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Harjo: Summer's over for the GOP

When future historians analyze the 2008 election results, they likely will point to the week of Aug. 27 as the time when the course was set inexorably for the Republicans' return to minority party status.

The week started with the Attorney General resigning under a cloud and ended with the senior Senator from Idaho appearing to resign over something he pled guilty to doing in a Minneapolis men's room. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales resigned on Aug. 27, effective Sept. 17. He is being investigated for lying to Congress in connection with the firings of U.S. Attorneys.

On Sept. 1, Sen. Larry Craig announced his ''intention'' to resign, effective Sept. 30, saying he was ''railroaded'' into his earlier admission of guilt. Faced with an accusation of signaling by toe-taps and hand-waves that he was soliciting an undercover police officer for sex, Craig copped a plea to disorderly conduct. When the matter came to light, he held a press conference, denying vehemently that he is gay.

Craig, a leading opponent of gay marriages, became a national joke for his hypocrisy and for the ''ick'' factor of quickies in airport bathrooms. The Craig scandal prompted MSNBC's ''Countdown with Keith Olbermann'' to dub the Republicans the Grand Old Potty.

My favorite political cartoon on the subject, by Tom Toles, ran nationally on Aug. 29. It shows two stalls, one with men's shoes and the other with an elephant's feet - one set of pachyderm toes touch a shoe as the voice behind the elephant's door says: ''I'm merely signaling that it would be wrong for us to get married.''

Republican politicos - with flashbacks to the sex scandal of Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and its effect on the 2006 congressional elections - hastily reassembled Gonzales' gangplank in the vicinity of Craig's Senate desk.

One fellow Republican who came to Craig's defense was Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the target of an investigation regarding financial dealings. The FBI raided Stevens' own home in July. Neither Stevens nor Craig should be confused with Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who is the subject of another scandal involving prostitutes, or with other senators with sex or money scandals brewing.

Adding to the perfect storm of the week of Aug. 27 was the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which slammed the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts on Aug. 29, 2005. The failure of the levees and governmental systems that inundated New Orleans and the stories of ongoing devastation and displacement permeated national broadcasts and newspapers all week, reinforcing the reality that something is broken and still needs to be fixed.

On Aug. 31, Karl Rove left his position as Dep. Chief of Staff to George W. Bush, reminding anyone who follows the news that he narrowly escaped the fate of former vice presidential aide Lewis Scooter Libby in the case of the public disclosure of a CIA agent's identify.

Rove's departure from White House duties will presumably free up his time to activate the Republican base against such national emergency issues as gay marriage in the 2008 elections. Many vote-wranglers of the Christian right, such as Team Abramoff, are presently in jail, indicted or subdued, and someone has to take up the slack.

Jack Abramoff continues to serve up former cohorts while he's serving time in prison. During the GOP week that was, Team Abramoff continued to make news as documents surfaced that detailed ways in which folks on the Hill illegally passed around money and favors, some of it in the name of Native peoples.

The Democrats, for the most part, maintained a disciplined silence, although the Labor Day barbeques in key primary states were filled with more hee-haws than usual.

It's hard to see how the Republicans can keep the White House or prevent the Democrats from gaining even greater margins of control in the Senate and House in the next elections. While there is little that the GOP can do to change that outcome, history has shown that Democrats are perfectly capable of losing all the political marbles without any help from anyone else, so a total Democratic victory is not a foregone conclusion.

What does all this mean for Native peoples? The same thing it means for everyone else, plus this: It's time for tribal leaders to stop taking the legal and political advice of the Abramoffs currently in Indian country. Team Abramoff only got $80-plus million of Indian monies. Others in the same league are getting much more today for similarly poor advice and service.

A good start would be to stop paying anyone who is trying to scare you with the specter of non-Indian labor union manipulators attempting to take over tribal casinos. Don't look now, but non-Indian manipulators are already running a lot of tribal casinos. Sadly, some of them also are trying to run tribal politics.

Even though some Indian people are mega-rich, most Indian people are poor. If they're lucky enough to have a job, they could use a union to stand up for them.

And here's a news flash: many Indian people already are union members - ironworkers, dockworkers, mineworkers, maids, waiters, truckers, bus drivers, federal employees, teachers, actors.

This would be a good time to take a hard look at those who are invested in picking fights and keeping them going with long-time allies of Native peoples, and to ask why.

Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.