Messy, Dems, Very Messy
It took Republicans 12 years to lose the trust of the American people and, consequently, their majority in Congress. Democrats are working on a faster timetable.
Nancy Pelosi has yet formally to become Speaker of the House, but she already is taking steps which could cut short her tenure.
Ms. Pelosi is supporting Rep. Jack Murtha in his bid for majority leader over the current number two Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
In a post-election poll taken for Newsweek magazine, 51 percent of respondents described the Democratic victory as "a good thing." But 69 percent said they were concerned the Democrats would keep the president "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and 78 percent said they feared Democrats would seek too hasty a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Mr. Murtha is known to most Americans as the chief tenor in the Cut & Run chorus. Ms. Pelosi said in her endorsement letter that she was backing Mr. Murtha because of his stand on Iraq. That will not reassure the 47 percent of the voters Tuesday who described themselves as "moderates," most of whom voted for Democrats.
But where Mr. Murtha really might bite Democrats on the behind is on ethics. He has skeletons rattling around in his closet which could draw unfavorable scrutiny if he were elevated to majority leader.
Mr. Murtha was the only one of eight senators and representatives investigated by the FBI in the Abscam sting of the early 1980s not to be indicted, because he was the only one who didn't accept a briefcase full of cash during his meeting with undercover FBI agents posing as Arabs seeking favors.
But it is clear from the videotape the FBI made of the meeting with Mr. Murtha that he wasn't closing the door to doing business with the fake Arabs.
"I'm not interested...at this point," Mr. Murtha says on the videotape. But he indicated he was open to future discussions. Prosecutors named Mr. Murtha an unindicted co-conspirator.
One could argue Abscam is ancient history. But Mr. Murtha's ethical lapses didn't end with Abscam. Gary Ruskin, director of the liberal Congressional Accountability Project, told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that "when it comes to institutional policing of corruption in Congress, John Murtha is a one-man wrecking crew."
Mr. Murtha currently is ranking Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee. Eyebrows were raised when the Los Angeles Times reported in June of 2005 that Mr. Murtha had steered nearly $21 million to clients of a lobbying firm headed by his brother and a former top aide.
In early 2004, Mr. Murtha "reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point shipyard to the city of San Francisco," the LA Times said. Lawrence Pelosi, nephew of Nancy, was an executive in the company that owned the rights to the land.
Exit polling indicated corruption was even more on the minds of voters than was Iraq.
Understandably so, because four GOP lawmakers were forced to resign because of ethical lapses. But the current Democratic advantage on this issue is likely to diminish if voters come to believe that Ms. Pelosi's primary interest in corruption is to change its beneficiaries.
Ms. Pelosi also has signaled her intent to replace Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence committee, with Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, a favorite of the Black Caucus.
Mr. Hastings is a flaming left-winger, not the sort to keep the nation's secrets.
And when he was a federal judge, a Democratic congress impeached him in 1989 for taking bribes and lying under oath. His elevation over the well respected Ms. Harman would not be reassuring to those swing voters concerned about either national security or corruption.
Rep. Hoyer is likely to win the majority leader's race, thus sparing the nation Mr. Murtha. And though Ms. Pelosi's animus toward Ms. Harman is so great she is certain to replace her, Ms.
Pelosi may be talked into a less unsuitable replacement than Alcee Hastings. But Ms. Pelosi has aimed a shotgun at both of her feet.
The one time the opposition party failed to gain seats in the sixth year of a presidential term was in 1998, when a public disgusted by the impeachment of President Clinton, gave Democrats a gain of five House seats.
Voters want lawmakers to focus on the future, not carry out vendettas. The Newsweek poll indicated two thirds of Americans worry Democrats will spend too much time investigating the Bush administration. But incoming Democratic committee chairmen are already preparing lists of subpoenas. That will delight their moonbat base, but cut short their hour in the sun.