Thursday, May 04, 2006

The untold story: How Democrats undermined reform.How the Democrats Played at Reform
As I reported on the weak House bill passed Wednesday:

Part of the blame falls on the Democrats and their sometimes feckless response to the ethics crisis, according to some watchdog groups and even a few pro-reform Congressional staffers. Melanie Sloan, the head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), among others, argues, “The Democrats’ behavior has been absolutely appalling. They want the public to think that they’re pushing ethics reform but nobody really wants to give up the perks of their office. They bungled the opportunity and they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Indeed, on the political front, “Democrats haven’t done a great job drawing a sharp distinction [on ethics] between themselves and the Republicans,” says Norman Ornstein, the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.” They’re missing a bit of an opportunity. But it’s a risky business: They don’t want to call for the toughest imaginable restrictions and then have to live under them.” The Democrats also haven’t yet effectively convinced the public that there’s a connection between sleazy practices in the Republican-led Congress, and the pocketbook issues of skyrocketing gas prices and the chaotic Medicare prescription drug progam, although they’re now trying to do so. Matt Hogan, an analyst with the progressive public polling firm Democracy Corps, observes: “There’s an opportunity for Democrats to gain traction with corruption if they show how it relates to people’s lives” – but that message hasn’t really registered yet.

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