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” A military leader is accustomed to giving orders and getting them carried out. He has no political, legislative or business experience. He’s an American hero elected in a democratic election and treading on new fields. He’ll need help. Remember that we are Americans first and Democrats second.

Remember, any jackass can kick over a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one”

– Sam Rayburn ( D-Tx) 1953, speaking to House Democrats about the
newly inaugurated President, Dwight Eisenhower.

Can you imagine a party leader in Congress today saying such a thing about a president who was from the other political party ? I think Nancy Pelosi might prefer to see her tongue turn to sand.

Incidentally, the voters rewarded Rayburn’s constructive engagement strategy in 1956 by returning the Democratic Party to a majority in the House of Representatives and Rayburn to the Speakership, which ” Mr. Sam” held until his death in 1961.

Compare that to the electoral records of the House Republicans and Democrats when they employed ” scorched earth” political tactics against Clinton and Bush. You take care of your wingnut base by by throwing it red meat at the times when doing so causes the party no harm; you don’t let the base start dictating the feeding schedule.

The Republican base is standing on chairs and clanging tin cups on the table. The Democratic base has commandeered the kitchen and is now ransacking the refrigerator.

4 Responses to “”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    You’re right, Mark. Very much to the point.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    The strange part is, at least it seems to me, that there is a fairly large middle in the country that would respond very favorably to the sentiments expressed by Speaker Rayburn.


  3. Kobayashi Maru Says:

    Great historical reference, Mark. Very timely and sorely needed. Decorum never goes out of style.

    As for your last analogy however, I think it’s backwards: the Dems (for the most part) are the ones drunkenly cavorting on the table, throwing plates and silverware with little thought for the consequences. The Republicans are allowing them to do so because they’re too busy gorging themselves on pork at the refrigerator (along with plenty of Dems who eat there regularly). Their crime: not bothering to tell the Dems to sit down, shut up and behave.

    I’ll Winston Churchill’s famous (and possibly apocryphal) rejoinder around for a moment (the one where some duchess or other says to him at a state dinner: “Sir, you are drunk!” to which Churchill is reported to have replied: “Yes, but in the morning, I will be sober and you will still be fat.”):

    The Republicans can always lose the (fiscal) weight they’ve allowed themselves (and all of us) to put on. The Democrats not only have to do that but also need to learn common sense and manners and regain their crediblity for responsibly dealing with national security. And that is a much larger and more difficult set of maladies to try and fix before 2008.

  4. mark Says:

    Kobayashi Maru,

    That is an interesting take. I certainly cannot argue that the GOP has been anything other than pigs at the trough. Deep in the trough at that. Small government seems to have been forgotten.

    My imagery as I intended it was to demonstrate the relative power of the base within each Party. The GOP extremists are barely controlled by Rove while there isn’t anyone at all to crack the whip on the Democratic side

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