Howard Fineman Calls the Abramoff Scandal Winners & Losers

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Howard Fineman has a punchy, interesting piece on who loses and wins in the wake of the Abramoff guilty plea. He notes that one of the big losers is Abramoff’s best buddy Tom DeLay.
TWN has been arguing since nearly the inception of this blog that forcing DeLay from power would automatically improve all other realms of public policy from gay rights to environmental protection to getting U.S. foreign policy back on track. He was a guy that mattered — and was that bad.
While my colleague Ted Halstead has often held out hope that a third party worth the effort would emerge from the muddle of America’s two party system, I have never believed it could really take shape. While there are more Americans who self-identify as Independents rather than Republicans or Democrats in addition to there being more independent-minded Republicans and Democrats than we’ve seen before, the party structure is highly seductive and tough to break.
I’ve always believed that it would be easier and better to hijack a moribund or wayward party rather than to create a new one.
Fineman though has an interesting view on this and suggests that a Third Party Reform Movement is a big winner because of the Abramoff scandal.
He writes:

WINNERS:
Third-party reform movement
:

If Sen. John McCain doesn’t win the Republican presidential nomination, I could see him leading an independent effort to “clean up” the capital as a third-party candidate.
Having been seared by his own touch with this type of controversy (the Keating case in the ’80s, which was as important an experience to him as Vietnam), McCain could team up with a Democrat, say, Sen. Joe Lieberman.
If they could assemble a cabinet in waiting — perhaps Wes Clark for defense, Russ Feingold for justice, Colin Powell for anything — they could win the 2008 election going away.

Many TWN readers will go bonkers when they read about McCain and Lieberman — a suggestion I made tongue-in-cheek a while back — but the notion of a McCain, Lieberman, Feingold, Wes Clark, Powell arrangement while highly unprobable is not impossible.
John McCain feels that it was not the “religious right” who beat him last time. He believes that the “Republican establishment” had already pre-committed to Bush and there was not enough space for him. One of the reasons why he has been picking his battles — like the anti-torture stand he took — and otherwise playing way, way nice with the Bush White House is to win over that establishment that is not yet precommitted to another candidate.
If McCain did lose to George Allen in the Republican primary, he might just pull an Independent run — and I don’t think it would be bad for the country.
The interesting reality is that if McCain was nominated by the Republican Party, I think that Hillary Clinton has a very, very tough challenge — as she is far more polarizing than he is. If George Allen and John McCain were both in the race vs. Hillary, her chances dramatically increase — unless McCain is able to draw off support from both of them in relatively equal amounts.
These are all hypotheticals that I find interesting to ponder. Some will argue that pondering this sort of line up is advocating it. It’s not, so settle down.
More soon. I just got a call from Israel that Ariel Sharon’s condition appears to be dire.
More on that later.
– Steve Clemons
Ed. Note: Thanks to SD for the catch on this.