Mousetraps

My former boss, Rep. Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), is a wise man and a good political leader. One of his sayings he had when he was House Speaker was “Don’t set up too many mousetraps around the house.” After all, if you aren’t careful, you might trap yourself.

That is exactly what the new Democratic majority did this week. It caught one of its own, Rep. John Murtha (Pa.), in a clear violation of one its own rules that it trumpeted so loudly at the beginning of the year. The earmark rule might be stupid, as Murtha and his colleagues clearly think. The Democratic ethics reform package might be complete “crap,” as Murtha put it last year.

But the Democrats can’t call themselves the most ethical majority in history, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) likes to put it, and then create rules only to ignore them with reckless abandon. It’s kind of like passing a seatbelt law and then refusing to wear the seatbelt.

This hasn’t been a good week for House Democrats. They are backing down on their threat to withhold money for the war. Their chief spokesman on the war, Murtha, is embroiled in an ethics debacle of his own making. Their own members are gagging on an ethics reform package that grows weaker by the minute. And they are still smarting over their failed effort to change the germaneness rules for the first time in 185 years, a desperate act brought about by a weak majority that has lost close to a dozen motions to recommit.

Going into the Memorial Day recess, it looks pretty unlikely that any of the Six for ’06 agenda items are going to get enacted. So when the American people take a long look at what the Democratic majority has done lately, it won’t be much. It seems their only accomplishment thus far has been setting a few mousetraps that snared one Democratic congressman, but no mice.