Right-Wing Conspiracy? Bah, humbug! If it was as powerful as Hillary Clinton alleges, Bristol Palin would’ve won “Dancing with the Stars” Tuesday night. But she didn’t. She and partner Kyle Massey finished third behind winning couple Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough. But not before lots of Americans became convinced votes from tea partiers were keeping Palin on the show even as she received lower scores from judges than other competitors who got the boot.
The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn penned a funny column recently describing her angst as Palin survived week after week while better dancers got sent home. “This could be a metaphor for things to come,” Quinn wrote. “Sarah Palin is a force to be reckoned with and if her supporters can influence a TV show of 23 million viewers they can have more serious influence on elections. And if they can mobilize the religious right then the Democrats better pay attention and start dancing as fast as they can.” Ultimately, Grey prevailed. Of course, Grey is a ringer. Her dad is famed danceman Joel Grey and she starred in “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swayze in 1987. Takes a lot more than the mythical RWC to overcome bloodlines and professional talent.
This week U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe reportedly was the only member of the Senate’s Republican caucus voting against a moratorium on earmarks — the process by which members of Congress designate federal spending on specific projects in their states and districts. Sen. Lisa Murkowski missed the vote because she’s in Alaska awaiting the conclusion of her re-election race but says she would’ve voted against the ban if she had been around.
As he’s explained many times, Inhofe believes the earmark moratorium is a lot of hot air over a relatively small amount of money (2 percent to 3 percent of total federal spending). And besides, he argues, the legislative branch is constitutionally empowered to appropriate funds. So, no, he’s not concerned about being a lone wolf on earmarks.
Nor on other stuff, either. He was an early opponent to the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade bill and his stalwart crusade against anti-global warming measures has earned plenty of bile from advocates. No matter. One of Inhofe’s favorite stories is about how he jetted to last year’s big climate change conference in Denmark, basically parachuting into Copenhagen for a couple of hours to be a one-man band in opposition — surrounded by a sea of people who didn’t agree with him. You need a tough hide to play the role of a voice crying out in the wilderness. Inhofe’s most certainly is.
Don’t pay as much attention to pronouncements from House Speaker-to-be John Boehner on controlling federal spending as to who ends up in charge of the new Republican House’s Appropriations Committee. Appropriations is where the nuts-and-bolts decisions on spending will be made and already there’s lots of jockeying for that chairmanship. The eventual winner either could be a great help to national GOP leaders on spending or an incredible hindrance.
According to Politico, former approps chairman Jerry Lewis of California wants another swing at the job. But that would require waiving the party’s term-limits rules. Lewis is known around Washington as the consummate appropriator — which is to say, the kind of insider who generally fared poorly in congressional elections earlier this month. Lots of Republicans and tea partiers want someone else to chair the committee, someone who will hold the line on earmarks and overall spending. After all, both were major themes in the just-concluded campaign.
But if not Lewis, who? Kentucky’s Harold Rogers would be next in line, but he, too, is a long-time committee member — whose commitment to spending restraint is automatically suspect. Politico reports Rogers is vowing allegiance to an earmarks ban and other reforms. And, big surprise, Rogers has been saying that waiving the term-limits rule would be a big mistake. It’ll be interesting to see how the leadership race pans out — Boehner will play a huge role — and whether fiscal hawks like Arizona’s Jeff Flake land spots on the committee. Certainly, both questions will be watched carefully by voters expecting change, not more of the same old, same old.
Nancy Pelosi’s decision to run for House minority leader in the next Congress is like Christmas come early for Republicans. Make that two Christmases. Here’s why: If Pelosi wins, lots of this year’s TV ads, signs, posters and Web sites with grainy images of the soon-to-be-former House speaker will be recyclable for 2012, as the GOP reminds Americans why they turned out the Democratic majority last week. Republicans are giddy at the thought. A “Fire Pelosi” sign outside one GOP building was replaced with “Hire Pelosi.”
Republicans aren’t alone in seeing the political risks of Pelosi’s lingering leadership. Fox News reports a draft letter from defeated House Democrats, being circulated on Capitol Hill, urges her to step aside. “Many of us want the chance to run again and reclaim the seats that we lost on Tuesday,” the letter states. “With you as the leader of House Democrats, the hangover of 2010 stands no chance of subsiding.” There’s no indication who has or will sign the letter. But the fact such a missive is circulating suggests Pelosi might face significant push-back as the leadership vote approaches.
Current U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be a candidate for minority leader as Democrats start thinking about handing control of the chamber to Republicans. Pelosi’s decision means there will be heightened drama when Dems pick new leaders. A number in the caucus, including Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, have said they won’t support Pelosi as leader. Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., said he’ll challenge Pelosi if no other moderate else steps forward. The one to watch is current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Hoyer is more moderate than the speaker, and their relationship is more professional than cordial. Hoyer might see this week’s election debacle as a signal it’s his time to be top banana. Current Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., also might jump in.
What’s your take on presumptive House Speaker John Boehner’s tearful victory speech Tuesday night, after it was clear Republicans had picked up enough seats to control the chamber starting in January? Boehner, derided for his perpetual tan and Washington insider-ism, broke down at several points as he described his pursuit of the American dream. Boehner’s personal story is a classic tear-jerker: huge family, working all hours in his dad’s tavern, putting himself through school — just about everything except scrawling his sums on the blade of a shovel by firelight. OK, the shovel bit was gratuitously cynical. Seriously, although Boehner’s known around Washington as a chronic sobber, regularly choking himself up during big floor speeches, Tuesday’s display looked like the real deal. The Boehner speakership has yet to unfold, but it looks like he’ll be a stark contrast to President Obama’s clinical, professorial manner.
A little around the horn on Election Day eve …
Seen: Last Gallup generic ballot reading shows Republicans with a 15-point lead. In 1994, the last big GOP wave year, the generic ballot lead was something like seven points. Gallup says Republicans’ generic ballot lead is large enough that regardless of turnout they’ll win the House of Representatives. The pollster says historical models predict the GOP “could gain anywhere from 60 seats on up, with gains well beyond that possible.” Sounds like last winter’s forecasts for the Washington, D.C., area: “Accumulations of two feet or more are possible …”
Also seen: The number of Americans who think things are going badly is 75 percent in a CNN poll — higher than it has ever been on the eve of a midterm election since the question was first asked in the mid-1970s. Pretty tough if it happens to be your watch.
Heard: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s closing weekend ads focusing on opponent Sharron Angle as extreme, pathological and unhinged. Not exactly “Morning in America.”