Dancing in the End Zone

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2006 8:02 AM

Well, you'll be hearing the names Harry Reid, Pat Leahy, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer more often now that a football coach's son has conceded he fumbled away the Virginia election, getting the Democrats to 51 seats.

After the election-night drama of the Dems taking back the House, they kind of oozed to victory in the Senate. Many political pros had discounted the idea because the Dems had to win eight of nine key races, an improbable feat they pulled off by losing only Tennessee. So the impact of a new panoply of committee chairman hasn't quite sunk in yet.

I focused yesterday on how conservative commentators and yakkers are coping with the crumbling of the GOP majority, which ranges from defiance to depression. Today the Mighty Media Notes Spotlight turns on the liberal pundits and whether they are being magnanimous in victory.

Answer: Not.

Twelve years after congressional Democrats were relegated to the minority offices, six years after they were evicted from the White House, the liberals are hootin', hollerin' and high-fivin' their way through the week.

"WE WON!!! WE WON!!! WE'RE TAKING BACK AMERICA!!! The Stephanie Miller Show was a full-on gloat zone this morning."

That's from the L.A. radio host's own blog , and she was so gleeful that she started playing the nah nah nah nah nah chant seconds after saying hello.

Unseemly? They don't care. And Stephie has plenty of company.

A New Republic piece is titled "How's that realignment working out for you, Karl?"

"' We saw it in 2002, and we saw it again this year. . . . It tells me we may be seeing part of a rolling realignment .' --Karl Rove, November 7, 2004

"Two years ago, Republicans managed to spin a 51 percent victory over a weak opponent into something very big--not quite a landslide, but a mandate, a 'rolling realignment,' perhaps even (as Newsweek breathlessly speculated) 'a political dominance that could last for decades.'

"By that standard, what would you call what the Democrats accomplished Tuesday? They won the aggregate House vote by a margin of some ten percentage points, nearly four times the margin Bush ran up against the hapless Kerry in 2004. Their gain of more than two dozen House seats may be modest by historical comparison, but that is only because demography and gerrymandering have compressed the field of contestable seats to a bare minimum . . .

"A lot of things have come crashing down with this election. One of them is the absurd cultural prestige enjoyed by President Bush and his supporters. Since 2000, they have continuously bludgeoned their critics with the notion that the only authentic Americans are those living in the red states. Democratic voters have been endlessly told that they are nothing more than a tiny, alien coastal remnant, and many of them started to believe it.

"Well, it's hokum. Bush and his vision for the country have been before the voters four times now. Twice (in 2002 and 2004) a narrow majority of voters supported him; once (in 2000) a narrow majority rejected him; and now a substantial majority has rejected him. Bush is not the incarnation of the popular will, and his critics are not anti-American freaks.

"Another casualty of the election, we hope, should be the pathological insularity of the administration's foreign policy-making. It has long been obvious to every sentient being, along with many members of the Bush inner circle, that Donald Rumsfeld was an epic disaster as defense secretary. That Bush could not take even the minimal step of acknowledging this glaringly obvious fact made it difficult to believe he could take the immensely more difficult step of coming to grips with Iraq."

Who was it that said history is written by the winners?

Kos says it's payback time:

"Republicans in the Senate and House -- secure in their perpetual majorities -- instituted a long list of policies that dramatically discriminate against the minority party in both chambers. In the House, the minority is all but invisible. And in the Senate, the filibuster is all that's left keeping the minority party from utter irrelevance (and they tried to get rid of that).

"Me, I said at the time that I wanted to see the filibuster gone. Now Republicans will get to use it to stymie the Democratic agenda, just like opponents of civil rights used it to bottleneck important civil rights legislation in the 60s. But oh well. It is what it is.

"But here's the key -- every bit of anti-minority party legislation the GOP implemented these last 12 years better be kept intact by the new Democratic leadership. Let them reap what they sowed. They deserve every humiliation they designed for those in the minority status.

"And stripped of their perks, forced to fire large number of staff, shunted off to the dingiest offices on Capitol Hill, let's hope more Republicans decide that life on K Street is more enjoyable than life in the minority."

Americablog's John Aravosis is already fretting about GOP counterattacks:

"Well, it's real. The Democrats control the House and Senate. They set the agenda. For years, we've been subjected to hate-filled legislation pushed by GOP leaders. Those days are over. We have to be on alert. The GOP is going to be in overdrive trying to undermine the Democratic agenda. They will be trying to define Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. We know the GOP's dirty tricks. And, we'll fight back. We should get to watch Allen concede. Amazing. Many people deserve credit. I want to thank Siddarth. He's the guy who Allen called 'macaca.' I was always impressed by the way he handled the whole scandal. He's still in college but helped defeat one of the nastiest senators in America. Not bad."

HuffPoster Joseph Palermo rattles off all the folks he can't stand--and that includes your lovable MSM:

"Two hundred and twenty years later and the system still works! Hooray! Rick Santorum, Don Rumsfeld -- Good Riddance! George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove tried to use the trauma of 9-11 along with their war of choice in Iraq to impose on our country a 'unitary executive' branch dictatorship.

"In 2002, the Bush Republicans used the deceitful run up to the Iraq war -- WMDs and 'mushroom clouds' -- to spread fear, and then smeared the patriotism of their opponents, (such as Senator Max Cleland's war record). They succeeded. They repeated this game plan in 2004, spreading fear and smearing John Kerry's military service. They succeeded again. In 2006, they tried the fear and smear strategy, but this time they failed miserably.

"We should not only hold Bush accountable for this mess, but his army of enablers. We need to hold the right-wing think tanks accountable too. They should be taken out of the law-writing business. The Heritage Foundation dominated the wrong-headed thinking of Bush's domestic and foreign policies. The American Enterprise Institute 'fellows' were cheerleaders for going into Iraq. The Hudson Institute, Hoover Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, and all of the others should be held accountable for being the brains behind Bush's dismal and murderous failures. They have shoved down our throats privatizing Social Security, cutting functioning government agencies like FEMA, and kick-down-the-poor 'trickle down' economics.

"Bush's failures are also the failures of Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber. Fox and the rest of the corporate media enthusiastically endorsed every one of Bush's power grabs. The over-paid and lazy elite Pentagon and White House correspondents, when they weren't yucking it up with Bush at expensive dinners, were lobbing softballs, and repeating his deceptions free of fact checking or any questioning of the frame Bush's PR machine imposed on the issues. The Pentagon press corps adored Donald Rumsfeld the entire time he was sentencing thousands of our young men and women to premature deaths. They never called Rumsfeld on his startling incompetence and hubris."

Um, in addition to lobbing those softballs, didn't the overpaid journalists also expose such matters as Abu Ghraib and domestic surveillance and secret CIA prisons?

ABC's Jake Tapper does a mini-gloat:

"Boy, lots of the reporting we all in the media were doing in the last few weeks sure seems a lot more accurate than the conservative spin that was out there, huh?

"I'm not denying that the media as a whole could stand to consider conservative arguments more (just as it could probably cover minorities more . . .

"But certain things are just facts. When I went to Ohio a week ago to talk to voters there the Republicans we spoke to were dispirited, and many were considering voting for the Democrats. That was borne out Tuesday, but at the time I was hammered for liberal bias.

"Or you can look at Karl Rove's pre-election spat with National Public Radio's Robert Siegel.

"SIEGEL: We're in the home stretch, though, and many would consider you on the optimistic end of realism about --

"ROVE: Not that you would be exhibiting a bias . . .

"SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day.

"ROVE: No, you're not. No, you're not.

"SIEGEL: No, I'm not.

"ROVE: No, you're not. You're not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week. You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally but that do not impact the outcome of --

"SIEGEL: I'm looking at main races between -- certainly Senate races.

"ROVE: Well, like the poll today showing that Corker's ahead in Tennessee, or the poll showing that Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race.

"SIEGEL: Leading Webb in Virginia, yeah.

"Mr. ROVE: Exactly.

"SIEGEL: But you've seen the DeWine race and the Santorum race -- I don't want to have you call races.

"ROVE: Yeah, I'm looking at all these, Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math, I'm entitled to THE math.

"SIEGEL: Well, I don't know if we're entitled to our different math, but you're certainly --

"ROVE: I said THE math. I said you're entitled to yours.


I guess Allen didn't pull away after all.

Did Bush lie when he said before the election that he was keeping Don Rumsfeld? Click to read my report.

Meanwhile, heads keep rolling:

"Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, whose party just lost both chambers of Congress, will leave his position in January, and the post as party chief has been offered to Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele," says the Washington Times .

Interesting move, if true, to offer the job to the losing Senate candidate in Maryland, since the GOP has never had a black party head.

The L.A. Times sees a new culture on the Hill:

"Rep. Ike Skelton knows what he will do in one of his first acts as chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Democratic-led House: resurrect the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

"The panel was disbanded by the Republicans after they won control of Congress in 1994. Now, Skelton (D-Mo.) intends to use it as a forum to probe Pentagon spending and the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war.

"It has been 12 years since Democrats were in control of both the House and Senate. But they are looking to make up for lost time, and in some cases, make the Bush administration and its business allies sweat.

"With control of every committee in Congress starting in January, the new majority will inherit broad powers to subpoena and investigate. And that is expected to translate into wide-ranging and contentious hearings."

Here's a little nugget , deep in an NYT story, about moderate Republican Jim Leach, who lost his House seat in Iowa, and Republican chairman Ken Mehlman:

"The Republican National Committee had sought before Election Day to send a mailing into Mr. Leach's Iowa district to attack his opponent's position on same-sex marriage.

"Mr. Leach recoiled at the mailing and called Mr. Mehlman, saying he would caucus with the Democrats if Mr. Mehlman did not withdraw it.

" 'I would rather lose running an uplifting race than prevail by finger-pointing,' Mr. Leach said."

Rahm and Chuck getting lots of kudos, including from Dick Polman :

"JFK once said that 'victory has a thousand fathers,' but Emanuel and Schumer probably deserve the most credit for the '06 Democratic triumph -- Emanuel for his recruitment of House candidates, and Schumer for working the Senate side. They broadened the appeal of the Democratic party by finding moderate and conservative candidates to run in moderate and conservative states and districts, thereby undercutting the party's liberal stereotype. Liberals were slow to appreciate some of these efforts -- in Pennsylvania, they resented Schumer for tapping the socially conservative Bob Casey Jr. to run against Rick Santorum, but in the wake of Casey's solid victory, I hear no complaints today.

"(By the way, on the subject of victory having a thousand fathers, here's one of the Democrats who's trying to claim patrimony this week. I will simply quote from the headline on his Wednesday email: 'John Kerry's Commitment Helps Bring Democrats to Victory.')"

Ann Althouse probably echoes the reaction of more than a few voters:

"What do I think about the Democrats taking over both houses of Congress? I don't have much feeling one way or the other. I mistrust both parties. I'm hopeful that the kinds of candidates the Democrats relied on to win -- people like Webb -- will transform the party and make it into something I can support."

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