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Lawrence O'Donnell

Lawrence O'Donnell

Posted: November 14, 2006 03:47 PM

A Permanent Majority?


I haven't had the time to type a word for HuffPo since the election because I've been too busy gloating on TV. Having predicted every Senate election correctly as well as the outcome in the House and the governors' races, I have been taking every opportunity on MSNBC and the McLaughlin Group to say a few self-congratulatory words and sit back and watch my Republican counterparts' befuddlement.

In my latest round of this, Joe Scarborough asked why I knew who was going to win the elections and Karl Rove, the genius, Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain," didn't know. By the way, how smart do you have to be to be Bush's brain? I didn't want to give up my secret for election predicting. I like being one of the few pundits to accurately predict all the Senate races. Fellow geniuses Eleanor Clift and Mark Shields got it right too, but they're not the gloating type and they never appear on MSNBC, so I was hoping to create a sort of Rove-level genius aura for myself, at least among MSNBC talking heads. You know, maybe "Olbermann's Brain," something like that. But I couldn't come up with a Rove-like rap about metrics because I had never actually used the word in a sentence, so, to avoid the horror of dead air, I went to my fallback position--the truth.

I admitted that the secret of my election pundit genius was public polls. Any study--okay, 'study' is too strong a word--an occasional glance at the publicly available polls during the two weeks before the election told you exactly who was going to win. When a challenger like Claire McCaskill was running a tie at 47 or 48 against incumbent Jim Talent, that poll is telling you that the challenger is going to beat the incumbent. It helped that I happen to know that Talent never polled above 50 against McCaskill and it helped that I had seen McCaskill campaign and knew she was a great campaigner. That's what provoked me to predict she was going to win months ago. But the rest of the predictions I made were based on nothing but public polls.

The MSM loves the image of Rove as genius almost as much as Rove does, but, showing no embarrassment for their years of dutiful transcribing of Rove's notion that he was building a permanent Republican majority, they are now moving on to the first-woman-Speaker story in which the word genius has yet to appear. Which brings me to my next big prediction in answer to the question of how long will the Democrats hold the House?

This is a tricky one because so much turns on how good a Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be. The early signs are not good. The day after she backs Arianna's hero John Murtha for majority leader, the Washington Post goes after her with both barrels--a front page story about Murtha and his history of ethics problems, including (unindicted) involvement in Abscam, and an editorial slamming Murtha and endorsing Steny Hoyer for the job. When was the last time the Post made an endorsement in a party leadership race? Ever? There's no possible win here for Pelosi. If Hoyer wins, the new Speaker gets publicly humiliated on her first vote. If Murtha wins, the Pelosi promise of "the most ethical Congress in history" will fall apart quickly with Sean Hannity running Murtha's Abscam FBI video endlessly.

But the damage Murtha's ethics history can do to the Pelosi Speakership is nothing compared to what Alcee Hastings can do. Pelosi is feuding with her California colleague Jane Harman who is in line to become chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee. Pelosi wants someone else. Next in line is Alcee Hastings, a member of the Black Caucus, which is championing his candidacy for Intelligence chairman. No one outside of the Black Caucus would be happy to see Alcee Hastings in a chairmanship. I first saw Alcee Hastings in his impeachment trial in the Senate.

Hastings was a Florida federal judge who was indicted for extortion and bribery and was found not guilty by a jury. A judicial panel then recommended his removal from the bench, which, for a federal judge means impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate. Hastings was convicted by the Senate in 1989 and removed from the bench, whereupon he ran for Congress and won. That's where Alcee's sweet revenge story should end. But Pelosi is actually considering him for the chairmanship.

If Rove had been smart enough to make Alcee Hastings a household term during the campaign, the Democrats would not have won as many seats. If Pelosi makes Hastings a chairman, Rove won't miss the shot this time. The Democrats would instantly take over as the party of corruption. Voters would get a terrible more-of-the-same feeling right off the bat and their throw-the-bums-out attitude would not subside. The first woman Speaker could be a two-year story.

But if Pelosi keeps Hastings and Murtha at bay and runs a smooth ship for a few years, the new Democratic majorities in the statehouses could deliver the kind of gerrymandering--I mean redistricting--after the 2010 census that the Democrats need to get another generational hold on the House. Not forty years like last time, but twenty years is not out of the question. I'm not talking permanent majority here. Only a genius like Karl Rove could get anyone to buy an idea like that.