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Those Daffy Democrats!

You know all the old jokes about Democrats. When they form a firing squad they stand in a circle. "I'm not a member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." The word "fractious" always comes up. Think: Jimmy Carter running for re-election with Teddy pounding on him every day. This kind of thing goes way back, to the early 1790s, when Thomas Jefferson would have furious arguments with himself.

Rumor had it, just months ago, that the Democrats had learned to master the art of party discipline. But now that the Dems are in charge of Congress, what do we read about every day? Internal party dickering, sniping, backbiting. We read about leadership battles, such as Murtha vs. Hoyer. And now we're all on pins and needles about who Speaker Pelosi will pick to run the Intelligence Committee. Such drama!

The latest news is that Pelosi won't give the Intelligence job to ranking Democrat Jane Harman, who she doesn't like for personal and political reasons, or the No. 2 Dem, Alcee Hastings, who was impeached as a federal judge many years ago in a bribery scandal.

[Hastings' lawyer, Terence Anderson, wrote in the Post yesterday that the congressman had never been convicted by a jury, and that his conduct was not that of a guilty man; today's Post story demolishes that argument. One of the Post's reporters, Peter Slevin, reported on the case two decades ago for The Miami Herald. Here's the beginning of a piece by Slevin that ran Dec. 14, 1986:
"The question: Did U.S. District Judge Alcee L. Hastings agree to take
a bribe, then lie and fabricate evidence to win an acquittal?
The panel: 14 federal judges.
The unanimous answer: yes.
A secret report based on an unprecedented 3 1/2-year investigation concludes that one of Florida's most dynamic and popular federal judges is corrupt."]

But Pelosi still hasn't decided who she'll put in the post -- thus ensuring the continuation of the story, and more discussion of how Pelosi doesn't like so-and-so, or is at odds with such-and-such faction.

From The Post:

"The fight over the top spot on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has exposed the kind of factional politics that bedeviled House Democrats before they were swept from control in 1994."

From the NYTimes: "The news that someone is not being given a post is rarely the subject of announcements here. But the question of who will lead the Intelligence Committee has developed into something of a soap opera."

David Corn in the Nation recently discussed Pelosi's dilemma:

"Can Pelosi pick a fellow impeached and convicted on corruption charges to run a committee handling the most sensitive secrets of the government? But can she bypass Hastings, an African-American, and alienate the Congressional Black Caucus? Should she choose the third-ranking Democrat, Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas? That would upset the CBC but win plaudits from the Hispanic Caucus. To duck the whole knotty issue, should she simply let Harman have the job for a short spell?"

(Corn says she should give the job to Rush Holt.)

[Blogger Glenn Greenwald says the whole Harman-Hastings foofaraw is a media concoction.] [More from Josh Marshall, and Kevin Drum.]

For the record, the House Democrats have an agenda, which you can read about here. In the first 100 hours of the new Congress, the House Democrats declare, they're going to do all sorts of things:

" We will start by cleaning up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation and commit to pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending.

"We will make our nation safer and we will begin by implementing the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission.

"We will make our economy fairer, and we will begin by raising the minimum wage. We will not pass a pay raise for Congress until there is an increase in the minimum wage.

"We will make health care more affordable for all Americans, and we will begin by fixing the Medicare prescription drug program, putting seniors first by negotiating lower drug prices. We will also promote stem cell research to offer real hope to the millions of American families who suffer from devastating diseases.

"We will broaden college opportunity, and we will begin by cutting interest rates for student loans in half.

"We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil.

"We will guarantee a dignified retirement, and we will begin by fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security."

(I have a feeling some of that might take more than 100 hours.)


Here's Marc Fisher in The New Yorker talking about Bob Fass, a radio host who had a popular show called "Radio Unnameable" back in the 60s and 70s. Marc has written a book, "Something In the Air," which examines the rise of Top 40 radio and its role in shaping the Baby Boom generation. More on Marc's book as we get closer to the pub date.

From the promo material:

"When television became the next big thing in broadcast entertainment, everyone figured video would kill the radio star-and radio, period. But radio came roaring back with a whole new concept. The war was over, the baby boom was on, the country was in clover, and a bold new beat was giving the syrupy songs of yesteryear a run for their money. Add transistors, 45 rpm records, and a young man named Elvis to the mix, and the result was the perfect storm that rocked, rolled, and reinvented radio."



Loomis is kind enough to provide a link to Washington's Farewell Address, which would have been appropriately included in yesterday's kit. Here's a take-home passage:

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

"Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel."

Ghost written by Hamilton?

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 29, 2006; 9:50 AM ET
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