Shaking up Congress, on both sides of the aisle

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As low as George W. Bush's numbers are in the polls, he can still look down: Congress fares even worse in virtually every survey. The latest Gallup reading gives Congress a 23 percent approval rating, the lowest in many years. So one would think leaders in both parties should see the need for changes.

In the Senate, Democrats should consider replacing Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. Unfortunately for Reid, television counts, and he is inadequate and fumbling before the cameras. The whip, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, would give the Democrats an articulate fighter who makes a good account of himself on and off the floor.

To fill Durbin's spot, how about Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California? She is the most popular political figure in the nation's largest state. She is thoughtful and smart. Another possibility would be the moderate Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, although he may be thinking about running for president. (It seems like half the Senate in both parties is always thinking White House.)

In fact, call the roll on Democrats thinking about running: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Russ Feingold, and Bayh. That is not a recipe for togetherness next year.

Republicans won't want my advice; they'll get it anyway. Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee has been a poor leader, but he is leaving to run for president. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the whip, is certainly more qualified than Frist, and he knows the Senate. He can rankle some senators, but leaders have to be pests at times.

With McConnell moving up, the GOP senators would be well served to elect Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as whip. I know, I know. Hagel is considered a loose cannon by the White House on Iraq, but he would bring a fresh face and fresh ideas.

In the House, Democrats will probably re-elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California whether they are in the majority or minority. Pelosi is a handsome figure in the House, but she is just too liberal. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the whip, is a moderate who could better rally the party leading to the 2008 election.

As for any possible changes in the GOP leadership, forget about it. Rep. Dennis Hastert will remain as speaker, and the party's leadership team led by Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is a cinch. At least they don't have to worry anymore about Tom DeLay making a nuisance of himself.

Democrats should cheer the prospect of no change in the opposition leadership. Even with DeLay leaving, the GOP is still struggling.