by Robert Herold

Sometimes the little things are most revealing. Consider: Both Shaun Cross and Larry Sheahan, in their brief biographies, list the Bible as their favorite book. On the other hand, Cathy McMorris, the GOP candidate who has been labeled by some the candidate of the religious right (she did graduate from a Christian college but then went on and received an MBA from the University of Washington), doesn't go the Bible route. She lists Radical Son by David Horowitz. The Democratic candidate to be, Don Barbieri, gives us no glimpse at all: He says that his favorite book is whatever is on his night stand.

OK, so no one listed Jane Austen, or the likes of Adam Smith, or ... well, name your classic. Let's not be snobs. I've not read Horowitz's book, although I know its major themes. It is the autobiographical account of Horowitz's journey from left-wing radical to right-wing intellectual. I've never much liked Horowitz. I saw him in action at a very lively conference held a few years back in San Francisco. He attacked the former counter-cultural leader, Todd Gitlin, who in his mid-life has become one of our more thoughtful social theorists. Watching and listening to Horowitz in action, up close and personal, for the better part of an afternoon, I was struck by how mean-spirited he was. Moreover, his willingness to leap from Stalin to liberalism in a single bound was breathtaking in its sweep and astounding in its claims. Gitlin picked up on all of this and left us with the warning that if we became knee-jerk in either political direction, as Horowitz had, we faced a bad future.

While I haven't had the chance to discuss Horowitz or his book with McMorris, I must say that the simple fact that she, the so-called Bible candidate, cited it gives me considerable comfort. With apologies to her opponents, I must say that with their leap to the Bible, they risk sending a message to us voters that they, not McMorris, are the ones pandering to the religious right.

The reality of this election year is just this: Unless Don Barbieri wins this election or we elect a truly independent-minded Republican, we likely are really electing Tom DeLay. That's right: Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, who runs Congress in the spirit of his nickname, has, according to the American Enterprise Institute, taken advantage of his party's slim majority in the House to effectively end any debate - and thus any deliberation, too. The procedural manual in the House of Representatives today is something like this: It's either DeLay's way or the highway. Oh, some pork barrel can be tolerated here and there, but nothing much more. The GOP member who dares to cross DeLay does so at his or her own risk. In many ways, life in today's House is more shut down than it was under Newt Gingrich.

I watched one of these candidate "debates," which feature television personalities who either can't or won't ask a penetrating question. I kept waiting for someone, anyone, to ask McMorris, Cross or Sheahan about independence. "If elected, Mr. Cross, can the voters expect you to do exactly what Majority Whip DeLay tells you to do?" And, then, the follow-up: "Mr. Sheahan, if you don't do what he tells you to do, how can you expect to be at all effective? And then, another follow: "Ms. McMorris, if you do exactly what he tells you to do, how can you expect to be at all effective?"

This is a kept House of Representatives. It takes orders. It doesn't deliberate. And it has allowed the President to raise the term "bait and switch" to an art form. No Child Left Behind? Largely left underfunded and written so as to be punitive, heavily reliant as it is on problematic indicators. Or the Medicare prescription drug bill? Sold as a response to seniors' needs, it really amounts to a windfall for the pharmaceutical companies - because the government can't negotiate and we can't go to Canada. Rest assured that after prescription costs have risen to ever-new heights, our HMOs will determine that they can take drug coverage off our insurance policies - after all, Medicare has us covered. I could go on and on. Bait and switch: That's what it has been about with the Bush administration from day one.

The way I see it, either we need a Democratic Congress or we need a Republican Congress with members willing to fight for something other than the next perk awarded by Tom DeLay. I'm all for responsible two-party government, but as the American Enterprise Institute tells us, if the Democrats were about a six on a scale of 10 when it came to abusing their majority position in the 1980s, the DeLay Republicans (in league with the likes of Karl Rove and friends) are about a 12.

So, back to the books. The Bible guys worry me. I guess I would like to find out who knows the Bible better -- maybe then we could see who's being genuine and who's just saying exactly what Republicans are expected to say. The last thing the Washington 5th district -- and the nation -- needs right now is another representative who defines his or her role in the Congress as pandering to Tom DeLay.

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Publication date: 09/09/04

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.