo, politics, raw politics are going to drive the creation of a stupid idea that I fear will do far more harm than good to the institution, and above all might in fact be unconstitutional.

I know what you’re thinking; slow down there Mouldfan, unconstitutional, that’s a bold claim, which we know you don’t throw around lightly. How do you get there? It’s actually simpler than you might think, but it involves portions of the Constitution that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. First, one has to examine Congress’s ability to create such a legislative branch office, like OPI. Power to do this stems from Article 1, Section 5, which states that “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.” However, this provision is not unlimited. The question becomes can Congress delegate its constitutional power to make its own rules and punish members to an outside group of non-members? The answer is I’m not sure. The only Supreme Court case that we have even close to on point is United States v. Nixon, 506 U.S. 224 (1993) -- that’s Judge Walter Nixon, not President Nixon. Nixon involved an analogous delegation of authority by the Senate to a select committee for the purposes of hearing evidence regarding the impeachment of two federal judges. Specifically, the impeached judges challenged the Senate’s procedure under Rule XI of the “Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate when Sitting on Impeachment Trials,” which authorizes the Senate to create a select committee to hear their trials and provide recommendations to the full Senate who would then vote on the conviction or acquittal.

Judge Nixon argued that the use of a select committee to hear the evidence and witness testimony of his impeachment violated the Senate’s constitutional duty to “try” all impeachments. According to Judge Nixon, anything short of a trial before the full Senate was unconstitutional and, therefore, required reversal and a reinstatement of his judicial salary. The Court held the issue to be a non-justiciable political question. Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court, based this conclusion upon the fact that the impeachment proceedings were textually committed in the Constitution to the Legislative Branch. In addition, the Court found the “lack of finality and the difficulty in fashioning relief counsel[led] against justiciability.” According to the majority, to open “the door of judicial review to the procedures used by the Senate in trying impeachments would ‘expose the political life of the country to months, or perhaps years, of chaos.’” The Court found that the word “try” in the Impeachment Clause did not “provide an identifiable textual limit on the authority which is committed to the Senate.”

Nixon thus stands for the proposition that Congress may exercise its rulemaking authority with little to no interference from the Courts. However, in Nixon, the delegation of authority was from the full Senate to a select committee of Senators. There is nothing in the opinion that suggests the ability to delegate constitutional powers to non-members, even former members. True, Congress can delegate its powers to other government agencies and institutions, but even that is potentially distinguishable as the clause in question also provides the Congress with the sole, exclusive means to punish Members for rules violations (of course criminal or civil law violations can be punished by the Justice Department or other third parties, but here we’re only concerned with internal Congressional rules).

But wait, I’m not done. There’s another serious concern with an OPI having investigatory authority over Members. That’s the Speech or Debate Clause, which is found at Art. I, sec. 6 and states that “for any speech or debate in either House, [Members] shall not be questioned in any other place.” This clause provides an “absolute” privilege against disclosure or testimony about “legislative acts,” which likely would encompass a good deal of the types of inquiries an OPI investigation would deal with. Turning over such powers to an outside group will pit the OPI against the Congress’s constitutional ability to protect and defend its own duties and prerogatives. While this may not seem serious, it in fact is deadly serious to members and staff of the Congress. Similar, I suppose, to “executive privilege” (though I actually don’t like the analogy and think Speech or Debate is stronger than “executive privilege,” as it’s actually in the text of the Constitution and, therefore, absolute, as opposed to a judicially created qualified privilege) Speech or Debate is the only thing that protects Congress from intrusions from the other branches of government. Ethics committees are internal bodies for which the privilege does not apply as they are not “in any other place.” Arguably, an outside body, even if created by Congress, could be seen as “in any other place” thus making the privilege relevant. A blanket waiver by Congress of the privilege is one option to overcome this problem, but that, in my opinion, would weaken the privilege and set a dangerous precedent for future waivers, something that to date Congress has not done in any circumstance.

Bottom line is this, ethics and lobbying overhaul and increased enforcement is a good thing. But the OPI and proposals of it ilk are not and should be abandoned. There are many other ways of getting the policy of this politically popular proposal correct, lets hope that our Members see the light and choose one, for if they don’t I fear a tremendous long-term damage for nothing more than a short-term bump in the polls.

Read more!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Gator Nation Domination!

Last night was a special time to be a fan of the University of Florida. Displaying total dominance over heavily-favored Ohio State, the Gators earned the 2006 National College Football BCS Championship. Coach Urban Meyer now adds this honor to their 2006 SEC Championship and joins the legendary Steve Spurrier in bringing a national college football title to the players and fans of the great state of Florida. I don't think even the most fanatic of Gator supporters expected this kind of success this soon. But we'll take it! Congrats to game MVP and 4 year starter senior QB Chris Leak. And remember, Buckeyes, just like our SEC foes, you now know that if you ain't gator....you just Gator bait!

Read more!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The House is not in session

Drudge reports this discouraging story today. New Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has announced that the Democrats' campaign promise to open the House for 5 day work weeks will not begin this week. And with the Martin Luther King holiday forthcoming, it will not start next week either.

I just don't get this one. Is everyone still hungover from celebrating the takeover over the weekend? Take a cue from the decades of statesmanship by Senator Kennedy -- show up half toasted but just show up! Symbolism matters when you wield power. This has been one of my biggest critiques of the Bush administration. So I'm genuinely disappointed to see the new Congress fail to live up to this promise during its very first opportunity to keep it.

But nobody's pefect, I guess. Certainly not on any sides of this weak politcal landscape.

Read more!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Chapter

I didn't want this significant day in America's political history to go overlooked here at TPS. With the elevation of Nancy Pelosi to Speaker of the House we now have a strong woman who is 3rd in line to the presidency. It's worth noting. I wonder if this will foreshadow the presidential election of 2008? More importantly, for the time being Pelosi will set the direction of Congressional legislation and, more than likely, force an already embattled President Bush into a corner where he will have to take to "fight or flight" to survive. I expect more of the latter.

"Today we make history. Today we change the direction of our country," exulted Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

I look forward to giving the Democrats a chance to control the Congressional agenda. Let's see what they can do. I am convinced that they can do no worse than the absolutely pathetic leadership of Dennis Hastert. In fact, my personal highlight of today's ceremonies was seeing Hastert sitting alone on a back bench with a solemn look on his mug as he watched Pelosi wield his old gavel. And, in the likely event of Democratic miscues, I remain hopeful that this transition will revitalize the Republican party in the end. Losing Congress, afterall, has given them their only real chance of keeping the Presidency in 2008. Then again, I have been saying this since 2004!

Read more!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?