Political MoJo

An Update on Washington's Shadiest Shoo-Ins

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 6:45 PM EST

In the latest issue of the magazine, Josh Harkinson and I detailed the 5 shadiest members of Congress, who, despite their ethically-challenged ways, were bound to be reelected. Well, last night the people spoke and reelected all five, all by more than 60 percent of the vote. Due to last night's shake-up, the Republicans on our list will lose some measure of clout and (hopefully) some of their ability to game the system. Not so the lone Dem on our list, whose power will only grow.

Here's where things stand now:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the former oilman and climate change denier, is reportedly jockeying for a post in the House minority leadership. He'll no longer be the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, though.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) will soon lose his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, where, most recently, he axed 60 investigators "charged with closely monitoring defense contracting and intelligence spending," according to OMBWatch.

Come January Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) will no longer serve as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and thus will no longer be able to shut down hearings when he doesn't like the topic of conversation.

Rep. Roy (the "midnight rider") Blunt (R-Mo.), currently the House Majority Whip, will reportedly seek another term as the second most powerful House Republican.

The "prince of pork," Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), will ascend to the chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies, a position he will likely use to take his earmarking bonanza to new and outrageous levels.

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Affirmative Action Goes Down in Michigan

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 6:43 PM EST

Ward Connerly has just won another victory in his crusade to wipe out affirmative action programs. Yesterday Michigan voters passed Proposition 2, 58% to 42% with 99% of precincts reporting.

Despite the fact that both Republican and Democratic officials in Michigan had come out against the Connerly-backed proposal, the Mitchell Research Group found that people under the age of 40 were the only group to oppose the proposition (and thus support affirmative action) in large numbers. But Connerly's fight in Michigan may not be over yet. University of Michigan President Sue Coleman announced today the University is looking at its legal options.

—Amaya Rivera

Webb Announces Three Members of Transitional Team

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 5:48 PM EST

In a press release issued at 4:30 p.m. EST today, Democrat Jim Webb announced three members of his transitional team.

The three are former Virginia Second District Congressman Owen Pickett; Virginia House of Delegates member and 2001 Democratic nominee for Virginia Attorney General, Donald McEachin; and former Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Chuck Robb, Tom Lehner.

Rock the Senate (Youth Vote Swings Key Races)

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 5:46 PM EST

Over at Rolling Stone, former MoJoer Tim Dickinson reports:

A sample of exit polling from close Senate races around the country shows that the youth vote was key to the Democratic victory. "Young voters increased their turnout over 2002 and favored Democrats by large margins," said Hans Riemer, Rock the Vote's political director. "They played a major role in the Democratic victory."

Among voters 18-29 years old, here's how they cast their votes in the key Senate races. The first column is for Democratic candidates, the second for Republican.

Virginia 52% 48%
Rhode Island 65% 35%
Pennsylvania 68% 32%
Ohio 57% 43%
Missouri 49% 48%
Montana 56% 44%

Hints on Why Bush Chose Robert Gates as the New SecDef

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 5:21 PM EST

This month Texas Monthly published a cover story on Texas A&M University President Robert Gates, who a few hours ago replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Bush's Secretary of Defense, making this one of the magazine's most timely (or worst timed) stories ever, depending on how you look at it. The profile by Paul Burka is full of hints why Bush may have chosen Gates as SecDef, as well as odd gems about the former CIA man.

Who would have known, for example, that Gates protested against the Vietnam war? Burka writes:

He opposed the war, as did most of his CIA friends, and even marched in protest of U.S. activity in Cambodia. "Popular impressions then and now about the CIA—especially as a conservative, Cold War bureaucratic monolith—have always been wrong. … " (In his book about the Cold War, From the Shadows) he writes of the influence of the counterculture, of experiments with marijuana by supervisors, of anti-Nixon posters and bumper stickers that "festooned CIA office walls." Nixon comes in for some harsh words. Richard Helms, then the CIA director, told a story about going into the Oval Office just as Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird was leaving. Nixon pointed at Laird and said, "There goes the most devious man in the United States," to which Gates adds, "Some accolade, considering the source."

Burka on Gates' personality:

As you might expect, Bob Gates is not a man who reveals himself. I have been around him three times, once in 2004 and twice for this story. He is one of the most consistent personalities I've ever met. He's all business, a man under total self-control. He doesn't fidget. He isn't a backslapper. He doesn't make small talk. He doesn't boast; neither does he engage in false modesty. He is a motivator, not a cheerleader. He is always polite. He wears an air of authority as if it were tailored by Brooks Brothers. He answers questions fully but volunteers little. Most of his laughter comes from a finely developed sense of irony. I would back him to the hilt in a no-limit poker game.

Gates was hand-picked four years ago by Bush the Elder to lead Texas A&M, a large, mediocre (ranked 67th ) university in the middle of the Texas sticks, moribund by tradition and an image as a redoubt of hicks and crackers. He set about to change the school: "The old-boy network may not be gone entirely, but it is endangered," Burka writes. "About four hundred staff positions have been eliminated since Gates became president. 'I was not brought here,' [Gates] told me, 'to be everybody's friend.'"

What may have led George W. to tap Gates for SecDef, though, is aptitude for brand management. Burka spends most of his time marveling at Gates' intense public relations push to change A&M's image:

To accomplish this, Gates has created a new position, chief marketing officer and vice president for communications, whose job will be to oversee what Gates calls the "rebranding of Texas A&M.". . . Gates is determined to see it through. "There is a huge opportunity cost if we don't do it," he said. "We need to significantly improve the public's knowledge and perception of the university.". . .

The branding process for A&M identified six core values: integrity, loyalty, excellence, leadership, selfless service, and respect. The last core value addresses a longtime problem at A&M—as Moore puts it, "respect, acceptance, and inclusion for all Aggies with respect to race, color, gender, and religion." All of these values point to a core purpose: "to develop leaders of character dedicated to serving the greater good."

Next up on the rebranding syllabus: Iraq?

Nov. 27 Might Be the Deciding Day for Virginia Senate Race

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 5:17 PM EST

In a press conference in Richmond, Virginia, Ed Gillespie, a George Allen campaign advisor and former Republican National Committee Chairman, announced that Allen will wait until the requisite certified recount results are released on November 27.

At that point, either candidate will be legally entitled under Virginia law to demand a recount.

Gillespie declined to say whether Allen might ask for a recount if he still comes up short. "On Nov. 27, you may be asking Mr. Webb'' that question, he said.

With the Senate hanging in the balance of this election, Democrat Jim Webb claimed victory at a celebration in Tyson's Corner at 1 a.m. this morning. Webb is expected to announce the members of his transition team sometime later today.

According to Virginia law, the losing party must request a recount if the difference in votes is less than one per cent, reported the New York Times.

-- Caroline Dobuzinskis

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New Mexico's Unfinished Business

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 4:57 PM EST

The first congressional district of New Mexico, largely comprised of the city of Albuquerque, is still up for grabs, with results not expected until Friday. Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid has advantages -- she is a popular Hispanic in a district that is more than 1/3 Hispanic, the electorate has more registered Democrats than Republicans -- but the benefits of incumbency have made the Republican congresswoman, Heather Wilson, nearly untouchable since 1998.

That's no longer the case. Wilson leads by a mere 48 votes.

Madrid had an uphill climb in the campaign to unseat Wilson, a former Air Force officer, because Wilson has strong support from military and defense workers in a district that includes Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories. However, Wilson is widely considered a rubber-stamp Republican, having voted with the party-line 89% of the time since 1991 and has generated plenty of vitriol from local Democrats in recent years by running ads with testimonials like, "Heather Wilson is the most independent politician I have ever known…she is non-partisan."

Wilson also generated controversy as the number-four recipient of campaign contributions from former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ARMPAC, which is currently under investigation for corruption. She has returned less than one-quarter of those funds with local Democrats calling for her to give all of the money back.

Ultimately, this race may turn against her because her staunch support of President Bush is increasingly unpopular in a city where only 38 percent of metro-area voters approve of Bush. If Madrid wins, Wilson would be the first incumbent to ever lose the district.

-- Sam Taub

The Silver Lining in Gay Marriage Defeats

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 4:13 PM EST

Yesterday's elections show that Americans may not yet have tired of banning same-sex marriage—despite the fact that only some 8,000 such marriages currently exist, and Massachusetts, the only state where they are legal, has shown slower-than-average growth in its out gay and lesbian population.

Nonetheless, tolerance is beginning to show through the fanaticism (which is fomented by hypocrites like Ted Haggard). Gay marriage bans that passed in five of eight states did so over the objections of more than two-fifths of the electorate. In 2004, only two of eleven states saw similar opposition. The vote on Arizona's ballot measure is so close that it has yet to be called.

Nor did the anti-gay amendments seem to swing the congressional elections as they were intended to. Minnesota, Colorado and Wisconsin, despite successful amendments, moved slightly to the left across Senate, House and gubernatorial lines. Arizona gave two new House seats to Democrats, and Tennessee and South Carolina showed no change.

Now, for some somewhat related news—good news—New York City is planning to enact legislation that would allow people to change genders on their birth certificates with just a letter from a doctor explaining why and a vow that the change will be permanent. The policy is in stark contrast to old laws that required years of counseling, a clinical diagnosis, and mandatory sex-reassignment surgery before a person could legally change genders. The law will only affect those born in New York. But transgender folks born in the city will now be able to marry a person of the same biological sex—if not the same gender.

Deceptive Regulatory Takings Initiatives Fail, Mostly

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 4:05 PM EST

Good news for opponents of insidious property rights initiatives. "Regulatory takings" initiatives failed in California, Idaho, and Washington (but not Arizona) last night. These measures would have required states to pay landowners for any regulations that devalue their property, crippling zoning regs and environmental protections while costing states billions of dollars. To take advantage of public outrage over eminent domain abuse, these bad boys were stuck on to bans on eminent domain for economic development. In Nevada and Montana, judges blocked the regulatory takings parts. Sucks for Arizona, though. Here's a state-by-state breakdown.

—April Rabkin

Range of Worldwide Reactions to Election Results

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 3:09 PM EST

In Europe, reactions ranged from celebratory welcoming of the new Congress, to cautious predictions.

The Arab world had mixed reactions. Some are worried that the Democrat victory could result in negligence of Middle East issues and a too-hasty retreat from Iraq.

Changes in trade policy are being anticipated in Asia where President Bush was in favour of free trade policies. President Bush is soon to travel to Vietnam for an APEC Conference. The Bush administration has been pushing for Vietnam, a major exporter of shoes, furniture and seafood, to join the World Trade Organization.

According to AP, trade negotiations in South American with Peru and Colombia will be encumbered by Democrats demanding labor provisions.

--Caroline Dobuzinskis