Spoke tonight with fresh, convincing Jeff Flake of 6th Arizona with regard the succession crisis in the Republican House of Representatives, and he called on all self-announcing candidates for leader and whip to give up their current posts and compete as unprivileged back-bench members. This especially applies to Roy Blunt of Missouri, who is campaigning for leader from his whip post, which Flake explained meant that Blunt, should he lose, would be required to advance the agenda of a man or woman he opposed just moments before. Flake also believes it would strengthen Speaker Hastert if he submitted himself to re-election on February 2, though this would also mean that the Democrats get involved in the election process separate from the Republican leader and whip races.
Flake responded most readily to mention of John Shadegg of 3rd Arizona running for leader. “I’ve talked to him a number of times,” Flake told me, “and I’m encouraging him to get in.”
Flake was adamant that the Republican House needs not just a change of leaders but a change of principles. Fiscal discipline. End to earmarks. End to lobbyists using free travel to grab lapels. End to DeLayism.
Later I spoke to Chuck Todd, editor in chief of the Hotline, with regard to his tough column today on Speaker Hastert. Todd calls on Hastert to step up and speak up about the abuses under Tom DeLay. Todd also believes that Hastert has the power to call for Blunt to give up his whip post while he stands for election, and that Hastert will do this presently. Nevertheless Todd has doubts about Hastert’s intentions, The Speaker is a creation of the Gingrich-Armey-DeLay teamwork of the late 1990s. When and how does Hastert separate himself from the egregious DeLayism that puts the House majority at risk?
With regard to the election of February 2, Flake urged all members to stay uncommitted until the candidates, toe-to-toe with each other, stripped of their mantles, present their policies to change the culture of the Republican House. He also wants the President’s State of the Union to acknowledge that the party is in turmoil. Good advice, though hard to imagine the White House writing such a line while the communications team is still searching for any and all photos of the President with the most infamous VIP of the new century, Smilin’ Jack Abramoff.
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