Monday, February 16, 2004

When We Say "Bipartisan," We Mean You Agree With Us

My Tribune column went back to running on Sunday this week. The Buddy Hackett joke is one of my favorites (just ask my kids) but it doesn't translate all that well to writing.

The Media Guys have a pretty good Internet film about Speaker Flake kicking Reps. Hershberger and O'Halleran off their committees. I got another example of the way the "bipartisan" ratchet works at the State House this morning. The House GOP leadership isn't including any Democrats in the budget negotiations, because the Speaker says they're just too committed to the Governor's position. Of course, if they were Republicans and deviated from the leadership position, the Speaker would kick them off the committee anyway. Once again, it's heads they win, tails we lose.

East Valley Tribune, Feb. 15, 2004

Arizona Republicans took a bold stand last week. With questions raised about the quality of intelligence and decision-making by the executive branch, they swallowed hard and said any resulting investigation simply has to be independent.

But they weren’t talking about President Bush hand-picking his own Iraq intelligence commission. Bush is a Republican, and apparently the independence requirement applies only to Democrats.

The GOP did decide to follow Bush’s lead in their so-called “independent” investigation of the Lewis Prison hostage situation in one limited way -- by outsourcing the job. They’ve selected as their private investigator Maricopa County Attorney, and potential candidate for governor, Richard Romley, who announced that he’s actively considering running in 2006. What, was J.D. Hayworth too busy?

It’s an interesting ploy, giving a potential opponent a bunch of public money and a platform to investigate his potential opponent in the next election. I’ll stop complaining the instant that Republicans demand that President Bush’s political opponents name the commission to investigating him -- and that it be headed by a potential future Democratic candidate for president, like Sen. Hillary Clinton. Sauce for the gander, right?

But having rules apply only to opponents is standard operating procedure at the Legislature. House Speaker Jake Flake -- fresh from penning a newspaper column in which he claimed credit for the recent special session’s additional funding and reforms of Child Protective Services -- decided to punish two members of his GOP caucus who worked the hardest to pass the additional funding and CPS reforms.

Flake used his power as Speaker (one not invoked since Jane Hull wore the ermine back in 1990) to remove Rep. Pete Hershberger of Tucson and Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Sedona as chairs of the Human Services and Natural Resources Committees, respectively. Both representatives not only got their chairmanships revoked, they got kicked off the committees entirely.

It’s bad enough that Hershberger and O’Halleran get punished for the mortal sin of bipartisan cooperation. (Remember when George W. Bush talked about being a uniter, not a divider? That was so 20th century.) What’s even more symptomatic is that a guy from Tucson and one from Sedona get replaced by Flake’s preferred brand of Republican: yet two more East Valley conservatives.

Yes, the Arizona Republican Party is certainly a big tent. It’s just that everybody inside, especially in leadership, has to look, think, and act the same -- and live nearby, too. (It’s an added bonus if they consider me not just a flaming liberal, but a Gentile as well.)

But our final “heads we win, tails you lose” hypocrisy for the week took place in Washington, where Bush administration spokesman Scott McClellan accused those who want President Bush to release all of his military records -- after the president himself said on national TV that he’d release all of his records, “Yes, absolutely” -- of practicing “gutter politics” and “trolling for trash.” Of course, during the 1992 campaign, President George H.W. Bush demanded that Bill Clinton release all of his draft records. “He ought to level with the American people on the draft,” then-President Bush said.

McClelland explained that in 1992, demanding Clinton release his draft records wasn’t “trolling for trash” but in 2004 asking Bush to keep his promise to release his military records was, because “I think that you can expect the garbage can to be thrown at you in the 11th hour of a campaign, but not nine months before election day.”

Oh, I get it. It’s like Buddy Hackett’s joke explaining the secret of comedy: TIMING! That President Bush -- he’s such a kidder.

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