Magazine article Insight on the News

Senate Gridlock Begins and Ends with Daschle. (Fair Comment)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Senate Gridlock Begins and Ends with Daschle. (Fair Comment)

Article excerpt

In the lazy, hazy, crazy days of Bill Clinton, the media fought an enemy it no longer has. In an interview almost stroking the hair of vice president Al Gore, CBS' Bryant Gumbel identified them as "the architects of gridlock." They, of course, were the Republicans. Even as Democrats ruled both houses of Congress as well as the White House in 1993 and 1994, a united Republican minority was holding "progress" at bay, and the media wanted them to be unpopular for it. When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, the media wanted them destroyed.

Today, as President George W. Bush leads the war against terrorism, he has sought to make peace, not war, with the Democrats, especially in the Senate. He's kissing Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-Mass.) ring by renaming the Justice Department after the senator's brother, Robert. He likes to hug Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) in public to signal his warm feelings. Such love for his fellow man is not necessarily meant to ask for something in return, but if it were, what has it accomplished? What has Daschle given the president in return? Moral support? Maybe. Policy? Almost nothing.

While you might count the Democrats' patriotic postponement of the usual cavalcade of charges that the Republicans represent the party that seeks to starve the poor when it's not giving them water poisoned with arsenic, the Senate majority has played nothing but hardball ever since Vermont independent Sen. Jim Jeffords went caucus-shopping. But no reporter has even whispered under his breath that Daschle might be an "architect of gridlock."

Some reporters actually are demanding that Daschle repeal this year's legislative achievements. Soon after the Jeffords betrayal smoothed final approval of the Bush tax cut, CBS' Gloria Borger was pushing Daschle on Face the Nation about his plans to repeal it. She wasn't asking how he could muck up the system; she was asking, "Why not right now?"

Since then, with the exception of slow-moving and always-increasing spending bills, Daschle's primary play has been the quiet stall. Look at the absolutely glacial pace of judicial nominations. Many of Bush's nominees were selected in the spring but will spend the holidays still on ice, courtesy of Daschle and his wildly unpopular Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). These two also have spent most of this year sitting on the nomination of eminently qualified drug-czar nominee John Walters, who twiddled his fingers through months of delay that awarded the drug legalizers time to go digging for dirt to ruin him. …

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