Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't Let The Republicans Negotiate On My Behalf

I don't know whether the Republican mavericks acted in what they considered to be the best interests of the country (I have my doubts) or in their own personal best interests given their own ambitions and agendas (when it comes to politicians, that's what my money's generally on). But they certainly weren't acting in the best interests of the Republican party. What a really, really awful deal from the purely partisan Republican perspective. My hat is off to the Democrats who got something for nothing and made the Republicans feel like they'd accomplished something to boot. As Molten Thought puts it, though with bitterness rather than amusement, "Once again, the GOP is playing solitaire while the Democrats play chess."

Before I go further -- I'm just babbling off the top of my head, with my initial reaction, which tomorrow I may come back and make fun of. There are Republicans who seem to think they've scored big-time here (you can follow My Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's links). Don't see it myself, but then they take it all more seriously than I and probably have thought about it more carefully.

But from where I sit...God help anybody who has the Republican Party for a sports agent. What an awful deal for the Republicans! Holy cow, these guys really are morons. I mean, I'm not saying that compromising wouldn't be a good thing if you could get reasonable terms -- I'd just as soon people work together like grown-ups as not -- but when you hold all the cards you should at least be able to get the other guy to give you something he wasn't going to lose anyway. Beth and her Right-Wing Co-Conspirators all seem to be talking about things the Republicans have "gained" that they could have had anyway without the compromise. And to get this, the Republicans implicitly ceded the core principle.

The issue: does tradition support the idea that a minority party in the Senate has the right to veto judicial nominations? Even more fundamentally, when we talk about checks and balances of the Constitution, are those checks and balances meant to balance the three branches of government, or are they meant to balance majority and minority parties?

With this deal, the maverick Republicans have cast their vote for the Democratic view -- which I personally think is disastrously wrong -- and have set a precedent that the Republicans are likely to rue bitterly in the not very distant future. And what did they get out of it?

Squat, baby. Oh, no, wait, sorry -- they got photo-ops.

To be fair, that's an exaggeration. They did manage to get a small number of Democrats to agree implicitly that Janice Rogers Brown is not "extreme." I'm not sure what that's worth...personally I doubt it's worth a whole lot, but some people seem to be pinning their hopes on the idea that (a) it means that "extreme circumstances" is restricted to ethical problems rather than ideological issues and (b) that the Democrats will actually keep the deal. Seems pretty iffy to me. I'd've demanded more, myself, at least if I were a group of Republicans agreeing to spit in the face of my political base.

I am presuming that this means that John McCain has given up all hope of becoming President. On few if any subjects do Republican core voters feel more strongly than on the subject of taking back the judiciary from liberal domination, and they will never forgive McCain for this. He stands absolutely no chance now of ever surviving a Republican Presidential primary. And he can't be stupid enough not to realize that. (Can he? Surely not.) So I'd say this is a clear sign that he no longer cherishes those ambitions. I only hope he's been motivated in this by something other than a petty desire to put a knife in the back of Clan Bush, which has, after all, been primarily responsible for McCain's slow but inexorable slide into national irrelevance. It's hard not to suspect that McCain is cackling, "Who's irrelevant now, you nuk-u-lar-option-lovin' bastard Dubya, you?" But we can hope that isn't the case.

I'll tell you this, though, charitable or not: the following section is nothing more nor less than John McCain giving the middle finger to the man who got the job McCain wanted:

"We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word 'Advice' speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President's power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration."

What I think is the funniest thing is the fact that the Democrats gave up nothing that the Republicans weren't going to take anyway. Nothing at all. They promised not to filibuster "except in extreme circumstances," which were very carefully not defined and therefore are basically, "anything we Democrats damn well decide is extreme," and I suspect that the enraged conservative pundits are more right than wrong when they say that "extreme circumstances" means pretty much "anybody besides these three that W nominates if they are devoutly Christian, or if they have enough melanin in their skin to make minorities wonder whether they might be better off Republican, or if they are female, or if they are not known to have contributed to Planned Parenthood." Perhaps I'm unduly cynical -- I have noted that there are some folks who seem to think the term actually has meaning and will be honored -- but the Republican moderates seem to me to be quite astonishingly trusting. I'm having a hard time coming up with any recent examples of Democrats' playing nice or losing gracefully. Of course, my view may be unduly colored by the fact that I live in Texas where Democrats have been known to flee the state rather than admit that the voting public has kicked them emphatically out of power; but still...when's the last time you saw a notable Democrat do something dramatically bipartisan? (That's an honest question, by the way.)

It certainly wasn't today. Hoo, boy, did the Republicans ever get taken on this one.

As for the enraged conservative pundits: what, exactly, did you people expect? If this sort of snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory routine ain't your bag, why are you supporting a party that thinks Bill Frist makes a great majority leader?

My hearty congratulations to the Democrats for the snooker job of the year to date. And don't pay attention to the relatively few Democrats who are annoyed because they are going to have to put up with Brown. Kos and Company know perfectly well that they scored better here than they could have hoped: "There'll be more outrage from their [i.e., the Republican] side, since quite frankly, they lost." See the Kos's take (or at least part of it).

If Bill Frist is still Majority Leader when the next session rolls around then the Republicans just don't want to be in charge.

The Peril

P.S. And if you are a conservative and are enraged by my cavalier attitude toward this particular political tragedy...hey, babe, I have a deep and abiding interest in the fate of persons living in what used to be the Soviet Union; so you're not gonna convince me that the filibuster compromise is going to cause the sky to fall. There are, believe it or not, worse critters in the world than Teddy Kennedy, and worse tragedies than Bill Frist's incompetence. Though I do admit it would be hard to find anybody who's surviving in CIS politics with the advanced level of senility proudly flaunted by the Byrd-brain...or any majority party other than the Republicans dimwitted enough to be outmaneuvered by him.

UPDATE: Hm, maybe I was wrong. Sort of looking that way after a couple of weeks here. That would explain why I don't make a living doing negotiations.

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