If he came from a bigger state, he would be mentioned as presidential timber, with his sharp wit and clean speaking style. If he came from a state with a Democratic Governor, he'd be mentioned as a vp possibility. But as it is, he's the sharpest policy strategist in the Senate, able to win big in Red State North Dakota with a combination of populism and budget mastery. He's also been itching to open fire on the Republican flank - last year advancing the idea that the Democrats could force votes on popular policy positions.
Now he's dropping the cross hairs on the toothless watch dog which is the Republican Senate, and is about to launch a plan that will cut into the flanks of the wholly-headed mamoth that is the Republican caucus. Once upon a time early Americans hunted small brained pachyderms in North Dakota, and now Senator Byron Dorgan is going to give us an updated version.
And he's going to do it alternating his "gee shucks" nerdy grin, and pounding out the very long list of "these are the facts" in a Sargent Friday demeanor that is going to make compelling television, no matter how hard cable tries to bury it.
Details of the plan have not yet been announced, but already it is clear that Dorgan believes that there is a gusher of waste, fraud and mismanagement just beneath the way the 'phants have managed the Federal Government. The flip side of being a budget hawk, is watching every single dime of the public's money. And Dorgan knows that the phants have lived by the motto "Snow me the money".
This comes at precisely the right moment: the Democrats need to take the lead on going after corruption for three obvious and important reasons.
The first is the most obvious - the government is a public trust run for the public good. It has no interest but the public interest, no powers but those that the people have as a whole. It is the right to revolution invested in the hands of institutions. It is not a vast private bank for the benefit of the privileged, it is not an insurance company for the stratospherically wealthy, it is not a private security firm for oil companies, nor a maid service for the messes that the captains of finance make. Without a Madisonian war of individual interests set against each other, to anneal the true public will, the government that we have will not function, but will descend, as ours has, to a giant engine for looting the living for the benefit of the dead. It is a moral duty, and if you have ever watched Senator Dorgan talk about the importance of the public trust, you will realize that he is not merely speaking, but preaching the gospel of the American Constitution.
If moral duty to ourselves and our posterity is the first imperative, the more practical duty to our own posteriors is the second. America cannot go on having a huge chunk ripped out of a major American city every few years. America cannot go on with our national effort siphoned off in to Haliburton share holders, and oil archs. It cannot go on, and the collapse of the American auto industry, and the pillaging of the airline pension funds are a stark proximate early warning: "Recession Determined to Strike in The US".
An ineffective government chasing after non-problems making terrorism mountains out of vandalism molehills, building bridges to nowhere, fighting a war without victory in a decade without a name, padding the K Street Konservative's Korruption - cannot act with speed and decisiveness against the enemies and dangers which surround us. America is at the top of the world, either we must have a government that flies with the strength of winged victory, or there is no place to go, but down. The 20th century saw an America born skyward on wings of steel, and it is now threatened to fall as the waxworks financial arrangments we have lived on for too long melt into a dream.
Without a government that is lead by appointees that are competent, efficient, loyal and patriotic, the future is darker than the past. Every government servant must see themselves as being no different from the soldier in uniform in combat - each and every position in the government was created to protect Americans against a danger or an enemy.
The third reason draws from the first two. Politics rests on the belief that you can do better than some other person in office, and the belief that the party that you belong to is better suited by temprement and historical logic to act in the public interest. Having seen the Republican Party betray the unity of the 9-11 moment, having seen the Republican Party use that unity for personal enrichment of its Congressional Leadership - and in an attempt to create a permenant power beyond the accountability of the law, or the fear of the electorate - there is a renewed belief in the Democratic leadership that indeed, America will not awake from this fever dream of endless war and circus of corruption - until there has been a change in the party in power.
To do this will require, at least, two elections. And in reality it will require many - at many levels, in many states. The only way to win such a mandate to act boldly in the name of the people, is to prove over and over again, that the public may entrust a single group of its representatives with the powers to move heavan and earth which the Federal Government of the United States of America possesses.
Let us be blunt: while spygate, plamegate, the downing street memo, the worst recovery for workers in the post-war era, and yawning trade and budget deficits may be the fruit of the poison tree - its root is corruption. Vast oceans of money that buy pay for say op-eds, quiesence from voters who dare not vote against the jobs, even if, often, they know that those jobs are not based on a sound fundamental demand in the economy. Vast oceans of money distort the flow of goods and services, that create millionaires with out morals. Oceans of money that buy, not "access" but the ability to dump legislation directly into the stream.
Congress under the republican leadership has become the cloaca maxima of corruption, and shortly, we are going to see the first real move to clean the clog made by the droppings that the phants' have left behind. Because even the river of money that is the Federal purse is not enough to wash away the weight of the trillions lost in Iraq, revenue reductions, and borrow and squander budget policies.
Senator Dorgan has a plan to cast the sharp light of day on the sewage line that runs under K Street to Capitol Hill. It will not be with fig leaft psuedo-reforms from McCain that there will be an end to this - the problem won't just "go away" by going from money that is ear marked to money that has been brand blotted. Instead, change will come when Congress fulfills its constitutional duty to make sure that the money it appropriates by the power of the People, goes to the people and for the people.
This process is a double protection. The Congress, by overseeing the executive branch, can reign in even the chimperial Presidency. The Congress, by throwing light on appropriations, cannot help but be cleaner itself, because, after all, one cannot call the police, if one is breaking the law. Congress cannot very well call the executive on stealing money that it stole, or padding pockets on Pennsylvania Avenue, to the detriment of those on K Street. "We looted the public fair and square" never works.
Thus a Congress that enforces clean government, must be clean itself. A Congress that is held responsible, can take responsibility, and therefore take leadership. Unlike McCain, who thinks the solution to corruption is a bigger carpet to sweep the refuse under - Dorgan believes that there is nothing wrong with America that we can't fix by seizing the initiative, and exposing, rather than covering up, the workings of government.
Dorgan knows that if the Democrats want to do well, they are going to have to start, by doing some good. More on this as it develops.