South Dakota Politics A University of South Dakota law student's blog dedicated primarily to shining light (either a harsh, unyielding spotlight or a soft, warm glow) on figures and institutions in South Dakota.
It looks like the "Daschle leadership position in jeopardy" meme is spreading. The latest edition of the National Journal contains a piece headlined "Second-Guessing Daschle." Key excerpts follow:
Even as President Bush and other Republicans celebrated the signing of sweeping Medicare reform legislation this week, Senate Democratic leaders vowed to continue to fight against what they contend are the measure's serious shortcomings. But to some critics on and off Capitol Hill, such declarations ring hollow.
To these critics, the battle over the Medicare bill showed that Senate Democrats are becoming increasingly splintered and that their leaders are failing to effectively counter Republican initiatives. And some Democratic insiders are directly questioning whether Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., could have done more to head off the potentially disastrous setback on a potent political issue.
"Daschle's response inside the caucus meetings [during the Medicare debates] was to let it be a free-for-all, let each individual senator have their own say and vote their conscience, rather than structuring an argument for why we should vote the way we should as a party," a Senate Democratic staff member said. "It was left to ... others to try to fill that leadership vacuum and to make the case for why [defeating the legislation is] not just in the party's interest, but in the interest of the program itself."
And further into the piece:
Still, Daschle's reserved leadership style, coupled with his maneuvers during several recent legislative showdowns, has fueled much criticism. The brickbats came after Daschle, for perhaps the first time since he became the party leader in 1995, opposed two Democratic-led filibusters on the Senate floor. It happened within four days in late November: first on the energy bill, which Daschle supported, and then on the Medicare bill, which he preferred to try to kill by using a different parliamentary tactic....
While some observers give Daschle a pass on the energy issue in light of his personal political imperatives, others are less forgiving. They contend that Daschle's obligations as a leader were trumped by his parochial effort to win ethanol subsidies for his state, all as part of a bill that even he has acknowledged contains many bad provisions.
"What is the definition of a leader? A leader is someone who leads," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global-warming and energy program. "Daschle didn't lead. He followed, and the people he followed were President Bush and the Republican leadership of the Senate."
And even further into the story:
Daschle's deferential, low-key manner also has invited sometimes-unflattering comparisons to his counterpart in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. She has been basking in rave reviews for her tenacious efforts to keep her troops unified. Pelosi's decision to draw a line in the sand held all but 16 of the 205 House Democrats in opposition to the Medicare legislation. Ultimately, Republican leaders were forced to resort to extraordinary tactics on the House floor, holding the vote open for nearly three hours before they managed to prevail 220-215 on November 22.
"There is never a price exacted for voting against Daschle. I don't get that," a Senate Democratic staff member complained. "That is not how the Republican regime or Pelosi works... Daschle never walks into a room and says, 'This is what we should do, and if you have a problem with it, let me know.' He never gets in people's faces the way Pelosi did."
"Daschle was afraid to take on the fight," this staff member added. "The fight was clearly on the filibuster, not the point of order. People back home don't know what a budget point of order is. They know what a filibuster is."
Clearly, mouthy Democratic staffers and key Democratic constituencies are peeved about Daschle's leadership. While Tom Daschle is tacking to the right like crazy as an election approaches, this strategy might ultimately backfire if he manages to lose his leadership position because of these disgruntled Democrats. Daschle's leadership position is the only thing propping up Daschle's chances of re-election. If John Thune becomes his opponent, Thune will be able to make a credible argument that if Daschle is re-elected in the face of an inevitable Republican sweep nationwide, Daschle will lose his leadership position. This will leave South Dakota stuck with a senator who has lost whatever "clout" he had to begin with, not unlike what happened after the 2002 election, when Daschle lost his majority leader status, despite the message that a vote for Tim Johnson would retain Daschle as the majority leader.
posted by Jason |
The UPI's Peter Roff reports on Daschle campaign manager Steve Hildebrand's letter to the editor published this week in the Rapid City Journal, which in turn was criticized by Buzzflash, the liberal version of the Drudge Report.
[J]anklow did a lot of good for South Dakota in his four, nonconsecutive terms as governor. Certainly he had a knack for economic development, and the state of Minnesota practically had his face on a "wanted" poster for all the Minnesota businesses he poached and dragged across the state line into South Dakota.
DOH!: Uber-liberal South Dakota lawyer Todd Epp, who represents the plaintiff in the case of Abourezk v. ProBush.com, predicted that Bill Janklow would be acquitted. In the piece, Epp discusses eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Now he's eating a healty serving of crow.
In other news from the left, Leonard Peltier of AIM fame gloats about Janklow's conviction.
THUNE DECIDES NEXT WEEK: The AP is reporting in a story headlined "Ex-S.D. Rep. Thune to Decide Plans Soon," that John Thune will decide next week whether to take on Tom Daschle or Stephanie Herseth. If I had my druthers, I'd have him take on Tom Daschle. Tom Daschle is very concerned about a Thune campaign because he knows he's vulnerable. He has raised millions for his re-election because he knows Thune could beat him.
Even Daschle's college chum David Kranz, dean of South Dakota political reporters, is afraid of Thune taking on Tom Daschle. Kranz had a piece yesterday trying to convince Thune to just take back his House seat. Thus Kranz:
Some Washington GOP leaders are making a case for Thune's bid against Daschle as a service to the party. But others are worried that the House, more than the Senate, could go Democrat in 2004.
That concern may make the House races more of a priority for Republicans.
What nonsense. Not even Terry McAuliffe believes for a second that the House has a chance of going Democratic in 2004. I don't know of a single GOP leader who is worried about it (and notice Kranz doesn't say who it is that's worried), and I have yet to read any commentator who makes that assertion. This is Kranz simply trying to convince Thune not to run for Senate.
In sum, John Thune has a fair chance of toppling Tom Daschle, and I think the GOP will find a good candidate who is capable of beating Stephanie Herseth for the House seat. I think Herseth's somewhat strong showing in 2002 was mostly due to Janklow fatigue. A dynamic young candidate will have a good chance of defeating her. It's a gamble, but I don't think it's a reckless one.
posted by Jason |
If you had to sum it all up, Tom is either totally ineffective AS minority leader because he is inherently inept at the position and unable to strategically battle the Republicans -- or he is so conflicted by the red party politics of his state, his wife's role as a lobbyist, and his Democratic Leadership Council corporate ties that he is rendered a rollover patsy for the Bush Cartel.
This sort of sentiment among liberals adds credibility to the report in the American Spectator that Daschle "seems resigned to losing his leadership post after the next election."
posted by Jason |
The Grand Island Independent has a story headlined "Nebraska Farm Bureau seeking changes in corporate farming law." The Nebraska Farm Bureau, sensing a change in the dynamics of state anti-corporate farming laws due to the recent 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Amendment E, is attempting to immunize I-300 from a dormant commerce clause challenge.
THE WORD ON THE STREET WAS TRUE: Last week, I noted that the word on the street was that Daschle's people were apoplectic about "column" that was actually just a transcript of an interview with Senator George Allen by Rapid City Journal political reporter Denise Ross. Today, Steve Hildebrand, Tom Daschle's campaign manager, has a letter to the editor published in the Rapid City Journal excoriating Denise Ross. You can access the letter HERE. The text of the letter follows:
I'm very disappointed in Denise Ross' Nov. 25 column allowing Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia to do a 1,100-word hatchet job on Tom Daschle without any opportunity to refute the false charges.
For instance, Allen claims that Daschle opposes the president at every turn, but in fact a Congressional Quarterly study has Sen. Daschle voting with President Bush 75 percent of the time.
Sen. Allen came to South Dakota to raise money for the Republican Party and to try to convince John Thune to run against Tom Daschle. We don't need a senator from Virginia telling South Dakotans how to vote, especially when Allen consistently votes against the interests of South Dakota farmers and ranchers. He voted against drought relief, a ban on packer ownership of livestock and against country-of-origin labeling of meat products.
Maybe that works for Sen. Allen's wealthy Virginia contributors, but not for people here in South Dakota.
Campaign Manager, Tom Daschle for South Dakota
Does this mean Denise doesn't get to ride around with Tom Daschle during his August recess tour anymore? Now she'll have to do a bunch of puff pieces on Daschle to get back into his good graces.
It's also a classic Daschle campaign technique to tap any isolationist sentiment that may exist among the South Dakota population. But if Tom Daschle is such an isolationist, why is having a fundraiser in RHODE ISLAND with WEALTHY RHODE ISLAND CONTRIBUTORS next week? And why do we need a senator who votes with President Bush only 75 percent of the time when we could have a senator who votes with President Bush 100 percent of the time?
Steve Hildebrand is right about one thing. Denise Ross is not doing her job as a journalist if she is just publishing a transcript of interviews she has with political figures. I know she has done this on at least one other occasion, when she interviewed Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth.
posted by Jason |
Elsewhere in the LAT, Joshua Dressler, a law professor at the Ohio State University, has a thoughtful opinion piece on the Janklow trial headlined "A Stumble Is Far Removed From a Kick; Intent plays a major role in deciding whether a killer is a criminal." Dressler uses the quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that "even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked" to make a point about the concept of intent in criminal law. Coincidentally, I've recently read a very good law review article that uses the same quote from Holmes in a completely different context, entitled "Awakening a Sleeping Dog: An Examination of the Confusion in Ascertaining Purposeful Discrimination Against Interstate Commerce." For you legal types out there who are interested, the cite to the article is 86 Minn. L. Rev. 1063 (2002).
AN OBSERVATION ON JANKLOW'S TRIAL: A reader sends in an excellent question:
The news reports I read suggest that Congressman Janklow's lawyer did not object during the closing argument about [t]he prosecution's statement that the defense did not disclose the diabetes defense until a few weeks before trial. Instead, Congressman Janklow's lawyer waited until an hour after the jury began its deliberations to make a motion for a mistrial. As a South Dakota law student, do you have any sense of whether Mr. Evans waited too long to raise this objection?
Everyone in the South Dakota legal community knows that Ed Evans is one of the best lawyers in the state, if not the best. But, I think he may have waited too long here. Ordinarily, if you don't object at the time the statement is made, the objection is considered waived.
Interestingly, Evans recently got burned in a similar situation during a civil case defending a medical malpractice client. Evans himself went over the line in closing arguments, the plaintiff's lawyer objected, and on appeal, the plaintiff got a new trial. You can read an AP story on this case HERE and the South Dakota Supreme Court's opinion HERE.
The issue would be whether the motion was timely. On the other hand, four of the five justices on the South Dakota Supreme Court seem to take a dim view of improper remarks during closing argument, and aren't skittish about requiring a new trial.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Argus Leader is reporting that Janklow moved for a mistrial an hour into jury deliberations. The motion was denied. Look for this to be the basis for an appeal, should Janklow be found guilty.
WHERE'S THE CLOUT?: Tom Daschle attempts to provide an answer to that question in today's Aberdeen American News. Excerpt:
Waltman: The Republican Party is running ads and Republicans have been saying for some time that you should have worked harder to push through the energy bill. They say it's a matter whether you have clout. What's your reaction when you hear the argument?
Daschle: "Well they lost because they weren't able to get all of the Republicans to support the bill. There's a large number of Republican opponents to the bill. And the reason they were opposed is because there were some who loaded up this bill with huge handouts to the special interests, including the MTBE manufacturers providing them with retroactive liability protection which is unheard of. I warned them at the time that that would be a mistake and I only wish they'd have listened."
But Senator Chuck Grassley says that Tom Daschle had the opportunity to use his "clout"--and obviously didn't get the job done. As John Fund writes, "When Senator Daschle doesn't -- or can't -- keep the trough full, voters begin to wonder what's the point of keeping him there."
posted by Jason |