The New Congress

Bill CassidyThe 2014 Senate elections are now complete. On Saturday, Republican Bill Cassidy defeated incumbent Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu 56-44%. Landrieu had served as a senator for eighteen years; now she will have to find out what the private sector is like, pretty much for the first time in her life. Don’t feel too sorry for her, though; she comes from a political family with deep ties to the corridors of power. She won’t exactly go hungry.

Cassidy, who is currently a congressman and who is a medical doctor, in an interview yesterday, said his top priority was to do something about Obamacare, which he believes is a complete failure. His addition to the Senate now puts the new Senate, which will be seated in January, at 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats, a stark reversal of the last eight years.

Martha McSallyOne House seat remains to be called. In Arizona, Republican challenger Martha McSally is leading incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by a mere 161 votes, so a recount is underway. Barring any political shenanigans, it appears McSally, a retired Air Force pilot, will win. That would give the Republicans the greatest majority they’ve had in the House since the 1928 election.

Now, the real question: What will Republicans do with control of both houses of Congress? Will they stand firm on principle or cave? Will they show the nation they can lead in a new direction or will they go along with the occupant of the White House just to get along?

I never expect everything to go the way I think it should politically, but I do expect improvement after this last round of elections. Pray for wisdom and stiff spines.

It Will Be Over Only When It’s Over

I’ve let a day pass since the primary elections on Tuesday. It provided time to reflect on the results. Listening to the talking political heads on TV, there are certain themes that have emerged, some I agree with, some I don’t. In no particular order, they are:

  • Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi took almost everyone by surprise. Only one Alabama poll had him leading, and that was only by a single point. No Mississippi polls showed him ahead. Yet I followed the returns minute by minute, and except for the very early returns, Santorum led throughout the night. Some attribute this to the high evangelical turnout in those states. That certainly was helpful. But only a few voices keyed in on one of Santorum’s clear strengths: his likeability when one meets him in person and the genuineness of his character. He doesn’t come across as a phony politician saying what he thinks you want to hear. Those who characterize him as strident miss the essence of the man.
  • Gingrich lost big time. His only real shot—and it was a true longshot—was to capture both of those states in an area, the South, where he should have been strongest. Almost everyone thinks he has no chance of getting the nomination after these losses, and they believe he should exit the race as gracefully as possible. I couldn’t agree more. He is finished. The only thing his continued candidacy will accomplish is to divide the conservative vote with Santorum, who is the clear consensus choice of the conservative electorate. If he really doesn’t want Romney to get the nomination, he should bow out now. He has declared, though, that he’s going all the way to the convention in Tampa. Will he be forced to rethink that position? When funding dries up, he may have to face the inevitable. It’s a shame he won’t do so now.
  • Strange as it seems, Romney came out ahead with new delegates despite his third-place finish in Alabama and Mississippi. He won Hawaii and American Samoa [with all of 70 votes being cast there]. With the proportional division of delegates, that put him 5 0r 6 delegates ahead of Santorum for the evening. For the Romney campaign, it’s all about the math. They continue to say his nomination is a done deal.
  • My view: his nomination is no way a done deal. Yes, he still has the inside track, but there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the Republican electorate for someone who has to try to convince people he really is a conservative. Santorum, meanwhile, is picking up that lost enthusiasm. I’m fully aware that enthusiasm by itself doesn’t equal victory, but it is an essential ingredient for anyone who eventually gets the win. The last thing the Republican party needs is a nominee who doesn’t generate any real excitement.
  • There’s also a lot of talk about the final choice of a candidate not being made until the convention. While I would like to see this settled before the convention, I’m not as dismayed as many seem to be by that prospect. I also question the belief that a prolonged primary season is bad for the Republicans. A thorough vetting of the two candidates who are left is very important. We shouldn’t just jump on a bandwagon of inevitability and then face buyer’s remorse later. A vibrant convention that actually chooses the party’s nominee might inspire enthusiasm when all is said and done. Who knows? Political analysts and professional campaign staff have been wrong innumerable times before.

Sometimes, it takes time for a candidate to grab the attention of the voters. And once he gets that attention, it takes time to fund a complete campaign staff. That’s what is happening with Santorum, and it would be a travesty to allow the early primary and caucus states to determine the nominee before a good number of the other states get their say. Illinois and Louisiana are next on the docket. Romney currently leads in Illinois, but there’s no telling how Santorum’s latest victories may change that. Louisiana polling shows Santorum on top at present. If he takes both of those, can anyone justifiably say this race is over?

It will be over only when it’s over.

Spilling Thoughts

Okay, it’s time. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been at or near the top of the news for weeks, and I have yet to comment on it. In one way, that kind of makes me similar to the president. It took him a while to say much publicly. The big difference, of course, is that I don’t have any responsibility for taking care of the situation. He does.

I also haven’t been playing basketball. Almost before he knew it, the whole thing seemed to get out of control.

Let me be clear: this oil spill is not President Obama’s fault, any more than hurricane Katrina was Bush’s fault. However, with the hurricane, the first responders were supposed to be state and local; they dropped the ball, and all the blame fell on Bush for some reason. In the current mess, the federal government is in the role of first responder simply because the spill is outside of any one state. Therefore, the president needs to take charge.

Of course, he would like for this to be a win-win arrangement for him.

Not so fast. Reports have come out lately that don’t place the president or his adminstration in a good light. For one, when Obama was a senator, he received more money from BP than any other politician. Second, it turns out his people at the Minerals Management Service, the government agency tasked with inspection of oil facilities, were taking gifts from the companies they were supposed to be inspecting. The head of that agency was recently fired, but Obama claimed not to even know if she was fired or if she resigned. That’s what I call being in charge.

BP, by the way, according to other reports, was the greatest offender in the industry with respect to systemic safety problems. In other words, the company was an accident waiting to happen.

What to do now? Well, our mania for the environment has made this even harder to fix. The desire to keep drilling as far offshore as possible has only complicated the solution. Good intentions do not always make for good policies.

As the oil heads for shore, states like Louisiana are requesting federal government help. Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal has repeatedly sought this aid. The response has been rather tepid and slow in coming.

Jindal was told that the government first had to do an environmental impact study to determine if setting up the barriers was environmentally sound. Someone could make a classic comedy film out of this, if so inclined. Don’t we already have a tremendous environmental impact that needs to be halted?

Now, I don’t really expect the federal government to be the answer to this problem. The expertise for fixing it is going to come from the private sector. But the president sets himself up for failure by making outlandish promises he can’t really keep.

The aura of invincibility and competence is dimming daily.