Intense Political Weeks in America

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This last 7 days has witnessed one of the most packed weeks for political news and activity I have ever seen. From a rash of Republican retirement announcements to a rash of new information about Iraq, on balance, it appears many wrongs and ills are being set right, and a few not. Following is a recap.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, thought by some to throw his hat in the Presidential election ring, announces retirement from the Senate and no run for President.

Rep. Paul Gillmor, an Ohio Republican who served in the House of Representatives for nearly 20 years, was found dead in his apartment. No evidence of foul play.

The much covered retirement of Sen. Craig.

The Democratic Senator whose life was spared after a massive stroke 8 months ago, made his return to the Senate this week. Sen. Tim Johnson, whose spared life, also spared Democrats from having to submit to Dick Cheney's tie vote breaker in the Senate, is reported to have all his cognitive abilities intact, though his body has been less cooperative.

Former Senator Fred Thompson formally threw his hat into the Presidential election ring this week, but, to less enthusiasm that had been expected, and too late in the season say many, to lead the field. But, like many Republicans of late, Thompson's reentry to public politics is tarnished by scandal.

The GOP is desperately trying to put together a party re-branding marketing and advertising campaign to bring back voters they've lost, according to one Politico article this week. But, it will prove difficult to market the very same qualities which Republicans failed so miserably at. Here is an excerpt:

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) recently created a small, ad hoc advisory group of fellow members to help restore the GOP brand as the party of small government, fiscal discipline and tough-minded foreign policy.

The Wash. Times reports that efforts at withdrawal from Iraq have stalled in Congress. But, there may be a sea change coming in the Senate as Reuters reports:

"This Congress can't give President (George W.) Bush another blank check for Iraq," said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who has always opposed the war but until now voted to fund it.
On the other side, and in another Reuter's article, Republicans vow to fight any new bills calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq, citing progress there.

These party positions are drawn against a background of reports from Iraq citing limited improvement in overall violence, the relatively secured al_Anbar Province and many Baghdad neighborhoods cleared of sectarian rivals either by murder or relocation. A report (PDF) of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, chaired by retired Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones is released, and states clearly that Iraqi forces are not capable of securing Iraq.

While severely deficient in combat support and combat service support capabilities, the new Iraqi armed forces, especially the Army, show clear evidence of developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to the successful formation of a national defense capability. The Commission concurs with the view expressed by U.S., Coalition, and Iraqi experts that the Iraqi Army is capable of taking over an increasing amount of day-to-day combat responsibilities from Coalition forces. In any event, the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months.

In the aggregate, the Commission's assessment ascribes better progress to the Iraqi Army and the Ministry of Defense and less to the Ministry of Interior, whose dysfunction has hampered the police forces' ability to achieve the level of effectiveness vital to the security and stability of Iraq.

Politico reports there is a new strategy by Democrats which seeks bi-partisan support for finding closure to the war in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are calculating that it is futile to continue their months-long campaign to force an immediate end to the war, particularly after Republicans and a few Democrats returned from the summer recess intent on opposing legislation mandating a strict timetable for pulling out U.S. troops.

There appears to be a conundrum in all this for Republicans and a silver lining for Democrats, politically. Pres. Bush has made clear he will not withdraw from Iraq while he is President. A bi-partisan effort led by Democrats to reduce troop levels, however, before the 2008 elections has all the appearances of being the most that Democrats can accomplish with a Republican president. Given public opinion has soured on the war in Iraq, Republicans face the 2008 elections as the owners of the Iraq war, and primary obstacle to ending it.

If this perception is widely held in the public view come Nov. of 2008, this all adds up to a Democratic sweep in both Houses of Congress and the White House, all other things being constant. Unless a Republican candidate for President announces an intent to quickly remove American forces from the fighting in Iraq in his first 100 days as President, it appears unlikely Republicans will be able to circumvent the sweep that lies ahead.

Meanwhile, Congress is passing bills at a regular clip, and some come with a sting attached for the White House. A bill sponsored by Rep. Jack Murtha passed on votes of 395 to 13 on Aug. 5. It was the Department of Defense Appropriations, Fiscal Year 2008, and it comes with some stinging limitations on how Pres. Bush and the Pentagon may use those funds.

The more controversial Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 by Nancy Pelosi passed on Aug 4, on votes of 241 to 172. The Senate version will likely be dissimilar.

On Aug. 2, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Reauthorization bill passed the Senate 68-31, which millions of families around the country will be relieved to know.

The House, on Aug. 2, passed HR 3159, 229 ayes to 194 nays: An Act to mandate minimum periods of rest and recuperation for units and members of the regular and reserve components of the Armed Forces between deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. If passed in the Senate, this will bring relief and some joy to thousands of families of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Surprisingly, Republicans who reiterate support for the troops and often accuse Democrats of not doing so, opposed this bill.

In a hopeful article by Reuters it is reported: President George W. Bush prepared for an Asia-Pacific summit in Australia, saying on Friday the United States would consider a peace treaty with North Korea if it gave up nuclear arms.

Pres. Bush is expected to sign the bill which which overhauls "U.S. college student aid by slashing subsidies to lenders and using the money to boost student assistance by $20 billion was approved by Congress on Friday", as reported by Reuters. Good news for students.

And against a backdrop of increasing tensions between the White House and Iran, an optimistic article by Reuters reports:

The United States said on Friday there was potential merit to Iran's nuclear transparency deal with U.N. inspectors, after earlier branding it a diversionary gambit to forestall tougher U.N. sanctions.

It is complicated. It twists and turns. Nearly everyone associated denies culpability. But, the controversy surrounding Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D) is not, and will not, go away. In this tale of earmarks and a Congressman too close to government contracts for comfort, it is likely Kanjorski has more to answer for, and the government and spending hawks, show no signs of letting up on this continuing investigation which portends corruption by somebody.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on September 8, 2007 11:51 PM.

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