Today’s New York Times featured a Carl Hulse article that depicted the future of the Republican Party as being almost as bright as Alaska for the next several weeks. In Hulse’s view, just about everything that has gone wrong in America in 2005 can be linked to Republicans, while, conversely, in a 27 paragraph piece, there was only one paragraph that suggested any problems for the party on the opposite side of the aisle. Frankly, this article read more like a press release from a political strategist than a column in a leading, national newspaper.
First, Hulse set the stage: “The ugly debate in the House on Friday over the Iraq war served as an emotional send-off for a holiday recess, capturing perfectly the political tensions coursing through the House and Senate in light of President Bush's slumping popularity, serious party policy fights, spreading ethics investigations and the approach of crucial midterm elections in less than a year.”
He then established the goal: “Capitol Hill was always certain to be swept up in brutal political gamesmanship as lawmakers headed into 2006 - the midpoint of this second presidential term and, perhaps, a chance for Democrats to cut into Republican majorities or even seize power in one chamber or the other.”
Then, Hulse enumerated all the Republican shortcomings:
"Among developments that have knocked Republicans badly off course: The botched response to Hurricane Katrina. Party conflict over paying for the storm. The indictment of Representative Tom DeLay. Soaring fuel costs. A failed Supreme Court nomination. Federal charges against a vice presidential aide in a case related to prewar intelligence. Growing public unease about the war and its death toll. Off-year election victories by Democrats.”
From there, Hulse painted a picture of a Republican Party coming apart at the seams:
“United Democrats forced House Republicans to look solely to their own membership to win approval of spending and budget measures that carried a political price given their reductions in spending on an array of social programs - cuts ready-made for campaign attacks.
“As a result, some Republicans chose to part company with their colleagues. Twenty-two defectors joined with Democrats to send a major health and education spending bill to a stunning defeat, the first such loss in a decade for the take-no-prisoners Republican majority.
“Fourteen Republicans opposed $50 billion in spending cuts over five years despite major concessions by their leadership to win moderate support. They acted partly out of fear that a vote for the cuts would expose them to Democratic political attacks, a fear well founded. Within hours of the vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out news releases to the districts of 50 lawmakers who backed the measure to make sure voters back home heard that their representatives had ‘blindly rubberstamped’ the leadership's plan.”
Of course, no piece like this would be complete without mentioning Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), or someone close to him:
“What may be equally troubling for Republicans is the filing on Friday of a criminal conspiracy charge against a former senior Republican House aide, Michael Scanlon. Mr. Scanlon was once a spokesman for Mr. DeLay and was a partner of Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who is the subject of a federal investigation and had close ties to some House Republicans. The charges hint at potential legal exposure for lawmakers who were wined and dined by the two, adding to Republican ethics cases.”
Hulse concluded with a rather solemn quote from a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California concerning what events will affect the 2006 elections: “‘Bombs in Baghdad,’ Mr. Pitney said, ‘are going to have a lot more impact than speeches in Washington.’"
Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.