Monday, December 18, 2006

Now that takes talent: Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader and never one to mince words, gave an interview to Texas Monthly in which he really tears apart the new Republican minority. (An aside: They are now in the minority in the House by exactly the same number that they were in the majority on Nov. 6.) Among other things, he is both mesmerized and repulsed by the way in which the Republicans guaranteed that they would lose:

One of the arguments that I always made was, “The idea is bigger than the man, the idea is bigger than the party, the idea is bigger than the moment, and the idea is bigger than me.” If we’re not serving ideas, we’re missing the point of our being here in the first place. … That’s exactly what they have been failing to do. They have served themselves through a partisan orientation. Basically the governing question from which they define their behavior has been, What can I do in this job for myself and my political future and my future in public office? What does it mean to my desire to be the next chairman? What does it mean to my desire to be the next Speaker or the next majority leader or the next whatever?

Left out of the equation are the constituents they’re supposed to be serving. In fact, in many of the races in which incumbent Republicans just lost, they were shocked to discover very late in the election that their constituents had turned against them.

Right. Take a look, for example, at [Arizona congressman] J. D. Hayworth, a long-term incumbent who lost his seat in the House. I think just about everybody who has examined that race has concluded that his very harsh rhetoric on immigration was instrumental to his loss.

And here he is in a state that’s enormously affected by that issue.

Who is the genius that said, “Now that we’ve identified that [the Hispanic community] is the fastest-growing demographic in America, let’s do everything we can to make sure we offend them”? Who is the genius that came up with that bright idea?

Let me ask you about some of the geniuses who are at least partly responsible for allowing the House to get to a point where that’s one of the operating principles. Start with your old friend Denny Hastert. You still support the outgoing Speaker personally?

Denny Hastert is an excellent person. He’s a real decent human being, a man with no secret, selfish agenda. But the fact is, he didn’t do his job very well.

What did he do wrong?

He didn’t take ownership of the responsibilities of the House. Long before it happened—for the good of the institution, for the good of the party, for the good of governance—there was a time when somebody needed to tell Tom DeLay, “Tom, it’s time for you to leave.” People came to me, but particularly with my personal history with Tom it was very difficult for me to say anything critical of him, because it would be so easily misconstrued as a personal vendetta.

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