All day long I've been listening to the right wing spin machine, saying that the reason Republicans lost is that they weren't conservative enough. Saying that it was the moderates like Lincoln Chaffee who lost, and that real conservatives did just fine. They also touted the success of a bunch of conservative ballot propositions to make their point.
Sure there were moderates like Chaffee who lost but some of Congress' most conservative and most partisan members who were among the casualties. I had planned on listing three here but I've bumped one of them down to the 'not so honorable mention' category to make room for one guy who may not have been a congressman, but who I'm very happy to see go,
3. Donald Rumsfeld
Yes, today the President announced the departure of the Secretary of Defense. I actually think this move was literally years overdue, but late is better than never. And let's be honest. If there is one single individual among the many in the Bush administration who is the most responsible for the mess we are in right now in Iraq, it is Don Rumsfeld. And the reason is his conservatism. Fiscal conservatism in particular. Don Rumsfeld developed the 'Rumsfeld doctrine,' in which he believed that wars could be fought with fewer, lighter, cheaper more mobile units than traditionally used in warfare. Now I'm not knocking him for pushing this idea forward. As Defense Secretary, suggesting innovations in warfare is a part of his job. However with Rumsfeld it became an obsession. I blogged a couple of days ago on the report out this past week about how Rumsfeld and the President ignored a 1999 simulation of a war in Iraq which showed that at least 400,000 troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Then in the run up to the war, General Eric Shinseki (who unlike Rumsefeld had apparently read the report) pushed that number back at Rumsfeld and said that 400,000 would be needed to prevent an insurgency, and Rumsfeld made an example of Shinseki and sent a chilling message to anyone in the military who would dare question him by forcing Shinseki out of the army. Later General Casey sweet talked Rumsfeld into upping the occupation force from in the neighborhood of 100,000 to 150,000; but as we've seen Eric Shinseki and the 1999 report were in fact right. Since then, Rumsfeld has presided over one incompetent decision after another, from authorizing interrogation procedures which resulted in Abu Graib, to his repeated failures to provide troops with adequate body and vehicle armor, to his insistence for a long time that things were going according to plan (though more recently he has acknowleged that things have not gone according to plan, but has not articulated exactly what the plan is. Do you know what the plan is in Iraq? I sure don't, and it's not from a lack of paying attention to what Don Rumsfeld is saying.) Once the election was in, I think there was little doubt that Rumsfeld had to go. It was Rumsfeld who has caught more fire over Iraq than anyone in the administration except perhaps (and only 'perhaps') the President himself. The flak was earned, but I will commend President Bush (I don't write that very often) for seeing that having a lightning rod like Don Rumsfeld sitting there would probably have hindered his ability to work with the new Congress. Don Rumsfeld did achieve one thing-- he became the longest serving Secretary of Defense in history. And the guy he overtook in that regard? Bob McNamara. How ironic.
2. Rick Santorum
Ah, yes. Anyone who claims that conservative Republicans rode out the wave obviously isn't thinking about Rick Santorum, who is as of this moment (until the new Senate is sworn in) likely the most conservative Republican in the Senate. If not the most, then certainly in anyone's top three. Further, Santorum, now the number 3 Republican in the Senate, would have (as a young Senator) have had a very good chance of becoming a majority or minority leader had he remained in the Senate. In fact, had he won his race this year, it would have held the majority for the GOP and Santorum might very well have made a run at Mitch McConnell from the right for the job of majority leader (some conservatives don't like McConnell after all since he stood up against amending the constitution of the United States to ban flag burning last year, almost the only Republican to do so; Santorum in contrast was one of the leaders of the fight to get flag burning banned.) Santorum also spoke out in favor of privatizing Social Security and compared gay people to people who sleep with animals (his infamous 'man on dog' comment.) Santorum was more than just a conservative, he was a conservative activist, which helped his rise in the Republican leadership, working hard to push other Republicans into supporting his positions. Santorum was an unrepentant partisan as well, refusing to compromise with Democrats on anything and instead forcing bill after bill after bill through by twisting the arms of enough Republicans in the Senate to get a majority. One almost wonders how Santorum would have handled being in the minority. Well, we will never know that, as we will never know whether the people who kept pushing him to run for President (now THAT would be my worst nightmare) would have succeeded. And that is a good thing. Rick Santorum's Presidential candidacy for 2008 has been stillborn. And yes, I would like to personally thank Elizabeth B. for working to get rid of Santorum.
1. J.D. Hayworth
Yes, we failed to kick out scandal plagued Rick Renzi up here, but until redistricting in 2002, I had the "privilege" of being 'represented' by one of Congress' most partisan jerks, J.D. Hayworth (a.k.a. J.D. Blowhard, or J.D. Hayseed.) Hayworth is a great public speaker, except that what he is speaking about is usually pretty much limited to one of the following topics: 1. Bashing Bill Clinton. 2. Bashing Democrats. 3. Bashing the media. 4. Bashing illegal immigrants. 5. Bashing liberals. 6. Bashing environmentalists. 7. Bashing gay people. 8. Bashing anyone who doesn't agree with his far right viewpoints. Well, you get the theme here-- and that's pretty much J.D.'s whole repertoire of speeches. The word, 'demogogue' doesn't quite capture the essense of J.D. Maybe more like 'enraged demogogue.'
In fact, Hayworth, whose actual list of achievements in Congress is almost non-existent, did have a stroke of 'genius' about a year ago. It was not long after the John Murtha announcement when Congress was engaged in a serious bipartisan debate on the future of Iraq. Hayworth, who doesn't like anything that smacks of 'bipartisan,' suggested to fellow Republican Duncan Hunter that they offer a bill on which house members could vote 'yes' or 'no' on supporting the President or immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Of course Murtha was not advocating a 'drop your guns and run' approach as the bill in effect said, but what it did was end all meaningful debate on the topic. That's normal for Hayworth.
Let me quote from the editorial that the Arizona Republic ran in deciding not to endorse Hayworth for the first time since he was elected in 1994.
The biggest problem in Congress is extreme partisanship, and Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., is among Capitol Hill's worst offenders.
Hayworth always has been an enthusiast for rough-and-tumble politics.
And there's a place for that. The outraged-partisan routine works pretty well on Sean Hannity's radio show or the Fox News Channel, where Hayworth often does yeoman's work blasting anybody who doesn't agree with him. It works poorly, though, in discussions or debates - forums in which even small measures of civility can go a long way.
And that scalding approach doesn't help get anything done.
It is high time to hit this matter squarely: J. D. Hayworth is a bully. He may not yet have reached the point where you can't take him anywhere, but you certainly can't take him to a calm, civil discussion.
The Arizona Republic has recommended Hayworth's election each of the past six times he has run for Congress. In those editorials, we noted his characteristic bluster and needlessly confrontational attitude but also praised his strong work ethic and dedication to serving his district's constituents.
Not this time. This time, we're going to recommend his opponent, Harry Mitchell...
During this past term, Hayworth has devolved from a windy and sometimes cartoonish politician into an angry demagogue who has shamelessly and divisively exploited the immigration issue, arguably the No. 1 concern of Arizonans. Hayworth and Joe Eule, his chief of staff, rushed out a quickie border-security book, Whatever It Takes, and the congressman transformed himself into Mr. Tough Guy on illegal immigration, reliably appearing on the cable-TV news shows as a spokesman for the fire-breathing hardliners.
Meanwhile, other Republicans in Arizona's House delegation - most notably Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe - have been positively statesmanlike as they pursued a comprehensive approach to dealing with this complex problem. Hayworth and like-minded allies did manage to monkey-wrench this year's hope for realistic immigration reform. Some accomplishment.
As wrongheaded as Hayworth's "enforcement first" mantra is, Americans still can disagree on public-policy strategies toward immigration and other topics. It is Hayworth's increasingly combative demeanor and high-octane partisanship that is more troubling...
Hayworth's bombastic rhetoric and obnoxious behavior have gotten him into his toughest political fight yet.
In a meeting last week with The Republic's Editorial Board, Hayworth repeatedly positioned himself like a smirking hawk, inches from the face of his "prey," Mitchell, while the Democrat responded to questions. For that overbearing attempt at intimidation, Hayworth deserves a sound rap on the knuckles.
Not that this surprises me, having (as I said) once had Hayworth 'representing' me. And he ran a hideously negative campaign against Mitchell this year but I think voters have learned by now what J.D. is all about.
And I'm sure that J.D. (a former sportscaster) will be offered a job pretty soon as a talk show hose where he can compete for the right wing kook audience with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.
And one other thing that I should tell you about J.D. It speaks volumes about the man. This race was not that close. Mitchell won by four percent. True there are a number of absentee ballots and provisionals to be counted, but there is absolutely no way they will change the outcome of this race. The networks called it not that long after Arizona closed, and Mitchell, after waiting overnight and into the morning for a call that was not forthcoming went ahead and claimed his victory today. J.D. Hayworth still hasn't conceded. And he probably won't concede. Because that would be civil.
I would like to personally thank the folks in district 5 (and I know a number of you) for working hard to get rid of J.D. (especially I'd like to thank Larry King for stepping aside and letting Harry Mitchell run unopposed in the primary when it became clear that there was a chance to actually win this race.)
Not so honorable mention
Here are a few others I won't miss: Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), who last year tried his hardest to pin 9/11 on the Democrats; Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), the scourge of the environment; Sen. George Allen (R-VA), another former next Republican nominee for President, who was a leading proponent of the war (apparently because he figured that 'macaca' can go instead of his son); Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT), who wrote the prescription drug bill-- and yes, thank God she lost in a campaign in which that was an issue.); Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) who was so fiscally conservative that he opposed spending Federal money to build a monument to the flight 93 heroes who died in a field in Shanksville, PA, after 9/11.
Let me Finish with the ballot propositions, so we can bury that little bit of spin in a deep grave. In South Dakota, there was a measure on the ballot to ban all abortions except to save the life of the mother. It lost, and in one of the most Republican states in the country. And in losing it negates the law that the South Dakota legislature passed last year trying to do the same thing. California and Oregon voters rejected a parental notification measure. Gay marriage? Bans on it did win in some places, but in contrast to 2004 when it won easily everywhere it was tried, this year it was a close contest in several states. Further, here in Arizona the 'defense of marriage' constitutional amendment lost. The proposed amendment not only banned gay marriage (which is already illegal in Arizona) but prevented the alternative, civil unions laws. So voters here decided they don't want to amend the state constitution for the sole purpose of making life harder on some other people. And we've heard about nothing but the Missouri stem cell research bill for a long time. It is a good bet that no one in Missouri was not pretty well acquainted with all sides of the debate when they stepped into the voting booth. And it won. And, seven states had minimum wage hikes on the ballot and it won in all seven, in almost all of them quite handily. And in three states there were taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR) initiatives on the ballot, which would limit the ability of state and local governments to levy and collect taxes, but in all three the measures lost. Yes, there were some conservative propositions that won (especially anti-immigrant ones) but anyone who tries to claim that the propositions were a victory for conservatism is full of crap.