Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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(Note: this was as far as things got when the Montana Headlines technical problems began on Sunday, preventing further work -- but it's quite enough.)

Don't mess with Anaconda: The first courageous cautionary words that Montana Headlines noticed occurred right here in the blogosphere way back on May 8, on 4&20 blackbirds .

The sequence of events at the end of the regular legislative session where Democratic legislative negotiating power seemed not to be where it belonged -- in the hands of Senate President Cooney -- was not a good sign.

The fact that Democratic legislators were notably absent at the dealmaking prior to the special session was something else that caused a little eyebrow raising.

Going back further, there was the way that the executive branch seemed clearly to be calling the shots on how Democratic House members voted en bloc against every Republican budgetary proposal involving the "6-pack," even ones that the Democratic members substantively agreed with. This, in spite of the fact that the executive branch has made such a big point of saying that Republican "permanent tax cuts" are a myth, since future legislatures aren't bound by the actions of prior legislatures.

Leaving aside whether the 6-pack was a good idea or whether the House Republican leadership treated the Democratic House leadership with appropriate courtesy in how it was done, this refusal to play (or rather Democratic House members being ordered to refuse to play) was the uniquely Democratic contribution to poisoning the atmosphere in the House -- with the effects of those countless,senseless, and unthinking 11-8 party-line votes still crackling in the House Appropriations Committee during this special session.

Given the fact that the majority of House members in both parties (forget the extremes on both sides) clearly wanted to make the session work, and given the fact that the Democratic-controlled Senate was going to get the last shot at the bills anyway, the fact that Democrats weren't allowed in any way to help shape the House appropriations bills was just plain out-of-character from what we had seen from them. And again, it had a poisoning effect on the process.

These were only the things that made it out into the open.

So Sen. Jesse Laslovich's stern words directed the governor's way were not particularly surprising. It has already been made apparent that this is not an executive branch that was inclined to bring Republicans and Democrats together -- what Republicans have quietly wondered to themselves is whether Democrats might start to tire of having their votes taken for granted.

Senate President Mike Cooney's public statement that he had asked all leaders of both parties (pointedly including the executive branch) not to "throw gasoline on the fire" was a more muted response, but he was no less clear than Laslovich.

As a side-note, much has been made about the 13 GOP Representatives being "traitors" to the GOP -- Montana Headlines has a slightly different view. What we're wondering is whether they stopped to consider what Democratic legislators were going to think about a handful of Republicans cutting a deal directly with the executive branch without involving them, their peers in the House.

GOP Alert GOP Alert: This is not a time for Republicans to pile on and ruthlessly attack the governor. Leaving aside basic issues of civility and propriety, that strategy has already been proven to be a losing one -- dead on arrival. And that it is a losing strategy has been clear practically since his Senate run against Burns in 2000.

Attacking the governor will only cause the Democrats to circle the wagons around the governor (that's what we would do for a Republican governor -- even one who was irritating us,) and that in turn will prevent any lessons from being learned.

Some Democratic legislators are apparently courageous enough (and exasperated enough) to tell the executive branch to tone down the rhetoric and to respect the process of the legislature -- which is fully equal to the executive branch. Republicans need to keep still and just quietly encourage those legislators behind the scenes, and they need to work on restoring across-the-aisle legislative relationships that have taken a beating over the last few months -- and building ones that currently don't exist.

Again, this shouldn't be done in the spirit of undercutting the governor -- he's our governor, too. And we wouldn't be inclined to work with Democrats who were encouraging us to stab a Republican governor in the back -- so why would we expect any different from them?

If we haven't learned anything else in the bitter, vicious, and childish name-calling partisan undercutting of both Clinton and Bush on the national level over the past decade and a half, it should be that it isn't healthy to have leaders who can't do their jobs in a constructive way for as long as they hold the job. The same is true of our office-holders here in Montana who are the recipients of shrill name-calling on a regular basis.

Does anyone stop to think, or even care, about the effect this has on spouses and children who hear and read that stuff? Is it so important to depersonalize and dehumanize our political opponents? Isn't it obvious that this kind of dehumanizing name-calling is done in order to over-ride basic sensibilities of human decency that would keep us from ever, in a lifetime, saying similar things to or about the guy who lives across the street?

But getting back on topic: as has been repeatedly stated on Montana Headlines, we believe that it is the legislative process that is most threatened in America today -- usurped by courts and pushed around by executives, bureaucrats, and NGO's. But we'll say it again: the spirit of Republican support for those Democratic legislators who are saying "enough" to the governor's rhetoric should be one of working together to protect the independence and equality of the legislature.

On this matter, Democrats and Republicans are in it together. Or at least they should be.

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