Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 7, 2004
POLITICS: Don't Go There
One of the stupidest memes I've heard from the Left in a very long time - and that's saying quite a lot - is detailed here:
In the "rapid fire" section of Crossfire she said the following to a Republican Strategist...
"Dick Cheney was in the house for over a decade. How many bills did he pass?"
The Republican Strategist paused, looked physically ill, then tried to change the subject by saying "Well, he was aknowledged as a leader."
There was laughter in the crowd.
But Brazille didn't let him go. She leaned forward and very calmly told the truth.
2 bills for Cheney. 57 for Kerry.
I generally figure Brazile would be smarter than this - this is just an incredibly idiotic comparison. First of all, Kerry's been in the Senate twice as long as Cheney was in the House - but Cheney, unlike Kerry, came to the Vice Presidency with qualifications well beyond his Congressional record. Cheney had already been White House Chief of Staff in the Ford Administration (he was Don Rumsfeld's deputy during the traumatic conclusion to the Vietnam War and had worked in the Nixon and Ford White Houses since 1969) and Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War and the end of the Cold War. He also, of course, headed a large corporation in the 1990s. He was clearly a much more consequential figure than Kerry in numerous ways, a recognized power broker in GOP politics and national security policy.
To review: there are basically four major ways to have an impact in Congress:
1. Get in the leadership. This is the true path to power. Dole, Daschle, Frist, George Mitchell . . . these guys were all impact players on a huge range of legislation without getting their names on them. How many bills did Tip O'Neill sponsor? Dick Cheney quickly got into the leadership:
Kerry, by contrast, never got close. This is a guy whose big theme is that he'll build alliances, and he never even managed to get his fellow Democratic Senators to follow him anywhere.
2. Sponsor bills. Neither Kerry nor Cheney did much of this.
3. Be a high-profile advocate on particular issues - McCain on campaign finance, Kemp on tax cuts, Nunn and Lugar on defense, Kennedy on health care. Even if they hadn't had their names on bills, those guys would be impact players. Neither Kerry nor Cheney did much of this.
4. Be a high-impact committee chairman. Kerry never has. Cheney, of course, was never in the majority, so he didn't have the chance.
Which brings us to another distinction - Cheney spent his years as one of the leaders of the minority in a chamber where the minority has little clout. By definition, members of the minority party in the House don't accomplish much, especially the way the Democrats ran the House in those years. When he's had opportunities to exercise more influence, as he has now in three Republican administrations (he was a lower-level Executive Branch guy in the Nixon years), he's been a major, major impact player. Kerry, by contrast, has been in the Senate - where the minority has more power - and has spent about half of his two decades there in the majority party, while leaving barely a trace and never really getting out front on any issue (c'mon, give me examples of causes where Kerry took a visible public position and fought for it without ducking for cover).
(Pejman has more in a similar vein; thanks to Pej for the link to Kos)
Of course, Kerry's Senate record does look distinguished . . . compared to Edwards.