Veteran congressman Jim Leach (R-IA) went down to defeat in the massacre of 2006. I'm no apologist for "moderate Republicans" but it is worth saying that Leach was, in my estimation, fairly clearly the best House Republican. Nevertheless, one can only be thrilled with his defeat. That it happened just goes to show how fundamentally rotten the whole GOP scene had become. Leach was, in many ways, a person possessed of genuinely decent instincts and some fundamentally sound ideas about how the United States should conduct itself in the world.

Nevertheless, in practice he was useless. His presence in the congress did the world no good whatsoever. He'd be more valuable as a professional talking head or stashed away in some think tank somewhere. Whether his total inability to affect the direction of the country was due to a lack of personal courage and savvy, or simply a consequence of the structure of contemporary American conservative politics I couldn't really say. But useless is what he'd become, and a Democratic vote in the House will be useful. Chuck Hagel, who's very much the Jim Leach of the Senate, ought to take a good, hard look at this -- he, like Leach, has for years now been saying many good things and doing essentially no good at all. Unless he can find a way to actually impact the country, he'll deserve to land in the ash heap of history every bit as much as Leach did.

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