Tom Daschle and Patrick J. Leahy are senators of substantial seniority and enormous power. Personally, they no doubt are fine, decent and upright men. Politically, however, they are fools. Together they are making the Senate look like a collection of bumbling tin-pot politicos.
Daschle tells his South Dakota constituents that their concerns are uppermost in his senatorial work. But when it comes to the country at large, he's a mean-spirited, narrow-minded senator obsessed with running for president and committed to a guerrilla campaign to undermine President George W. Bush.
He has joined Leahy in blocking Bush's nominees to the federal bench, and the two of them have slammed the door on the president's nomination of Eugene Scalia to become solicitor of the Department of Labor. It's all about petty politics -- at the same time these two and other Democratic senatorial hypocrites prattle about the importance of bipartisanship.
Scalia, by all accounts, is superbly qualified to head Labor's legal department. But he has been blackballed by the Democrats because his father, Antonin Scalia, was one of the Supreme Court justices who voted to end Al Gore's relentless effort to overturn the election results in Florida a year ago.
Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, summed it up well. ''This is an outrage,'' he said. ''This is petty politics -- making the son pay for the perceived sins of the father.''
But petty politics is what Daschle and Leahy do best. Daschle also is one who spits in the eye of Alaska and its Republican senators, Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski.
He refuses to let the Senate consider a House-approved bill that would open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. In this, he shuts his eyes to what is good for the country and panders, instead, to the green vote to bolster his presidential hopes.
If there were oil prospects in South Dakota to match those in ANWR, you know that Daschle would be pushing for exploration with all the energy he has, saying the job could be done in an environmentally sound manner. And he would argue that, after all, he knows best what is good for his home state.
Too bad he won't acknowledge that Stevens and Murkowski know more about Alaska than he does, and know full well that ANWR oil and gas operations would be implemented in the same environmentally sound manner as existing operations on the North Slope.
Unfortunately, the Senate leadership is in the hands of small-minded men.
Daschle and Leahy are a perfect fit.
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