The Devils They Know
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Democrats hope that George Bush’s miserable poll numbers will help them reclaim control of Congress this fall. But polls also show that the Democratic Party’s overall approval ratings are almost as deep in the tank as the Republican rating. Voters may be expressing dismay at the alternatives.
That would be understandable. The relentlessly partisan House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, as Speaker? Senator Robert C. Byrd, the ancient king of pork from West Virginia, as head of Senate appropriations? Gasbags like Patrick Leahy and Teddy Kennedy back in charge of judicial nominations?
Or how about John Conyers, the Detroit-congressman-for-life who would automatically become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee? Nancy Pelosi has promised that one of her first acts as House Speaker would be to unleash a series of investigations into the Bush administration. As it happens, Conyers has given us a taste of what life would be like under the Pelosi reign of terror.
Last June Conyers commandeered a basement conference room in the Capitol to stage a mock hearing into impeachment charges over the Iraq war. “[Conyers] banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him ‘Mr. Chairman,'” recounted Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank. “He liked that so much that he started calling himself ‘the chairman’ and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as ‘unanimous consent’ and ‘without objection so ordered.'”
“As luck would have it,” Milbank wryly noted, “all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes…. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides’ entreaties to end the session. ‘At the next hearing,’ [Conyers] told his colleagues, ‘we could use a little subpoena power.’ That brought the house down.”
One of the “witnesses” for this show trial, not so coincidentally, was Ray McGovern, the ex-CIA briefing officer turned left-wing activist who turned up in Atlanta last week at a public speech by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. During the question and answer period, McGovern, who has adopted a number of left-wing causes and was a John Kerry supporter, seized the microphone to repeatedly demand that Rumsfeld admit to “lies” about weapons of mass destruction and other issues.
It wasn’t the first time Conyers had indulged left-wing fantasies about a vast right-wing conspiracy. After the 2004 election, he loudly backed a Democratic inquiry into “voter fraud” in Ohio, whose electoral votes put Bush over the top. But the inquiry failed to turn up any evidence of a plot to steal the election, even though every normal snafu was used to try to paint Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, now the GOP candidate for governor, as incompetent or worse.
On real issues closer to home – where the Detroit police department has long been operating under Justice Department supervision because of citizen abuses, or the meltdown of the city school system – Conyers has been notably silent. (His own kids reportedly attended a private school in the Detroit suburbs.) His big issue domestically: a reparations bill for blacks that he has introduced every year since 1989.
Okay, so voters in California, Texas and New York have never heard of John Conyers, who was first elected to Congress in 1964. But if the Pelosi Democrats don’t find ways to show that they that will use their power for serious purposes, as opposed to show trials a la Conyers, voters may decide to stick with the devils they know.
Mr. Bray writes columns for The Detroit News and RealClearPolitics.com.