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The NYC Transit Strike and The United States Senate

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From the New York Post this morning:


It is a column by Andrea Peyser on the transit strikers that begins “THE 9/11 terror attacks couldn’t kill his business. No, the villains threatening to rob Jay Park of his livelihood are far more treacherous, selfish and insane.”

As the piece makes obvious, the striking transit workers have destroyed their own reputation in an astonishingly stupid decision to strike in the week before Christmas. Any strike would have been a terrible decision, but the timing of this one will land the union in the hall of fame of stupidity.

The collapse of the United States Senate as a credible institution has been underway for some time, but the escapades yesterday have brought it to a new low. Extending the Patriot Act for six months in a time of war, refusing a vote on ANWR, barely approving a very modest curtailment in runaway entitlement spending –all these events make you think that Senate Democrats have the same advisors as New York’s transit union.

Not that the Senate GOP is in much greater shape. The inability of the Republican majority to force a showdown earlier in the year, or to carry the day on two of the three major items dooms Bill Frist’s presidential campaign, and may have cost Mike DeWine his Senate seat. Watching Bill Frist close the session last night was painful, his rhetoric as tired as his face, and the empty chairs and behind him symbolized the chamber that will not be led. DeWine’s incomprehensible vote against allowing a vote on ANWR –only looney Lincoln Chafee was with him from the GOP side– undid the modest rehabilitation that had been underway since DeWine joined with John McCain and Lindsey Graham in the Gang of 14 fiasco that sent the Senate into its nose dive last spring.

What the various senators do not seem to grasp is that new media has changed their chamber’s visibility. They are unaware that C-SPAN –which has been there forever, they think, and doesn’t much matter– now has an audience of commentators that doesn’t trumpet the center-left line. When various senators stand for long periods saying incredibly stupid things, the world either watches or quickly hears about it. And the conclusion is reached that this is not a group of people we want running the country.

Some of the body’s truly dense menmbers, like Boxer and Durbin, are beyond electoral reach because of their states’ electorates. But others are on the ballot and will find out what the contry thinks about their insouciance in time of war. There are open seats in Maryland and Minnesota, and voters there will have to decide whether they want to add to the number of obstructionist Democrats who would rather shutter the Department of Defense than allow exploration for oil in ANWR. Mark Kennedy and Michael Steele are hardly thorough-going conservatives, but they are responsible men, not given to hysterics of the sort that Robert Byrd belched forth yesterday.

West Viriginia voters are going to have to decide whether the state can afford to keep the comedy show going or whether, perhaps, Senator Byrd is so far down his particular road that he won’t even realize he’s been retired by the voters. New Jersey voters, already used to Democratic Party corruption, will have to ask themselves whether inviting another 9/11 –the result of Democratic Party obstruction– is what they want out of their new senator.

Bill Nelson of Florida and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and perhaps Kent Conrad of North Dakota, have to worry that their party has asked too much of them. Can Pennsylvania and Montana voters really want to add to the numbers of Democrats in the Senate by retiring either Rick Santorum or Conrad Burns? DeWine’s best chance will be to argue that Sherrod Brown would be an even more feckless choice.

Michigan’s Stabenow, Washington’s Cantwell, and New Mexico’s Bingamen are considered safe, but will these states’ voters endorse the silliness of the national Democrats and the fevers of the party’s hard left caucus?

The 2006 Senate elections
will again be a national referendum on whether or not we are in a war, and whether or not we want to be serious about that war. The Democrats are not serious, and some of them are acting as though 9/11 didn’t happen and the jihadists don’t exist. There are serious problems within the Senate GOP to be sure, but they get it right most of the time, even if they cannot summon the numbers to do crucial things in the nation’s defense. In November the voters must do more trimming of the silly senators, and perhaps in 2007 the Senate can resume the hard business of attending to the nation’s defense.


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