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Leading in Reverse By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 16, 2006

As Republicans contemplate the first Democratic wartime electoral success since 1974, a pervasive delusion has taken hold: “freshmen moderates” will give presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid headaches by confounding their far-Left agendas. Some have even called the election “a victory for conservatism.” The Democratic leadership’s promotion of its surrender full speed ahead plan should refute the notion.

The sanguine Right is willfully distorting the likely influence of new “moderates.” Although the incoming freshmen campaigned as moderate-to-conservatives, so too did the president who treated terrorism as a law enforcement issue for eight years prior to 9/11. Not all candidates exuded moderation: one of the new members of the Senate Democratic caucus will be socialist Bernie Sanders, pulling ever-leftward the actions of newly elected Majority Leader Harry Reid (who was himself once hailed as a pro-life “moderate”). The new representatives will almost certainly vote to the Left of the Republicans they replaced. Even were they not so minded, freshmen are by definition subservient to their party’s leadership. Pelosi – who donated to many of their campaigns – will use the power of scattered committee assignments to dilute the moderates’ influence, while her hand-picked committee chairmen will shape the legislation they must vote on. The notion that a tiny crop of incoming “moderates” will buck Pelosi’s call to retreat is tragically misguided.


How misguided? Gene Taylor of Mississippi, the last remaining House Democrat to have voted for Bill Clinton’s impeachment and well to the Right of most incoming freshmen, is backing Pelosi for Speaker and supporting Jack Murtha for Majority Leader. No less an authority than Michael Barone speculated Taylor might vote for a Republican for Speaker. In a fit of candor, Taylor explained himself: “I’m not going to vote against my own self-interest.” Taylor is set to become chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee that allocates shipbuilding funds, an issue “important for national defense and enormously important to Mississippi.” Taylor added, “I still wish Jack Murtha would run for Speaker,” dubbing Murtha “a real conservative.”  


Murtha, who has a 33 percent lifetime voting record from the American Conservative Union, has his hands full misreading the election results. Campaigning for the number two position in the House, he chest-thumps, “The Pelosi-Murtha position on the war is the reason the Democrats are in the majority today.” Meanwhile, Reps. Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler, Elijah Cummings, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Emanuel Cleaver argue Murtha’s opponent, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is more than sufficiently committed to withdrawal and leftist politics. On the Monday edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Reps. Jim McDermott – best known for denouncing the president on Iraqi soil immediately before a war – and Ellen Tauscher debated whether Murtha or Hoyer would retreat faster. Murtha is now bitching about Hoyer’s “swift boat style attacks,” as the two duel over who will clear Baghdad for the new caliphate faster.


Pledges to defund the war have already begun. The House Progressive Caucus – which outnumbers the entire freshman class, moderate or otherwise – recently solicited the wisdom of George McGovern on Iraq. Afterwards, caucus leader Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Vulcan, told uber-leftist broadcaster Amy Goodman:


I want to say that there's one solution here, and it's not to engage in a debate with the president, who has taken us down a path of disaster in Iraq, but it's for Congress to assume the full power that it has under the Constitution to cut off funds…There’s enough money in the pipeline to achieve the orderly withdrawal that Senator McGovern is talking about. But cut off funds, we must….


Kucinich also revealed the reason Congress had to make this shift: because America itself is a warmongering power. “It's time for us to start to shift our vision about who we are as a nation,” he said. “We need to shift our direction, and the direction has to be away from the continued militarization of the United States society.”


The legislative agenda looks little better in the Senate. The Washington Post summarizes newly elected Majority Leader Harry Reid’s platform thus:


Democrats will not try, Reid pledged, to play the strongest hand they have – using Congress's power of the purse to starve the war effort of money and force the president to move. Such an effort would only elicit a veto from Bush. But he said Democrats will marshal their newly acquired power – in hearing rooms and on the Senate floor – to stoke public opinion and drive the debate.


Reid and presumptive 2008 presidential candidate Joe Biden have called for troop reductions. And Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, who will chair the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to introduce a measure “to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months.” Levin said yesterday:


We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves. The only way for Iraqi leaders to squarely face that reality is for President Bush to tell them that the United States will begin a phased redeployment of our forces within four to six months.


In response to this challenge to the commander-in-chief’s position as “decider” and general undermining of the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign policy, Bush Chief of Staff Josh Bolten – a force behind throwing Donald Rumsfeld to the wolves after the election – showed iron resolve, saying, “You know, we’re willing to talk about anything.”


Meanwhile, the rest of the Democratic Party pledges it is “waiting for the report of the Iraq Study Group.” The James Baker/Lee Hamilton-led venture – which includes such foreign policy gurus as Monica Lewinsky talent agent Vernon Jordan, Leon Panetta, Charles Robb, and Sandra Day O’Connor – promises a Realist endorsement of surrender on the installment plan.


This is the only true “bipartisanship” to emerge from the midterm elections: the coalition of leftists and “maverick” Republicans who believe neocons brainwashed the Crawford Cowboy into launching a war to preserve the integrity of our precious bodily fluids. A similar alliance recently called for the president to replace UN Ambassador John Bolton with the antiwar former Republican congressman from Iowa, Jim Leach.


The new Congress promises to move the nation leftward on more than foreign policy. Hillary Clinton has pledged, “Health care is coming back.Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who will take over the House Homeland Security Committee, says he “might do away with” the 700-mile border fence House Republicans passed late this year. Sen. Barbara Boxer promises “a very long process of extensive hearings” on global warming. Charlie Rangel sees no need to renew the massive Bush tax cuts, leading to a massive tax increase. And John Kerry will chair the Committe on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.


All this before the subpoenas have gotten warmed up. Welcome to Democratic “moderation.”

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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