Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Senate Republicans opt for more of the same

Yesterday the Senate Democrats made some odd leadership choices. Today it's the Senate Republicans' turn. They elected Mitch McConnell as their leader, and brought back Trent Lott to be his deputy.

McConnell was the deputy to retiring GOP Senate leader Bill Frist. So the Republicans essentially decided to retain their existing leadership -- the same leadership that cost them their majority status.

Further, McConnell is one of the most earmark-happy members of Congress, providing millions (and in some cases, billions) of dollars worth of federal help to specific projects.

In this he doesn't differ much from Harry Reid or John Murtha, two Democrats who know their way around the earmark process. But just as the ascension of those two don't exactly build confidence in Democratic committment to reform, McConnell's rise suggests Republicans don't really take it seriously, either.

As with Reid and Murtha, though, let's suspend judgement for now. The past is past; what's important is what steps they take now to curb the abuses that swept the GOP out and the Democrats in.

Lott, meanwhile, brings his own baggage. He was forced to give up the post of majority leader in 2002 after he inexplicably praised Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential run.

You can argue that Lott has paid his penance, and that he's too skilled of a backroom politician to sit in the cheap seats forever. But his reappearance certainly won't do much to help the GOP's relationship with black voters, already turned off by dirty campaigns in Tennessee and Maryland and the ongoing failure of Republican legislators to address relevant issues. For example, the NAACP gave 98 percent of Republicans an "F" in their most recent scorecard.

I'm not arguing the merit of the NAACP's policy positions. But I think it does demonstrate that Republicans are a long way from winning over black voters, and rehabilitating Lott -- who, besides praising Thurmond, got a 5% grade from the NAACP -- doesn't help matters.

Tomorrow, we find out who will lead the House Democrats. On Friday, it's House Republicans.

Update: Once again, conservatives are not happy. Michelle Malkin has a more thorough roundup of conservative opinion. My favorite comes from the Free Republic: "We suck."

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