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ISSUE #109
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Features

ArrowPayback Time
If Republicans lose Congress, don't assume things will change
Matt Taibbi

ArrowAre You Radioactive Football?
Why “dirty bomb hoax” is redundant
Hank Williams Jr.

ArrowMurrah Redux
9/11 Truth is a bald regurgitation of a silly tale we heard ten years ago
Matt Taibbi

Local BEAST

ArrowTom & Sally Take a Trip
Foley Shmoley! Reynolds has scandal all his own.
Allan Uthman

ArrowRepresentative Royale!

ArrowBeast Calling
We call Eliot Spitzer's campaign to see just what "on the first day everything changes" means.

Departments

ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Inoperable Sump Pump

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
The Prestige, The Departed, Employee of the Month, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Arrow[sic] - Letters
Chuckleside, Konspiracy Kops, Happy Clam Sends Mindless Bias, Kid Power and more

Payback Time

continued - page 2

What no one in Congress knows -- and a lot of staffers I spoke to worried aloud about this -- is if Democrats will be any different in that respect than the Republicans if they win this November. The corruption issue is only part of it. More than anything, a lot of Democratic staffers are worried that ten years or so of having the light shut out on them by the majority, being frozen out of conference committees, having cops called to rouse them out of the library and being denied the chance to offer even the most harmless amendments -- that all of this will lead to a long, ugly period of payback time.

"I hope we don't do the same stuff," says Jim Berard, a Democratic staffer on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee.

The upcoming congressional elections are going to be important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being the dramatic change in Congress' oversight profile should the Democrats win one or both houses. But I don't see any reason to expect that there will be a dramatic increase in civility or a sudden challenge to corporate influence on the Hill if the Democrats take the House. And as for political partisanship -- who knows it might just be that politics are different now. There are plenty of people out there who think that a lack of cross-party primary voting (leading to fewer centrist candidates) and the increasing sophistication of party fundraising mechanisms (which allow party leaders to exercise greater discipline of its members) are just contributing generally to a more polarized Congress, divided up into two homogenous bodies of legislators utterly hostile to each other. The young Democrat sitting next to Rangel who looks at a Republican like a Crip lining up a Blood might be the future of politics generally.

"If Feingold or whoever is president in '08," says defense analyst and former Senate staffer Winslow Wheeler, "don't expect a sudden flowering of oversight."

Which is not to say the two parties won't work together. They will -- just not on anything constructive. What most people fail to understand about Congress is that there have been some highly consistent areas of consensus even in these incredibly contentious past ten years. In the areas in which both parties typically agree, like military spending and giveaways to the more generous donor industries, Democrats and Republicans have worked swimmingly even in the most publicly antagonistic periods of the Bush and Clinton years. They helped each other sign off on the Iraq war and stroke the credit industry with the bankruptcy bill. They cooperated to pass a spate of free-trade agreements, the WTO, the MAI, GATT and a host of other legislative monstrosities.

Where they couldn't cooperate was in the area of upholding their constitutional responsibilities, and practicing bureaucratic self-defense. The social divide between Republicans and Democrats had to be a big part of the reason Congress lacked the institutional stones to really stand up to the president on the torture issue, to fight back when the vice president ignores a subpoena of the GAO, to demand someone's head when the defense department openly refuses to audit itself. The Republicans in Congress have been so busy in the last ten years figuring out ways to shut Democrats out of the process that they forgot how to stop the executive branch from giving it to them up the ass. The result is a Congress that is not only grossly corrupt and completely beholden to financial interests, but totally castrated in the national political arena, a tawdry little sideshow that drones on idiotically on CSPAN while the White House rules the country more or less absolutely (an additional insult; not only is the Congress a disgrace to two millennia of democratic tradition, it's the worst show on television).

Think about it; if there's ever been anything sadder than John McCain "taking a stand" against Bush on the torture bill a few weeks back, have you seen it? I sure haven't. McCain bent over faster than a college student on his first night in Attica. But I wouldn't expect anything better out of the Democrats -- at least not until they show they can act like men, and not like the hired clowns of their party's financial backers. Until that happens, we can expect more of the same: vicious partisan bitching while the cameras are on, obscene handouts behind closed doors.

"You can either govern or you can get even," says Rangel. "But you can't do both. I hope we make the right choice.

 

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