Thursday, May 15, 2003

Go get ‘em, Joe
Joe Lieberman has picked up on the possibility of major abuses by the Texas Republicans trying to end a walkout by Democratic members of the state house (see previous post). He is responding to reports that the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center (AMICC), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, may have been instrumental in finding the truant Democrats. He has sent a formal request to Tom Ridge for an investigation. From Lieberman’s press release:

“If this report is accurate, I am outraged that Homeland Security resources are being used to help settle partisan political scores,” Lieberman said. “It is inconceivable that anyone would waste scarce department resources for such an indefensible purpose at a time when police and firefighters around the country are being laid off because of tight state budgets and insufficient federal aid.

Lieberman asked Secretary Ridge for a full investigation of the incident.

“I want to hear from whoever it was who thought the department’s mission includes assisting the Republican party of Texas in a party dispute. How involved were department personnel and what steps will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again?”

This is serious stuff. For the most part, the story of the runaway Texas Democrats (the Killer D’s) has been first-rate political theater, but little else. However, the possibility that the Texas Republicans misused federal anti-terrorism resources to deal with a local parliamentary procedure problem makes this a national issue.

Lieberman’s letter to Ridge asks the basic questions: who asked for what, who did what, how does this fit into Homeland Security’s mission, and what will Ridge do to see that this doesn’t happen again. These are honest, practical questions. The unstated political questions are: is the administration too incompetent to handle Homeland Security (either as a department or in the sense of genuinely protecting us) and are the Republicans running amuck with unrestrained power. The key to how this shakes out politically will be how much muck the muckrakers can stick on Tom DeLay.

For those of you who just tuned in, Tom DeLay is the House Majority Leader and a well-known bully and right-wing nut. He is also from Texas. Soon after the Republicans took control of the state house last fall, DeLay showed up with a new redistricting plan that would take five house districts from the Democrats and give them to the Republicans. This was despite the fact that Texas had just completed a court-ordered redistricting. It was to stop this plan that the Democrats ran away to Oklahoma last Monday, depriving the Texas house of a quorum and closing down all new business (even as I write this, the deadline for new business in the Texas legislature is passing, so the Democrats have succeeded). On Tuesday DeLay Tuesday consulted with an attorney in his office to determine whether FBI agents or US Marshals could be used to find and arrest the Democrats. If he is shown to be involved in this, it could be a career buster for DeLay (like Lott, his constituents will probably reelect him, but he will loose all influence in congress).

This story has many of the elements of a regime ending scandal. One of the top members of the Republican power structure is involved. We have little guys defying the powerful. The Democrats have an opportunity to show the Republicans mismanaging national security. So far there’s no sex, but a special prosecutor with a dirty enough mind could find some somewhere. This could be a God-given opportunity for the Democrats. Already, the Killer D’s have provided a much needed morale boost for Democrats across the country. The folkloric image of defying an overbearing and arrogant authority can play very well with voters and may inspire Democrats at all levels to resist and obstruct the more extremist and revolutionary aspects of the Republican agenda.

This could be the beginning the end for the Bush regime. Or it could be a three-day wonder that is forgotten before school lets out. It all depends on whether Democrats and a hungry press follow up and pound unrelentingly on the theme Republican abuses of power. The abuses are there

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