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Mr. Casey goes to Washington

Nov. 14, 2006

In Washington, D.C., Mr. Casey should expect lots of paperwork and mussed-up hair.

Is that headline too easy? Probably. But Bob Casey has that certain aw-shucks, Jimmy Stewart, pencil-necked charm, doesn't he? Plus, they both have two first names (Robert and Casey, James and Stewart). Plus, Mr. Stewart starred in The Philadelphia Story, and Mr. Casey is from Scranton, which is sort of near Philadelphia. Plus they both dated Gloria Hatrick McLean, according to our highly placed source (Wikipedia).

Onto the story:

"Democrat Bob Casey and many of his nine fellow senators-elect descended on the nation's capital yesterday for a packed orientation week, just days after the Democratic Party took control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections. The group's first lesson was a crash course in the intensity of the Washington media spotlight. 'You really draw a crowd. Do you always have this many people accompany you?' Sen. Arlen Specter joked as he met with Mr. Casey and a throng of reporters in his office's lobby."

... Early Returns is loath to kick a guy when he's down, but Dan Savage isn't. He won't accept credit for Bob Casey's victory and Rick Santorum's defeat, except on this one point:

"There's a smidgen of credit I will take: I did help to make Rick Santorum into a national laughingstock -- an international laughingstock ... with an invaluable assist from Rick Santorum, of course. There's a reason why monarchs and despots used to lock up political cartoonists and satirists. Being made ridiculous, being turned into the butt of a joke--that's politically disempowering fairy dust. It's hard to rule when you're not taken seriously, and it's hard to be taken seriously after your name has been reduced to a dirty joke. Indeed, the power of satire should never be underestimated. And can we pause here to marvel at just how far Rick Santorum has fallen? His name -- pre-punch line -- was seriously tossed around as a 2008 Republican presidential prospect. Post-man-on-dog, post-lowercase 'santorum,' and pre-defeat, no one was seriously contemplating swearing in President Santorum in January of 2009."

... If you're interested in comparing track records in the plethoric polling of the Pennsylvania Senate race, you should probably get some therapy. After that, if you're still interested, you can check out the data-rich pollster.com site. They have similar tracking info for races all over the country.

Murtha watch
The Washington Post offers one of a chorus of voices allowing Steny Hoyer partisans to vent about the ethical baggage some see in John Murtha's candidacy for majority leader.

"House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's endorsement of Rep. John P. Murtha's bid for House majority leader set off a furor yesterday on Capitol Hill, with critics charging that she is undercutting her pledge to clean up corruption by backing a veteran lawmaker who they say has repeatedly skirted ethical boundaries. Pelosi (D-Calif.) directly intervened in the heated contest between Murtha (D-Pa.) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) on Sunday by circulating a letter to Democratic lawmakers. The letter voiced her support for Murtha and put her prestige on the line in a closely fought leadership battle. Some Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups say they are baffled that Pelosi would go out of her way to back Murtha's candidacy after pledging to make the new 110th Congress the most ethical and corruption-free in history.

"Murtha, a longtime senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, has battled accusations over the years that he has traded federal spending for campaign contributions, that he has abused his post as ranking party member on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, and that he has stood in the way of ethics investigations. Those charges come on top of Murtha's involvement 26 years ago in the FBI's Abscam bribery sting."

Are you ready for your close-up, Mr. Murtha?

... The New Republic finds fault with another Pelosi choice, this one involving the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee and Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings:

"In one of her first important acts since Democrats recaptured Congress, Nancy Pelosi is about to make a decision that is both substantively foolish and politically tone-deaf. The decision involves the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. For obvious reasons, that post has serious implications for national security -- as well as the image of a Democratic Party seeking to convince the public it can be trusted to govern. But it appears alarmingly likely that Pelosi will spurn both with a decision based on petty personal and identity politics."

Dispatches from Harrisburg
The Chinese fire drill continues in Harrisburg, where a (temporarily) chastened Legislature goes about the business of deciding who should be elected to the leadership teams that will guide the separate caucuses, says Capitolwire Bureau Chief Pete DeCoursey. Most of the GOP players are out of our circulation area, but on the Democratic House side, Greene County's Bill DeWeese, the current House Minority Leader leader, got a run for his money from a Westmoreland County challenger: "As top Democrats confirmed Rep. Keith McCall, D-Carbon, as the candidate for second-ranking House Democrat on the slate of the current House leadership team, Rep. Tom Tangretti, D-Westmoreland, sent a memo to colleagues seeking support against DeWeese."

But it didn't work: "Rep. Tom Tangretti, D-Westmoreland, didn't even wait for all the votes to be counted before conceding his loss to House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, the top-ranking House Democratic leader since 1994, said DeWeese's chief of staff, Mike Manzo Rep. Keith McCall, D-Carbon, was elected to the minority whip post without opposition, where he will replace Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, who lost his re-election bid Nov. 7. McCall becomes the second-ranking House Democrat."

So there you have it. Your 2007-2008 House Democratic Leadership. Let's give them all a big hand.

For wonks only
Clear your afternoon schedule. Get ready for one of those seven-page mega-stories:

"Now that the votes have been counted, the story of how Rahm Emanuel helped end an era of Republican rule can be told. He did it, in large measure, by remaking the Democratic Party in his own image. Democrats had never raised enough money. Emanuel, a savvy fundraiser who shaped those skills under Richard M. Daley and Bill Clinton, yelled at colleagues and threatened his candidates into generating an unprecedented amount of campaign cash. Democrats had a history of appeasing party constituencies. Emanuel tore up the old litmus tests on abortion, gun control and other issues. With techniques that would make a Big Ten football coach blush, he recruited candidates who could mount tough challenges in some of the reddest patches of America. Democrats had blanched at hardball. Emanuel, jokingly called 'Rahmbo' even by his mother, muscled weaker Democrats out of races in favor of stronger ones, and ridiculed the chairman of his own party.

... The liberal Daily Kos blog throws down the gauntlet against James Carville, because Carville, the balding Democratic strategist, says the DNC should think about replacing Howard Dean with Harold Ford (via the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz): "It looks like Carville and his DC-elite buddies in DC want a war ... Dean was elected. If Carville has a master plan to stage a coup against Dean, I'd love to see it. But I doubt the state party chairs who provided Dean's margin of victory are going to get too torn up about the fact that Dean is helping fund their resurgence. Carville needs to shut the [blank] up. If he wants a war, we'll give him one."

... Central Catholic and Pittsburgh Press alumni John Tierney announced this morning that he's leaving his coveted spot on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Tierney fans (Early Returns is among them) may be consoled with the knowledge that they'll still be able to read Tierney as he returns to an earlier professional interest in writing for the Times' science staff. The final column is behind the Times op-ed firewall, so if you're not a subscriber, you can check out this summary courtesy of Huffingtonpost.com.

... New favorite lefty blog: Piltdown Man. New favorite righty blog: Campaign 2008. The two are now eligible for the title of Early Returns' Blog of the Year. Winner gets an Amana freezer. Or, you know, an enthusiastic 'attaboy. At the moment we're leaning toward the 'attaboy.

The (2010) campaign trail
Al Neri's political journal, The Insider, says Bill Scranton's folks are breathing a sigh of relief, having avoided being run over by the Rendell Express. Instead, it's Lynn Swann with the tire tracks on his suit, and it's Lynn Swann who's emitting the stench of a loser, making him an unattractive candidate for years to come (though we're pretty sure people said the same thing about Nixon):

"Boy, are we glad it wasn't us," said one confidante of early Swann rival, Bill Scranton. "Because if Bill had been the nominee and Lynn had been the running mate, he would have been popular and we would have been the reason we got creamed. People would have been calling for Bill to step down when he was 20 points down in the polls and let Lynn become the nominee. And he would have had time to learn about the state and not have his lack of knowledge and experience and his arrogance so exposed. It turns out nobody was going to beat Rendell this year. And now [Swann] starts off the 2010 sweepstakes as the guy who got crushed, and the rest of us ducked that. Bill wanted to run, but I bet now he is secretly glad Lynn got walloped, not him. And now, after this election, which [Republicans] were supposed to lose, we hit 2010, the election we are supposed to win. And Lynn is damaged, and his competitors are not."

Dispatches from abroad
Early Returns' European Bureau (headquartered on the second floor of the Casa Rosso bar in Amsterdam's Red Light district) reports that Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu sounds like he's singing from the same sheet music that Rick Santorum was using in the Cassandra-like coda to his Senate campaign.

"Drawing a direct analogy between Iran and Nazi Germany, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu asserted Monday that the Iranian nuclear program posed a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire western world. There was 'still time,' however, to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he said. 'It's 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs,' Netanyahu told delegates to the annual United Jewish Communities General Assembly, repeating the line several times, like a chorus, during his address. 'Believe him and stop him,' the opposition leader said of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 'This is what we must do. Everything else pales before this.'"

... The Santorumesque rhetoric isn't the only Pennsylvania coincidence for Netanyahu. Before returning to Israel, he attended Cheltenham High School in suburban Philadelphia

Early Returns' Useless Fact
History.com recalls that today is the anniversary of a 1959 TV Guide article on the future of politics and television by future President John F. Kennedy.

"Kennedy shrewdly noted that a 'slick or bombastic orator pounding the table and ringing the rafters' fared poorly against a more congenial candidate and 'is not as welcome in the family living room' as a candidate with 'honesty, vigor, compassion [and] intelligence.' Kennedy's article also addressed the potential perils of marrying mass media to politics. He warned that political campaigns 'could be taken over by public relations experts, who tell the candidate not only how to use TV but what to say, what to stand for and what kind of person to be.' "

C'mon, that'll never happen.