Things are really beginning to heat up in Washington. It seems the public has finally come to realize that the Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid led Congress is responsible for a lot of the economic misery the public is feeling, especially the energy situation.
Back From the Dead
Most political analysts still predict GOP House losses in November and a wider Democratic majority in 2009, but gone is talk of landslide casualties. House Republicans returned to Washington this week positively overjoyed that they've not only caught up with Democrats in generic congressional polls, but pulled into the lead.
The latest USA Today poll has Republicans up by four points on the question: Who do you support, the Republican or the Democrat for Congress in your district?This is an amazing turnaround in the polls and even more pronounced turnaround in the mood of Congressional Republicans. When House GOP members convened on Monday, there was little talk of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout package, but lots of celebration of the new poll numbers. "Not too long ago, the feeling in our caucus was near suicidal," one House Republican tells me. "It was every man for himself. And there was no campaign money to spread around."Now, says Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, "Republicans actually think we can gain seats in the House."
One reason the polls have shifted is that Democrats have become even more unpopular than Republicans. Says Mr. Garrett: "Voters are finally aware that it's the Democrats, not us, who control Congress." The public has begun directing its angst and anger at Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than the long-gone Tom DeLay.Another coup for Republicans was the pro-drilling campaign launched by conservative House GOPers while Democrats went home for summer vacation. Each day, House Republicans held a vigil for a pro-exploration energy policy even though Democrats turned out the House lights and shut off the microphones.
Mike Pence of Indiana was one of the ringleaders who gave the Pelosi Democrats heartburn. In his district, he says, voters paid attention. Nancy Pelosi's decision to take what he called a "five-week paid vacation" backfired because it "angered voters when gas prices are so high."
Finally, Republicans in the House also are celebrating the Sarah Palin effect. "She's helping big-time with fundraising," says one conservative House member. "We saw the effect immediately after she was chosen by McCain." Earlier this year, GOP money woes had given Democrats a multitude of GOP incumbents to shoot at without fear of retaliation. Not any more."I actually think we can win back the majority in the house," says Rep. Garrett, ever the optimist. "But I'm probably the only one who thinks that." Yes, well, in 1994 Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich were the only ones who foresaw a GOP sweep in that election.
-- Stephen Moore
Charlie's AngelSpeaker Nancy Pelosi is standing by her chairman.Charles Rangel, the embattled head of the House Ways and Means Committee, has asked for three separate House Ethics Committee investigations of himself in recent weeks. That has led House Republicans to demand he step down as chairman until the issues are resolved. Speaker Pelosi, who ran her 2006 campaign to take back the House from "a culture of corruption," is having none of it."Charlie Rangel is a very distinguished member of the House of Representatives," Ms. Pelosi told Politico.com on Monday. "Whatever the leaders on their side say, he is very well-respected by members on both sides of the aisle."Still, it is embarrassing that Mr. Rangel has had to announce this week that he must pay overdue state, local and city taxes on $75,0000 in unreported rental income from a vacation property in the Dominican Republic. That follows a controversy over how he was able to obtain several rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, one of which he used improperly as a campaign office. Then there's the matter of his use of Congressional stationery and influence to raise money for a public affairs institute in New York that bears his name. "Since this is the man who writes the tax laws of the United States, we need new leadership until we get all the facts," Rep. Eric Cantor, a member of the House Republican leadership, told me.Of course, Republicans can't afford to parade around on too high a horse. Two of their Appropriations Committee members, Reps. Jerry Lewis of California and Don Young of Alaska, have come under federal investigation over earmarks secured for supporters. Neither Republican has been charged with wrongdoing, but the probes have tarnished the ability of Republicans to carry on crusades against Mr. Rangel and other errant Democrats.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I
"First [Barack Obama's] startling and lofty rhetoric grew stale from overuse. And now his once engaging (for some) ideas are being overtaken by events. His call for quick retreat from Iraq, overtaken by the surge and the smell of victory, has forced him to reverse field and admit the surge has been an unexpected (by him) success. Then the declining economy forced him this week to back away from his soak-the-rich tax increases for fear of further damaging the economy. Of course, the perils of Pauline still may threaten Gov. Palin, and two months is time enough for many more strange twists. But one week on from the Republican convention, it is fair to say that never in modern history has a presidential ticket benefited so much from its convention. And never have the hopes and energy of a moribund party risen so quickly or so high"
-- Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley, on how Sarah Palin and the reemergence of John McCain "maverick" persona have lifted the GOP.
Quote of the Day II
"Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. . . . This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor. . . . In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment"
-- feminist critic Camille Paglia, writing at Salon.com.
Half the Washington press corps is now winging its way to Alaska to scour the record for something embarrassing on Gov. Sarah Palin. Luring them is a seeming scandal already called Troopergate that broke in July, when Mrs. Palin fired Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. In recent weeks the state legislature has opened an investigation into the dismissal and hired an independent counsel to determine if laws were broken. Her critics accuse Mrs. Palin of firing Mr. Monegan because he had refused to fire State Trooper Michael Wooten, who had gone through a messy divorce with the governor's sister. If the charge is true, it would certainly hurt Mrs. Palin's reformist credentials -- although her powers of office entitled her to fire Commissioner Monegan for any reason or no reason at all.Still, there is reason to suspect the scandal is little more than a political smear attempt. The investigation is being run by a Democrat in the state Senate (the Republican who would have been in charge recently stepped down to fight allegations of his own corruption). Mr. Monegan is a disgruntled former employee who never told anyone about the alleged pressure to fire Trooper Wooten before his own firing. And Mr. Monegan broke his allegations on a blog run by an also-ran gubernatorial candidate who was crushed by Mrs. Palin in the 2006 elections. What's more, Trooper Wooten's record would hardly seem to make him ideal state trooper material. He's a four-time divorcee whom Mrs. Palin says threatened to kill her father. He admitted to using a Taser on his 11-year-old stepson and to killing a moose out of season. He's also had to fight allegations of drunk driving and other infractions.The scandal also seems trumped up in light of legitimate reasons Mrs. Palin had for firing Commissioner Monegan. The two disagreed over cuts in the public safety department's budget as well as her insistence that he focus state trooper attention on rural drug use. Mr. Monegan had been forced out of his previous job running the police force of Anchorage. The man who fired him then was Mayor Mark Begich, the Democrat now running for U.S. Senate against embattled Republican Ted Stevens. In Alaska, politics always seems a little inbred. Mrs. Palin has remained mum since she was tapped to be John McCain's running mate nearly two weeks ago, but seven members of her administration have declined requests by investigators to be interviewed. The state legislature is now weighing whether to hand down subpoenas -- though it's unlikely that the governor herself would be subpoenaed. With so much fodder, however, any reporter with an eye for detail will be able to come back from an Alaska trip with attention-getting tidbits. You don't become a change agent by making friends, so there will be plenty of pols on both sides of the aisle eager to fill a reporter's notebook with their criticisms of Mrs. Palin. To beat this story, the McCain/Palin campaign may need to start filling a few of those pages itself.
-- Brendan Miniter
(reprinted from the Wall Street Journal's POLITICAL DIARY ONLINE)