Don’t Strike If You Can’t Win

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November 9, 2010 10:42 a.m.

It’s a little hard for me not to see this situation in the House as just a needless blow up that didn’t have to happen at all. Speaker Pelosi is apparently now trying to find a resolution of the fight for Minority Whip between Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn. But Clyburn’s people are telling us he’s not going to compromise. He wants a vote. And he’s apparently flying home this afternoon to South Carolina without any meetings scheduled with Pelosi or Hoyer.The key detail here is that it really looks Hoyer’s got this wrapped up. So any compromise or resolution almost certainly amounts to Clyburn bowing out of the race — and presumably drop a rung down the ladder with Pelosi and Hoyer and take the third spot in the leadership.

Now, there’s often an assumption in Washington or in a lot of clubby environments that you don’t want open fights. Don’t go through the divisiveness of an election. Work everything out, etc. But why that should be isn’t necessarily clear. If two people and/or two factions want the job, have an election. That’s our system. Nothing to be afraid of.

But here’s the key. I haven’t seen anything to disabuse me of the notion that this is exactly what it looked like on Friday — namely, a pretty clearly orchestrated effort by Pelosi and her top supporters to boot Hoyer out of the leadership. I made the argument here last week. Since then there’s been sort of an evolution shall we say from Pelosi’s team doing nothing to dispel the notion that they were trying to remove Hoyer, to their not having any position one way or another, to know when Pelosi seems to be looking for a way to ease Clyburn out of the race. They say nothing’s changed; but that doesn’t seem credible. And just so we’re 100% clear: people close to Pelosi say she’s always been agnostic on who gets the other leadership positions in the 112th Congress.

You can boot someone out of the leadership. Or you can have everyone be friends and move into the minority as one big happy family. But why try to boot someone out of the leadership if you don’t know if you have the votes to pull it off? That’s amanteurish. It really is looking like Murtha II.

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