Friday, April 06, 2007

Campaign Money and Politics as Usual

I never liked Dick Morris when he was a crony of the Clintons. And, frankly, I still don't like him. But Dick Morris is a clever man who knows politics.

I say that not because he frequently writes a lot of things I agree with (I absolutely hated that he was so correct about the November elections), but because his experience and perceptions seem to be on target so much of the time.

That's why his most recent column is so interesting.

He starts out analyzing the fund raising by the various presidential candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. Of course, he states some obvious things (Hillary and John McCain are in trouble), but also some less obvious ones (Obama's fund-raising prowess can be repeated in the general elections, while it isn't so obvious how much cash Hillary would have).

Most interesting to me, though, was the Gallup Poll numbers he quoted, which showed that a huge part of Obama's appeal is that he's not Hillary. Personally, I just don't think that can carry him to the presidency. He needs some issues that will resonate enough with Americans so that they forget about Hillary.

After discussing the numbers, Morris turns to the slow train wreck that is this Congress. Liberals will insist that everything is going along swimmingly, that Congress is passing all sorts of legislation, that they have dozens (possibly hundreds!) of investigations of the Bush administration which will tell us the real truth, and that they will rein in the Bush presidency.

There's one constitutional fact that Congress can't change (well, there are quite a few, actually) and that is the executive power to veto legislation. Simply put, Congress can pass all the bills they want, but they ain't becoming law until the president signs them. And George W. Bush isn't going to sign bills that hurt our troops, set up timetables, or add so much pork that the bill should oink.

And, wonderfully enough, George Bush seems to have finally realized that Democrats in Washington don't resemble the Democrats he worked with in Texas. These Democrats are out for blood (hence all the investigations) and want to humiliate the president. That's a pretty tricky game they are running and I doubt it will work. For all the people who might not approve of George Bush, there's one indisputable fact about the American people in relation to the federal government: they don't like Congress to be disrespectful to the president.

This was painfully clear when Bill Clinton shut down the federal government in 1995 in a showdown with Newt Gingrich. Even though Clinton's actions were clearly political, it was Congress (and specifically, Congressional Republicans) who ended up with egg on their faces. No matter how much Americans may disagree with the president, they won't tolerate disrespect from Congress.

Morris says something similar, but, as usual, puts it better.

Even as the war in Iraq loses popularity, the Democratic Party is headed for a bruising division between its hawks and doves as the Congressional battle over war funding plays out in Congress.

The Democrats have unwisely embarked on a game of chicken with George Bush – never a good idea to begin with – by passing a funding cutoff amendment as part of the war appropriations requiring withdrawal by March, 2008. Bush is sure to veto the appropriations bill with the cutoff rider and the Democrats, who barely passed the bill in each house, won't come close to enough votes to override.

Then a stalemate will ensue. Bush will demand a "clean" appropriations bill allocating funds for the troops without any amendment setting a withdrawal schedule. The left will vote against any funding legislation that does not include a requirement for an end to the war.

Pelosi and Reid won't be able to stand the pressure. They will not allow themselves to be on the wrong end of a bill funding the troops while they are in the field in the middle of a war. Inevitably, they will cave in to Bush's veto and pass a clean funding measure.

But their left wing members won't go along. They will adamantly refuse to vote for a funding bill without a cutoff or a withdrawal date. Pelosi and Reid will have to work overtime, desperately rounding up members to back a bill clean enough to satisfy Bush. It won't be easy.

And their efforts to get House and the Senate Democrats to vote for a clean bill will cause vast bitterness on the left. Charges of betrayal will echo in the chambers and the long awaited Democratic civil war of 2007-2008 will begin.

That war will probably continue throughout the campaign season and may well continue on after the Conventions if Ralph Nader capitalizes on it to fuel his presidential bid as a third party candidate.

I have to say that I've been watching this debacle with amusement. Morris is right; Pelosi and Reid will wind up with a bill that doesn't come close to satisfying the tinfoil hat crowd, but it will be the only way to get troop funding passed. My hope is that Democrats spend so much time eating their own that Americans become disgusted with them quickly.

I'm betting it will take a while for the Dems to completely destroy themselves. In the meantime, I bought the megapack of popcorn from Costco. There's gonna be lots of entertainment for the next couple of years.

Cross-posted at Common Sense Political Thought.