…as Harry used to say

“It’s amazing what you can get accomplished if you don’t
care who gets the credit.” That was Harry Truman, who accomplished a great deal
of legislation within a hostile congress, with no mandate at all. Holding up
the famous Chicago Tribune “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline, Harry grinned that
wide grin. But he knew damned well that a razor-thin victory required a certain
amount of humility.

What we have today in similar un-mandated circumstances is
hubris. Both words begin with “hu” and other than that are worlds, decades and
presidencies apart.

Dennis Hastert, current Speaker of the House, carrying on in
the reckless tradition of Newt Gingrich, disavowed credit sharing in favor of
throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Bathwater, in the current lexicon of
the House, is all Democratic members. The baby in this case was the
much-needed intelligence reform legislation on the floor of the House. Hastert
threw baby and bathwater directly into the face of his president. The
bill could easily have been passed with minimal (and willing) participation by
House Democrats but Hastert declined to bring it to a vote until he could
assure a Republican-only victory. Why? Hubris. Because he could, which is the same reason Newt Gingrich
gave for impeaching Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, badly needed legislation is held up and in turn
holds up the necessary processes that follow. Congress will be late getting to
a piece of work it could have had done with and, knowing the machinations of
legislation delayed, the final bill may have additional teeth pulled by
compromise. Thanks, Dennis. There’s been a leakage of hubris within the
presidential coterie and some of it got on Dennis Hastert. I hate when
that happens!

Every failure of character has its origins in some form of
public humiliation. At least that’s my take on it. Bullied by fathers or picked
on in the school yard, scorned by lovers or faced down in saloons, men become
character-flawed. It’s the same for institutions and the increasingly vicious tone
of politics (I believe) comes from the Republican institutional humiliations
under Nixon and the embarrassment of Watergate. Throw in a generous dash of
Vietnam.

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was over too quickly for the long
knives to assemble themselves and Republicans didn’t see a Democrat in the Oval
Office for another twelve years. Like the bullied child, they had only memories
but that was enough and the trashing of Bill Clinton was far more about
Watergate than Travelgate, Whitewatergate or Monica. When George Bush was
seated as president, most of us thought the feud between the Martins and Coys
was finally at rest—the Republicans held the presidency and both houses of
congress.

Not so, not to be. This administration in everything it
touches
lashes out against remembered humiliation. The Republican party of
today knows no healing and now seems bent upon writhing against itself. 

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