Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Baird throws Hastings a rope

When all else fails, kill something.
Sea lions are protected by federal law. But Republican Doc Hastings and Democrat Brian Baird said they will introduce a bill that would let officials from the two states, as well as American Indians, quickly obtain permits to kill a limited number of sea lions that are going after salmon in the Columbia.
Now, sea lion predation is a problem, and it seems to drive the fishing enthusiasts mad, probably because it's such an obvious and visible problem, unlike habitat destruction, dams themselves and variables in the ocean. Why worry about global climate change when we can chamber a cartridge?

Baird (WA-03) is developing a regrettable habit of co-sponsoring questionable legislation with righties, especially on environmental issues.

Baird and Oregon Republican Greg Walden co-sponsored salvage logging legislation late last year, which ultimately led to an unfortunate kerfuffle bewteen Baird and an Oregon State forestry graduate student.

And you have to question why Baird thinks it's a good idea now to throw a rope to Doc Hastings. I thought Hastings was going to "immediately" get to the bottom of the Foley page scandal. How nice of Baird to provide him a platform to change the subject. This really isn't complicated.

Hastings was starting to drown, and instead of throwing him an anchor, Baird throws him a rope. Baird is all but assured re-election, so why he thinks it important to co-sponsor legislation with Hastings this week is beyond me.

This is just so typical of what's wrong with so-called New Democrats. Schooled and tamed by years in the political wilderness, too many of them fool with small little battles on the margins. Which is fine for a party that wants to remain in the minority forever, not so good for a party poised to take control.

The weird thing is that the "Blue Dogs" and "New Democrats" are likely going to be outnumbered by progressives in the new Congress, so one would think co-sponsoring legislation with the embattled Republican chair of the doing-nothing Ethics Committee is a poor strategic move on Baird's part.

And make no mistake, the "kill something" bill won't do much at all about saving salmon. It will make some people think something useful is being done, namely killing a small number of sea lions, while more important issues get short shrift.

Now, I am always careful to point out that Baird had the guts to oppose the Iraq War resolution, which was not a trivial matter. He voted for the lunatic Schiavo legislation, which I still don't understand. And while I can appreciate the need for members in swing districts to have some lattitude, there really needs to be some party discipline as well.

Baird has been a decent member of Congress. Let's not forget that in 1996 he nearly defeated the odious Linda Smith, prompting Smith to launch a suicidal bid against Sen. Patty Murray two years later. He has had to battle the insane right wing relentlessly, both in his district and in Congress.

But times change. Democrats will most likely be a majority in the House. It will be interesting to see how centrists like Baird fare. Personally, I think he'll adapt and do quite well, once he figures out he doesn't need people like Walden and Hastings.

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