Thursday, November 30, 2006


Guess the correct number of "Conscience of Congress"es - win a prize

The “Dean” is at it again – waxing lyrical about soon-to-be-ex-Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican from Iowa who lost his sat after 30 years. Apparently, Jim Leach was “…the man who was known as "the conscience of Congress" because of his personal high standards...”

He was? Why just last month Democratic Underground noted that “David Broder wrote that [Hamilton] Lee was the "conscience of Congress." The Congressional Black Caucus modestly applies the same moniker to itself (even as they seek William Jeffersons re-election). Of course, there is a school of thought that claims that “everybody knows Joe Lieberman is the "conscience" of Congress.” Someone at Mills College gives this title to Congresswoman Barbara Lee. But what about Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (or is he the more specific Constitutional CofC?). Doonesbury fans will probably want us to remember former Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick who supposedly was the model for the comic’s Lacey Davenport. Then again, Congressman John Lewis fans have their own case to make. Anyway, you get the idea – if you’re ever on Capital Hill, it seems just about everyone will answer to “conscience of Congress”.

Anyway, we were sharing a lament with David Broder over his current CofC’s electoral defeat. So how did this happen?

But the big force," Leach said in a conversation in his nearly empty office, "was the accountability thing -- the overwhelming dissatisfaction with the Republican Congress."

Well, count me among the dissatisfied with the Republican Congress and that’s in large part due to Republicans like Jim Leach. Mr. Broder notes two factors that also may have played into the Congressman’s defeat: his role in pushing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and his support for embryonic stem cell research. The former is simply federal meddling in private actions and the latter is not the proper purview of the federal bureaucracy. And if that fed into his loss – that’s fine with me.

Nationally, much has been made about voter unhappiness with Iraq. But Mr. Leach quite famously was the only Iowan not to vote for authorization. His district is heavily Democratic (Mr. Broder notes that it had the highest vote for John Kerry of any Republican incumbent). After 30 years maybe, just maybe, the voters there decided that instead of voting for a Democratic poseur, they’d just go ahead and vote the real deal.

...and please stay tuned to see whom David Broder designates next as our "Conscience of Congress".

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