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Crashing the Gates

The Journal Editorial Report

Paul Gigot: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," Democrats sweep both houses of Congress and promise a new direction for America. But were the elections really an endorsement of ideological change? Plus, Republicans on the Hill consider a return to the conservative principles that swept them into power in 1994. And Secretary Rumsfeld resigns. Will this change the course of the war in Iraq? And what does it mean for our troops on the ground? Those topics, plus our weekly "Hits and Misses," but first these headlines.

Gigot: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot. Democrats picked up six seats in the Senate and nearly 30 seats in the House by exploiting consternation about the war in Iraq and the scandals that tarnished close to 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives. Former House Majority Dick Armey wrote on our page this week that Tuesday's election marks the end of the Republican Revolution of 1994. But for some conservatives on Capitol Hill, the defeat is being seen as an opportunity to return to the principles that brought them to power 12 years ago.

Joining us now is Arizona Republican Congressman John Shadegg, who announced this week that he will run for minority whip in the new Congress. Congressman, welcome.

Shadegg: Glad to be with you, Paul.

Gigot: One of the curiosities of this election is that a lot of conservatives came out to vote this time--about the same, a little less, than in 2004. Except they didn't vote for Republicans in the same numbers this time. How do you get those voters back?

Shadegg: Well, I think we have to get them back by returning to the basics. I ran, as you know--you just mentioned--for majority leader, in the last cycle, in January, and I made a case then that we had promised two things in the Contract With America. We had promised to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, and we had promised to end the way Washington works, meaning to stop the corruption or the exercise of power by powerful members to benefit themselves.

I felt in January that we had let down America on both of those promises and disappointed conservatives. I think we did that. And now, I think, we have to get back to that basic agenda. We have to re-establish that we are the party of ethical government, and that we set the highest possible standard and hold all of our members to it. I think we have to establish that we are, in fact, the party of small government, of limited government, of lower taxes and less regulation.

The Democrats have made the claim they are that party. And they have hit us for spending. I think, within a matter of weeks, you're going to see the Democrats back in the big-spending game. We have to make that case to the American people, and we have to show them that our agenda, the American agenda that the Republicans have advanced, matches the hopes and aspirations of the American people. Whereas, the Democrats weren't elected on that agenda. They didn't really articulate an agenda. All--they just articulated the agenda "we were wrong."

Gigot: But Congressman, as you say, you ran in January for majority leader. But you lost. Are you hearing from your colleagues now that they're more receptive to that message? Because you ran on that same message in January. Are they going to listen now that they've been defeated?

Shadegg: Well, we'll find out next Friday. That's when we hold our elections, and I think that's when we've got to send a signal to the American people that we get it; w e have to change; we have to get back to those basics.

I am encouraged by what I am hearing from members. I think they understand it. I think they recognize that there was a lot of drift. To some degree, I think we were playing not to lose. We weren't playing to win. And we weren't pushing the agenda that we were sent here to push. And we weren't driving forward as we should be. We had become comfortable in power. And I think our members understand that. I hear it from the ones I'm talking to, and I'm encouraged. And, of course, that is what we have to do.

Gigot: Do you think they understand that this process of earmarking, which are special spending projects in home districts, has really been corrupting? Do they understand that that was a real big problem now and has led to some of these scandals? Are they ready to clean that up?

Shadegg: They absolutely understand it. Even the people who have been resisting earmark reform, and people who have been earmarking in the past, understand that that doesn't work. I have been pushing for earmark reform from way back, working with Jeff Flake to accomplish that. My opponent has been a user, a utilizer, of earmarks, and now he suddenly says, Well, we have to have earmark reform. We have to change that process.

So, yeah, I think we are making believers out of people, and I think you can't not be a believer on the issue of earmark reform because if you look at the scandals--and scandals were a big part of the loss by Republicans on Election Day--most of those scandals are tied in some way or another to earmark abuse.

Gigot: Let me ask you about another thing I hear from some of your colleagues, which is that the Republicans on Capitol Hill moved too far in pushing social issues, some of them symbolic, like Terri Schiavo, abortion. And they moved away from the bread-and-butter economic issues, health-care issues, the tax and spending issues that voters really wanted them to act on. Do you think the caucus, the Hill Republicans, moved too far in the direction of social issues?

Shadegg: Well, I think it's a close question. I am an economic conservative first. That's where my heart is. I believe in limited government. And that's the agenda that I personally push.

But I believe the social agenda is a big part of what holds the Republican Party together, and I think a lot of the things we did on the social agenda were appropriate. I think there may be some examples of where we went too far. The Terri Schiavo case is a great example of where my heart went out to her and her family, and I believe that injustice was occurring. But for the United States Congress to step down and get involved in that individual case, I think, sent a message to the American people that we're not focused on the right issues.

So I think it's important for us to be dealing with major concerns of the American people, and they think the Congress should be doing that. And I can sight examples that are other than social conservative examples of legislation we worked on, which is not, I don't think, at the heart of what the American people expect us to be working on.

Gigot: All right, Congressman Shadegg. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll be looking at those elections.

Shadegg: You bet. Thanks, Paul.

Gigot: When we come back, Democrats will finally have to enact a positive agenda. But they do have a plan for Iraq or homeland security or the economy? Plus, Donald Rumsfeld also became a casualty in Tuesday's election. But what will that mean for Iraq? Our panel weighs in on those topics, and our "Hits and Misses" of the week when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: Welcome back. Nancy Pelosi met with President Bush this week to extend a friendly hand after thumping the Republican Party on Election Day. But at the same time, there is speculation that Democrats could launch a series of congressional investigations targeting Republicans and their allies. Democrats are also talking this week about a new direction for the country. But it remains unclear exactly where they're headed.

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, as well as columnist John Fund and editorial board member Steve Moore.

So, Steve, the Democrats are back in power. And you think that they are likely to govern in a moderate direction, at least for the next couple of years. Why do you think that?

Moore: Well, there's two Democratic parties right now in Washington. There is the party of the old bulls, who are going to be heading those important committees, like Charlie Rangel and people like John Conyers, and then there are this huge new freshman class of Democrats that ran as actually centrist, and in some cases conservatives. And Democrats know that 2008 is the important election. If they're going to hold those seats that they just picked up that won them the majority, they have to run as centrists, and govern as centrists.

Fund: I submit there's a third Democratic Party. It's the party of the old Tony Coelho "let's do business with the K Street crowd."

Gigot: A former California congressman, No. 2 in the Democratic leadership.

Fund: Exactly. There was a famous book about his operation called "Honest Graft." And it basically said to business, We'll go along with you. We can moderate our legislative agenda. But you have to pony up and give campaign contributions. And I think you're going to see the Democrats trying to cement their legislative majority by playing nice with K Street, which gives them a moderate image. It also brings in the campaign cash to win again in 2008.

Gigot: But what about these seats, these moderate Democrats that are now in power, Dan? I think something of the 28 new Democrats, like, 19 of them were from districts that George Bush carried? Ten of them from districts that he carried, I think, by double digits? That's the margin for their majority. How does Nancy Pelosi make them re-electable?

Henninger: Well, that's the dilemma. I mean, they have now proven that they can run against Republicans by putting forth centrist to right-of-center candidates. There's this new wing in the party running from the left that does not want to do that in 2008. So it presents a real dilemma for them. And it is kind of like she has to draw to an inside straight--make those people happy, but deal with the hard core that has been sitting there for 12 years in the wilderness and now wants to get theirs back.

Moore: There's going to be sort of three key issues to look at right out of the gate. One is earmark reform, which Democrats and Nancy Pelosi said, We're for it, Republicans are against it. That'll be the first thing that comes up. Second, the budget. They have to pass a budget. Don't forget a five year budget--that means are they going to extend the Bush tax cuts? They say they're a party now for middle-class tax cuts. Let's see what they do on that. And the other is, are they going to produce a budget that produces a balanced budget, which they say they're for as well?

Gigot: So that would require some spending restraints, Steve. Is that likely to happen?

Moore: You know, I actually think--first of all, it's very hard for the Democrats to outspend the Republicans, given how bad their record has been on the budget. I think you are going to see a relatively fiscally conservative Democratic Party for the next two years.

Gigot: What about other issues that they might be able to deal with President Bush, who says he wants to on immigration, minimum wage and a few other things, I guess. Education is another one. Can they come to common ground on those?

Henninger: I think they can. The biggest time bomb out there is the grand compromise on entitlements, which the president brought up in his last press conference. I mean, we're looking down the barrel of a big tax increase if they do a deal on entitlements of the sort they're talking about--Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Apparently, the president wants it. This is going to be a very difficult issue to work.

Gigot: Let's talk about this issue of investigations. Because Arlen Specter was in, who used to be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, now ranking member in the Senate. And he said that they would run out of subpoena forms if the Democrats took over the Senate and the House. Those were his words. What about this culture of investigation? Is that going to make a comeback from the '80s?

Henninger: I think people in the business sector and the bureaucracies do not know what's going to hit them. Democrats in the House ran a culture of investigation before 1994--from about 1970, when they were elected, up through then.

The way the method works is, you call in people from business or the bureaucracies. You intimidate and humiliate them. You bring them to heel. You leak subpoenaed documents to the press. And then you just bring them under your thumb. And Henry Waxman, on his Web site, has a link called "Investigations."

Gigot: Head of the Government Reform Committee.

Henninger: Head of the Government Reform Committee. They are 60 subjects listed under the "investigations" link.

Fund: Having said that, let's say the Republican Congress also did sometimes not do enough oversight. There are some things, like contract abuses in Iraq, that really are going to be legitimate scandals. If the Democrats are smart, they'll push those up front and build some credibility for some of the more marginal, perhaps more controversial, ones later.

Gigot: What about judges in the Senate? Are we going to have the fights that we had before--in 2002 and 2004? They cost the Democrats in those elections. They lost seats in the Senate after judges was a big issue. This time, they confirmed a couple of Supreme Court nominees, and they win seats.

Fund: Paul, the joke will be--no, we're not going to have fights over judges. We're just not going to have any vacancies filled.

Henninger: Sen. Sam Brownback came to visit with us this week. And he said--

Gigot: Republican from Kansas.

Henninger: Republican from Kansas--said if they sent up--the White House sent up another John Roberts, with impeccable credentials, he'd get through. At the appeals court level, forget about it.

Gigot: All right, Dan, thank you. We'll be back after this short break.

Coming up next, Rumsfeld is out, and Democrats say they will plot a new course for Iraq. What does this mean for our strategy and our troops on the ground? That, and our "Hits and Misses" of the week, when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: The election-night confetti had hardly settled when President Bush announced on Wednesday that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is resigning. The president also announced that he will be replaced by former CIA director Bob Gates, another throwback to the last Bush administration. Democrats quickly announced that they will be proposing a new course for our strategy in Iraq. But how will this posturing in Washington impact what happens in Baghdad?

We continue with Dan Henninger and John Fund, and also joining us is editorial board member Bret Stephens. Bret, everybody is Washington is saying that the Gates nomination signals a big change in Iraq policy. Do you see it that way?

Stephens: I suspect that's right, but it's not clear what kind of change we are going to get. I mean, there are two issues here. One is, Gates is an administrator of the Pentagon, and we understand that he's a capable administrator and he might do a better job than Rumsfeld did, might bring closer focus to Iraq.

But what we don't know is the policy shift, and our suspicion is that Gates is going to reinforce what I think are some of the worst instincts already in the Bush administration. That is to say, he is a former deputy of Brent Scowcroft. He came out of the first Bush administration. He shares some of their so-called realist instincts, among them diplomatic engagement with Iran, diplomatic engagement with Syria, which we hear are going to be big parts of the Iraq Study Group, which former Secretary of State Jim Baker is leading.

Gigot: And will report within a few weeks.

Stephens: After Thanksgiving is the word that we have. And if he pursues those instincts, I'm afraid that Iraq is going to get worse and we're going to rue the day that Don Rumsfeld left the Pentagon.

Gigot: If there a chance, though, that when he brings fresh eyes--and that's the phrase that Donald Rumsfeld is using--to the Iraq issue that maybe he'll bring more troops, and they'll try to actually do more on the ground in Iraq and bring better security to Baghdad, rather than negotiate a kind of retreat--Dan?

Henninger: I doubt that the Iraq Study Group is going to propose any such thing as more troops. Their fresh eyes, I think, are going to be looking backward into the past, into an era when we were forced to simply do business with the likes of Iran and Syria.

And I think this has kind of core bad implications for the Bush doctrine, or the best parts of it. President Bush, if nothing else, has really been committed to standing by an ally. We created an ally in the Iraqi people. They held an election. It's now a democratic government. If we decide to shove something down the throats of the Shiites so that we can do a deal with a nuclear-armed dictatorship in Iran, can you imagine the message this is going to send to democratic movements in China, Russia, Nigeria and the rest of the world?

Fund: Look, let's be clear. The Bush doctrine isn't dead, but it's in the freezer, and it's not coming out anytime soon. Look at the message that the elections and Bush's sudden and dramatic departure of Rumsfeld sends to the world. All of our allies are saying, We know what this tells us. The United States is going to pull in its horns. It's not going to be as serious about its foreign policy.

Gigot: Well, let's face it, the American people said Iraq isn't working. We want some change. Now, didn't the president have to do something, Bret?

Stephens: Sure. But he didn't necessarily have to get rid of Donald Rumsfeld. He could have gotten rid of Condoleezza Rice, who is also an architect of that same policy. And many of the problems that we have in Iraq, haven't been so much military as they have been political. And the person who made many of those decisions are people like Condoleezza Rice and some of her former deputies at the National Security Council, like Steve Hadley.

Gigot: Let's be clear here. Are we saying that the president may be trying, with the Gates nomination and the Iraq Study Group, to extricate the United States from Iraq, even if he says, We're going to win? We're going to do what it takes to win? Is he trying to get out?

Fund: It depends on what you mean by the term "winning."

Gigot: Well, how do you define it, John? I mean, would it be standing up an Iraqi government and--a democratic Iraq, as he said, that can stand on its own? Those are the president's terms for victory. Are we saying we're going to cut--if not quite cut and run, at least cut and kind of slide away?

Moore: Well, cut and paste, perhaps.

Stephens: Cut a deal and run. I think the real problem here is that Bush is trying to achieve what you might call neoconservative ends, which is democratization in the Middle East and particularly in Iraq, by using realist means, which means cutting deals with dictators. And the two are really incompatible.

If you're serious about democracy in Iraq, you also have to be serious about democracy in Iran and Syria, the two countries which are really our biggest problems in Iraq, because they're funneling the IEDs and the insurgents across Iraqi borders and creating much of the problem that we have there.

But Jim Baker--and I think of Gates and Baker in the same breath--Jim Baker is a guy who believes in negotiating with Syria and believes in negotiating with Iran. And so, by the way, does Bob Gates.

Gigot: All right, Bret, last word.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Gigot: Winners and losers, picks and pans, "Hits and Misses." It's our way of calling attention to the best and the worst of the week. This week, we are picking the winners and losers from this week's elections.

First, one Democrat may be an even bigger winner than Nancy Pelosi. Dan?

Henninger: Yeah, Rahm Emmanuel, the congressman from Illinois, was the head of the House Campaign Committee. And he's a big winner. He raised over $100 million, and he was one of the guys who recruited the conservative candidates and defeated Republicans on their own turf. Now, he's going to run for the No. 4 position in the House, running the Democratic Caucus. Now, Emmanuel is a hard-nosed politician. But he's also somebody who likes to wed policy and substance to his politics. And I think that's a good thing. It means the Republicans are at least going to have a worthy opponent in the House.

Gigot: All right, Dan.

Next, it was a big night for advocates of a colorblind society. Steve?

Moore: Yeah, it wasn't all bad news on election night. On Tuesday, 58% of Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative that said that race cannot be used for employment or university admissions. And so I believe now, in Michigan, for he first time in many decades, men and women will be judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin.

Gigot: That was a surprise. It passed with, what, 58% of the vote, despite being out spent something like 3 to 1.

Moore: Three to 1.

Gigot: That was--why do you think it passed?

Moore: Because Americans don't want race--reverse discrimination. And they do want a colorblind society.

Gigot: All right. Next, some left-wing advocacy groups had a very good night--John?

Fund: Well, these groups helped push the McCain-Feingold campaign spending law. This was the first midterm where we saw that election. It was supposed to reduce the role of money in politics, reduce the role of special interests, have more disclosure. Well, the left-wing groups often outspent incumbents with all of the money they poured into these races to knock them off. In addition, Democracy Alliance, which is a George Soros-funded group, was spreading money to all of these liberal groups and only if they agreed never to disclose the donors. This is progress? The left-wing groups are having it both ways--saying one thing, doing something else.

Gigot: All right, John.

Finally, it was a tough week for the immigration restrictionists.

Stephens: Yeah, well, Republicans thought they could win this election not on principles, but on ugly and dumb wedge issues, and none was uglier and dumber than the immigration issue. Well, some of the politicians who ran like it, people like J.D. Hayworth or--

Gigot: Arizona congressman.

Stephens: --or John Hostettler from Indiana or Bob Beauprez in Colorado all tried to run on it. All of them lost, and we hope that the Republicans have learned their lesson that running on the politics of divisiveness doesn't work.

Gigot: John, very quickly, is John McCain going to have any reconsideration of campaign finance reform?

Fund: Full speed ahead. I think he is going to say, I'm not going to appoint judges who will necessarily expand the law, however.

Gigot: All right, John.

That's it for this week's edition of "The Journal Editorial Report." Thanks to Dan Henninger, Steve Moore, John Fund and Bret Stephens. I'm Paul Gigot. Thanks for watching. And we hope to see all of you right here next week.

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