Sunday, January 29, 2006

The mid-term spin

A few weeks ago, I would have bought that corruption in politics will bring down political power structures, although, with DeLay out of power for good I think the scandal has already taken out the biggest and smelliest fish.

You can see the first round of spin on corruption as a campaign issue in today's Register. Jane Norman's Potomac Fever column works the corruption angle, targeting some Grassley maneuvers in a conference committee and quoting a recent article in Roll Call.

... Roll Call, a newspaper that covers the Hill, took a nostalgic trip back to those days of yore in the early 1990s, when the GOP's energetic "Gang of Seven" including Rep. Jim Nussle, set out to reform Washington.

Now Nussle is running for Iowa governor and John Boehner for majority leader, and Rick Santorum is a U.S. senator. John Doolittle is under scrutiny for his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"Once young Turks — in the fall of 1991, Nussle appeared on the House floor with a paper bag over his head to protest the Democratic leadership's refusal to fully disclose House Bank overdrafts — the gang now represents the entrenched power they once fought against," mused Roll Call. ...
While over on the fiction page, oops, op-ed page, Rekha Basu works clever and attempts to extend the corruption metaphor to Iowa state politics.
Would it make you uneasy to think those pricey headphones your state representative is wearing were provided through the largess of a company hoping to influence his vote on your health plan? Or that your senator scored a pair of Stones tickets from a gambling industry lobbyist, and returned the favor with a gambling-expansion vote? Would you be concerned if a state regulator quit only to reappear months later in a top job in the same industry?

The first two examples are hypothetical for Iowa. The third one isn't. In Washington, D.C., and around the country, the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal has red-faced legislators scrambling to reform state and federal lobbying laws. In Iowa, in the absence of a full-blown scandal, there's a missing sense of urgency about ethics reforms. But we're not immune to problems. ...
It's probably not a stretch to suggest that pulling in the big money needed to keep a majority intact requires politicians to sort the lobby. How will this directly affect our voters? Does this particular policy seem reasonable? How deep are those pockets? Once the questions are answered and the lobby is sorted, politicians can go about building their agendas and, of course, moving public policy for their friends.

In light of the cold reality of campaign fundraising, it's easy to see how the Abramoff scandal will give the Democrats some mid-term mileage, but they're fighting against demographics, time and real issues. And when Karl opened his mouth earlier this month outlining the GOP national agenda, he got it dead right -- international affairs in a complex and violent post 9/11 world trumps any sort of national issue.

In a speech to the RNC Winter confab, Karl Rove launched the GOP agenda for the mid-term elections – meat, potatoes & a side of Jell-O salad. Rove offered up standard GOP fare, pressing the differences between Democrats and Republicans on terrorism, taxes and the Court. It’s the same old, but in an America that sees terror attacks nightly and finds hefty tax bills in the mail at least once a year these issues connect.

However, the speech alone was not enough to convince me that the war against terror had mid-term legs, but with the Bin Laden audio, the Iranian nuclear program and, most recently, the unexpected win of the terrorist group Hamas in the Palestinian elections, it is clear that the continued war on terror is the most important issue in American politics. And as issues of taxation played a significant role in the formation of the United States, it shouldn’t surprise that voters will always respond to political jabs at tax policy.

The irony: some Palestinian experts attribute the Hamas win to Palestinian voters protesting the late Yasser Arafat’s graft and corruption filled Fatah party. So it might be entirely too early to discount the ripples being created by the Abramoff scandal.

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