Get PJ Media on your Apple

Belmont Club

A Spate of Retirements

January 16th, 2014 - 8:36 pm

Janet Hook and Thomas Crittenden of the Wall Street Journal try to explain the rash of retirements on Capitol Hill.

A parade of retirements from Congress threatens to deplete Capitol Hill’s ranks of centrists, graybeards and legislative craftsmen—increasingly rare commodities in a political hothouse more prone to line-drawing than bridge-building in recent years.  Many of the House members who are leaving are centrist Republicans, which could leave the GOP caucus more dominated than ever by the party’s conservative wing. Democrats, meanwhile, are losing some of the last of their party’s conservative “Blue Dog” wing.

Yet the retirements are in some way an historical throwback. Until recently it was unusual for legislators to serve out multiple terms. Until the 20th century it was uncommon for legislators to be repeatedly re-elected. “The fact that ‘perpetuity in office’ was not approached until the 20th century is due in part to the influence of rotation in office as a popular 19th century concept … rotation of nominations was intertwined with the spoils system”.

While nobody is under the illusion that the permanent political class in Washington is disintegrating it is reasonable to ask whether its monolithic facade is cracking — if only every so slightly. The AP describes the retirment of one Congressman who has served 11 terms.

WASHINGTON — Joining an exodus from Congress by both Democrats and Republicans, veteran Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon tearfully announced Thursday that he’s retiring after 21 years, stepping down as House Armed Services Committee chairman.

But now, perhaps by coincidence, a larger than usual number are heading for home. Nancy Pelosi denied there was anything unusual about the retirements saying “our Democratic retirements do not relate in any way to our prospects for winning”.

That’s as may be. But if the portents are to believed  2014 promises to bitterly fought election with a distinctly pronounced ideological streak running down its middle. Anecdotal evidence suggests that is exactly the kind of fight the administration is preparing for. According to Manu Raju and Carrie Brown of Politico, “Barack Obama has a plan to save the Senate’s tenuous Democratic majority: Sell a populist message, try to make Obamacare work better and raise lots of cash.” Translation: unlimited class warfare and machine politics.

The electoral map this year favors the GOP, which has to win a net of six seats to take back the majority, including in red states like Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina.

Democrats hope messy GOP primaries in North Carolina and Georgia and McConnell’s own difficult reelection will imperil the Republican drive to the majority. But the president’s sagging popularity will burden Senate Democrats, particularly in red states, something the White House and top Democrats will have to grapple with as they try to use the bully pulpit against the GOP. Republicans, meanwhile, are making clear their November strategy will be all about the president.

In this process Obama sees his task as raising money for the party and limiting the damage he anticipates will come from Obamacare. “Obama has called back Phil Schiliro, a former legislative director, to focus solely on smoothing the Affordable Care Act implementation. And Katie Beirne Fallon, a former senior aide to Schumer and confidante to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who started last week as the legislative director, is part of the White House’s so-called early warning system to identify Obamacare problems before they become full-blown political crises.”

But the trouble flagship health plan is likely to create problems far in excess of anyone’s ability to spin. Obamacare has begun a three stage descent into disaster. The first phase was the catastrophic rollout of the website. This has cascaded into a situation where perhaps millions of Americans find themselves in the second phase of “limbo”, unsure they are covered, unable to pay, incapable of verifying their enrollment.

To rescue them from “limbo” the administration will strongarm insurance companies into taking anyone who claims to have been covered. The companies will comply but demand a bailout, to compensate them for covering people whose enrollment cannot be verified nor their premiums collected. And then the bad demographics which is turning Obamacare into a sump of the elderly and infirm will drive premiums up. And then there’s the looming arrival of the Employer Mandate, which may de-insure 25 million more.

Obamacare is broken past any possibility of a quick fix. But the biggest danger facing the Democrats, however, is an unexpected foreign policy crisis which may materialize at any time. A respected British defense advisor publicly called Obama “chronically incapable” of military strategy. He has left burning matches everywhere in a world filled with tinder. Last year the British Parliament voted against David Cameron’s proposal to support Obama’s proposed bombing in Syria, effectively delivering a vote of no-confidence in Obama.

The world is expecting trouble. Japan has stepped up its defense spending, as has South Korea. Australia vowed to “rebuild” its forces. Cash strapped Europe is trying to pool its resources, according to Reuters, to boost its defense. Israel is seeking a “massive top-up of 2014 defense budget”. And of course China is boosting is defense spending by 10.7% to modernize what is already the second biggest military establishment in the world.

Everywhere one looks the picture is the same. People are getting ready for 2014 because they don’t know what it will bring.  If the world reposes a serene confidence in Barack Obama, they sure have a strange way of showing it. The year 2014 may be a risky one.

It is inauspiciously the 100th anniversary of the Great War. That confident world, like the one Barack Obama presides over, was outwardly stable, but already on the verge of falling apart. Our world may fare better, but who knows?

At the recent funeral for Nelson Mandela, world leaders gathered in pomp and pageantry reminiscent of a passage from Barbara Tuchman’s book, The Guns of August .

“So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens – four dowager and three regnant – and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.”

Except this time the Kings took selfies. Tuchman’s paragraph painted an evocative image of a world doomed, not so much by malevolence as by folly. It strolled over the brink in a fit of absentmindedness. If disaster overtakes the current crop of politicians in Washington, it won’t be because they didn’t see it coming. It will simply be because they always thought that the music would always play.

Kings and Queens at a Funeral

Kings and Queens at a Funeral


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
She was pissed at Zero due to his apparent and public affections for the leggy blond PM. Rumors have it that at this point they have an institutional marriage, which is why M.O. is granted those lavish, Taxpayer funded perks.

Compare Moochelle to the last 4 or 5 first ladies, and what has she done? What great causes has she consistently championed? Nutrition? Kids health? To what result? She's been a joke of a First Lady, the lowest common denominator, and like everyone else in Obama's entourage, she's there for the stash.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mandela's funeral. It is the perfect reflection of today's predicament.

A man standing behind Obama giving phony hand signals to an unwitting audience while empty words are spewed with false sincerity about a scrubbed history, hiding truths in order to deliver a consistent narrative.

That is where we find ourselves today.

And Blue Dog Democrats are not really welcome in the treason, sedition and traitor party.

The "center" is gone because how does one "compromise" with an overthrow attempt? Give them some of the states instead of surrendering? Tear up only parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights?

If the only "Red Line" that the Marxists will stick to is the one in which they have a pen, a phone and an IRS to wield against the citizenry...where does a centrist find common ground with treason?

Of course it "sounds" harsh and intractable. It's an either/or proposition.

One side is going to tell a pack of lies and hide their intentions. The other side is going to form a circular firing squad and find ways to trample each other and allow the Propaganda to prevail.

The failure to articulate the truth is the single biggest obstacle to saving the nation from the Marxist intent to rule it with a totalitarian bent. And that failure will be on display in full disgrace.

Which individual politician "wins" a seat at the gorge yourself orgy of Congress matters little if we lose the nation in the process. The world is now divided. America is divided. There is no center. There is only a Red Line.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
The befeathered nobility of Old Europe may have been ill educated and incompetent but they far surpassed the pretentious mediocrities who have bullied into positions of power in this century. The kings queens and princelings may have taken themselves too seriously but they did so not for their own sakes as much as for their peoples. They took duty seriously. That is why their officers walked in front of their troops into the machine gun fire.

The current mob can only be admired in the way the poor can admire a successful con man or thief. No one would follow an order from an Obama or most of the current crowd unless out of fear or venial self interest. Chains of Command are forged by loyalty both up and down. It is cemented by the knowledge that all are serving something greater than themselves. That meant the King as well as the Commoner.

Why shouldn't the current members of Congress retire? They serve nothing greater than themselves by being there. Some may only cling to office out of fear of investigation once they leave. If the conservatives promised that they would grant enormous pensions to every Senator or Congressmember who retired it might clear the benches.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (35)
All Comments   (35)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
OT but of interest (what about having a dedicated open thread for emerging events and intel re. ME and Asia theaters?):

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/16/us-military-dominance-pacific-decline-says-top-adm/?page=all#pagebreak

and:

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0114/glick011714.php3#.UtmLvrQo7VI
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem is the Republicans sellout to the Democrats. Only 3% voters care about Amnesty, yet they are going to pass it in the House. Republican base cares about excessive spending, excessive debts, excessive taxes, yet the Republicans are doing their best to support the Democrats.

Democrats are the opposition, their colleagues, Establishment Republicans will do their best to help them. Conservatives and Tea Partiers are their enemies, Establishment Republicans will do their utmost to fight them.

What difference, at this point, does a Republican majority make? Except to get blame for failures and have even less of a chance to gain the WH.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm thinking that a RINO squish majority prevails in the Republicrat congress.

And; they won't leave until the alternative is scarier than they are.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Speaking of fracking, Argentina has huge reserves of shale oil available through fracking, yet Argentina is refusing to allow it because of its worries about long term pollution. (Besides, it isn't trendy.)

If the Philippines had the equivalent of the Bakken, would you favor fracking to turn the Philippines into a major exporter of petroleum and natural gas? Would the Philippines be able to handle the influx of petroleum companies, oil men, and money, or do you think it would succumb to the “Dutch Disease” with a vengeance? How would the legendary venality of Filipino politics exacerbate the problem?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Run, run little rats. You can't outrun our memory. At the end of your run, be it far or near, we'll be waiting for you.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re: the Mandela funeral selfie picture Richard posted in the essay.

I am no fan of Michelle Obama, but it appears in this picture that she is the only one in the picture paying attention and acting with some semblance of decorum at the State funeral.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
She was pissed at Zero due to his apparent and public affections for the leggy blond PM. Rumors have it that at this point they have an institutional marriage, which is why M.O. is granted those lavish, Taxpayer funded perks.

Compare Moochelle to the last 4 or 5 first ladies, and what has she done? What great causes has she consistently championed? Nutrition? Kids health? To what result? She's been a joke of a First Lady, the lowest common denominator, and like everyone else in Obama's entourage, she's there for the stash.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Congress cannot reform itself, given its present membership. And the Feral Govt cannot be reformed until Congress is reformed. The only way I see it, short of armed conflict, is to have new congress members elected who are independent with no present party allegiances. Then they can remove the culture of corruption that is the present congress and begin to exercise their constitutional power AND responsibilities. A long shot, though.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget the Article V recourse of having 2/3 of the state legislatures call a convention to propose new amendments to the Constitution. Yes it will take a while, but it is already underway. Who we elect to our state legislatures is more important than ever.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem with your proposal is that lately, all of those running as "independents" tend to be hard core liberals who are trying to fool the voters about what they intend to do with their new-found power once they're elected.

Just look how Jesse Ventura turned out.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for this Richard. (Test)
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
So is there a way we can get ALL of Congress to retire at the same time?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"So is there a way we can get ALL of Congress to retire at the same time?"

Its called a tactical nuclear weapon. Unfortunately its neither legal nor practical for ordinary American citizens to own or use one. Now, with adherents of the religion of peace or Mexican drug dealers its a different matter. . .
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Nancy Pelosi denied there was anything unusual about the retirements saying “our Democratic retirements do not relate in any way to our prospects for winning”.

That statement is probably true, as far as it goes. Democrat's prospects for "winning" are about the same as Charlie Sheen's, at this point, and aren't going to be appreciably different no matter who retires, or who doesn't.

Similarly, memes like "McConnell’s own difficult reelection" only exist in breathless partisan fantasy, interestingly sometimes on both the left and the right. McConnell is not going to be seriously challenged by anyone in either the primary or the general election.

Similarly, a young inexperienced girl with a famous name (Nunn) but no electoral experience is not going to sweep Georgia - she's got about the same chances as Abortion Barbie Davis has of being the next Governor of Texas.

(hint: Democrats who don't vote in Texas like her. But Texas voters don't)



32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mandela's funeral. It is the perfect reflection of today's predicament.

A man standing behind Obama giving phony hand signals to an unwitting audience while empty words are spewed with false sincerity about a scrubbed history, hiding truths in order to deliver a consistent narrative.

That is where we find ourselves today.

And Blue Dog Democrats are not really welcome in the treason, sedition and traitor party.

The "center" is gone because how does one "compromise" with an overthrow attempt? Give them some of the states instead of surrendering? Tear up only parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights?

If the only "Red Line" that the Marxists will stick to is the one in which they have a pen, a phone and an IRS to wield against the citizenry...where does a centrist find common ground with treason?

Of course it "sounds" harsh and intractable. It's an either/or proposition.

One side is going to tell a pack of lies and hide their intentions. The other side is going to form a circular firing squad and find ways to trample each other and allow the Propaganda to prevail.

The failure to articulate the truth is the single biggest obstacle to saving the nation from the Marxist intent to rule it with a totalitarian bent. And that failure will be on display in full disgrace.

Which individual politician "wins" a seat at the gorge yourself orgy of Congress matters little if we lose the nation in the process. The world is now divided. America is divided. There is no center. There is only a Red Line.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All