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Gephardt: Is he placing his party's best interest ahead of the USA's?

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted July 29, 2002

I do not wish to be partisan. I have often said that there is enough blame for our nation's troubles to be passed around to both political parties. I am not one who thinks life would just ducky if we only elected lots more Republicans to the Congress.

After all, we had two back-to-back Congresses in which Republicans controlled the Senate by a 55 to 45 margin. Still, positive measures passed in the House just couldn't see the light of day in the Senate because any measure needed 60 votes to pass and some how the Senate leadership couldn't keep their 55 votes together let alone find the extra Democrats needed for passage.

Richard Gephardt

I was disappointed when I read the article in Roll Call newspaper that said, "House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt has told senior Democrats that the party could pick up as many as 40 House seats if the continuously unfolding corporate scandals can be kept on the political radar screen until November." Another Democratic political operative said that for every 100 points the stock market drops, the Democrats can pick up four seats.

Speaker of the House Denny Hastert said: "I read in the newspaper that Mr. Gephardt seeks political gain from the current troubles that have hit the stock market....I find it unconscionable that someone would play politics with an issue as important as the American economy. Every American family has a vested interest in the stock market, whether it is with securities with 401 (k)s, or with pensions. Hoping -for-political reasons that the stock market continues to slide or that scandals continue to hit major American [corporations] is simply wrong. People's livelihoods are at stake here."

Denny Hastert is one of the least partisan Speakers since the late Speaker Martin who presided from 1947 to 1949 and again from 1953 to 1955, the only two Congresses in modern times which the Republicans controlled until 1995 Hastert, in my opinion would not have made a similar statement if the situation were in reverse. Would Newt Gingrich, who held the Speakership for the two previous Congresses before Hastert was elected, have said something akin to what Gephardt said? Yes, I believe he would have. On election day in 1998, Gingrich was telling the media he thought House Republicans would pick up 30 to 40 seats. Instead, Republicans lost five seats. Bill Clinton had reversed history. No Administration in the sixth year of an eight- year stint had ever gained seats. Even FDR lost big in 1938.

Hastert seldom issues partisan attacks against the Democrats. He prides himself, along with his team of Tom DeLay and Roy Blunt, in being able to put together bi-partisan victories for even controversial issues. In many cases Hastert could count more than 100 Democrats voting with virtually all the Republicans.

So when he does speak out, he deserves to be taken seriously. I understand that Gephardt has lusted after the Speakership for many years now. But what he is reported to have said is just plain irresponsible. The American people expect both parties to sit down and work together on measures which will shore up the economy and return confidence in the stock market.

If Gephardt can't restrain himself and wants to destroy any attempts to work together in return for placing economic issues on the front page or as the lead story on the evening news so he and his colleagues can blame the Republicans, then he does not deserve to be Speaker. Dick Gephardt has always been a sober, realistic minority leader who often has put politics aside to help his country. Apparently the lure of winning is too much for him to handle. The American voters might want to keep that in mind when they look at the 2002 elections.

Paul M. Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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