Monday, 6 February 2006
The Opposite of Progress; Alito edition
Notes & observations on the recent Congressional clown show.
First, why not Alito? Here's one place to start on why not. Here's another and another (all via Medley).
40 Democrats, Lincoln Chafee and Independent Jim Jeffords voted No on the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
If that many people were genuinely serious about keeping him off the bench, they could have all held together for a filibuster. They did not (only 25 did), ergo they were not all serious about opposing him, they were just making a token 'Nay' vote for the crowd.
The posturing worked well enough to fool some surprising people; NARAL in particular is encouraging its supporters to thank Lincoln Chafee & Joe Lieberman, showing a shocking blindness to which votes actually make a difference in outcomes. Psst, they both voted Yea on cloture. As an advocacy organization, you might consider supporting an opponent to Chafee or Lieberman who would actually vote with your positions.
Firedoglake has more on NARAL's strange habit of working against its own interests, including a recommendation to return NARAL donation envelopes empty with the annotation "no more money for Coathanger Chafee".
Before the John Roberts hearings, Republicans laid the groundwork to claim that filibusters were an illegitimate parliamentary tactic; trickery; cheating. Does anyone out there truly believe that if the tables were turned and the only practical way to stop a 'dangerously liberal' judge from reaching the Supreme Court with a lifetime appointment was a filibuster, that Republicans would not make use of one? Please.
- Had there been a successful filibuster, of course, the majority party had already threatened to cross out some of the Senate rules and end debate anyway (a.k.a. 'the nuclear option' a.k.a. 'breaking longstanding rules because you can't get your way legitimately'). It would have been interesting to see that play out; I'd prefer my Congress to force power grabs to be naked and unambiguous rather than let them proceed at a gradual, frog-boiling pace.
Senator Feingold has thrown some very strange 'Yea' votes Dubya's way - he voted for Ashcroft for Attorney General, he voted for Roberts for the Supreme Court... If I understand his reasoning (and I don't think I fully do), he is behaving like he believes a civilized opposition should -- in his mind, Presidents should get a lot of leeway in their appointments, even lifetime ones. He votes for such nominees so that when the tables are turned again (if ever), he believes he'll have a lever with the opposition since he was such a nice guy back when.
To paraphrase the Secretary of Defense: You attempt to affect policy with the opponents you have, not the opponents you wish you had.
Feingold seems to be attemping to play a gentleman's game, or even more misguidedly set a good example, when his opponents prefer instead to rack up victories in whatever they have to with no regard for consistency or, finally, for their own professed conservatism.
I'm most reminded of Ender's Game, where the lead character keeps coming up with fresh strategies to successfully handle more and more challenging scenarios, leaving his classmates and opponents in the dust. The Republicans at this point are playing a completely different game from the Democrats; they've simply raised their game many more times (with the help of co-opted [or outright party-run] media).
Though both demented and sad, it's not actually a shock that Democrats couldn't hold their small caucus together. It's so small now that there's little room for error, and they don't seem to have the talent for uniform action that the Republican caucus has. It's a serious loss and it should have been avoided; it's just not hard to have seen it coming.
No, what surprises me most about the easy confirmation of Alito is the entire Senate's eagerness to give up Congress' status as a coequal branch of government. One would think that a Senator's interest in having the laws they pass actually mean something would lead them to vote against an explicitly professed Unitary Executive judge...
Oh, I could go on all day & night for a week. More on that point later. Enough for one post.
On Feingold and his absurd vote for Roberts - now he is saying that the President should not have that much latitude when it comes to judicial nominations. Over at TPMCafe Feingold wrote:
In January of last year, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at hearings to decide whether he should be confirmed as Attorney General of the United States. Going into those hearings, I had an open mind -- unlike with judicial nominations, a president should have wide latitude to appoint who he wants to advise him.I think the man is confused about (or obfuscating) what he thinks about "advise and consent" and share your confusion about his reasoning. This latest statement just muddles the matter further.
But, apparently he's the great progressive hope.. so.. uhh.. yay Russ?? I'll just go sit here in the corner with the other wimmin's...
Sigh...more hatin' on Feingold. I've said my piece over at GITM and Medley, so I'll just leave it at this, regarding the Senator and the more-than-slightly confused Dem caucus:
To paraphrase the Secretary of Defense: You attempt to affect policy with the allies you have, not the allies you wish you had. ;)
Yep - haters, that's us. Hateful, hateful, people. How dare we point out inconsistency? That's just meeaaaaan of us.
Well, I'm not sure I see this inconsistency you're pointing out. So, his threshold for a judicial nomination -- which Roberts cleared -- is a narrower window than what he allots for cabinet members. Fine...what's the problem? Just because you don't agree with his vote for Roberts doesn't mean he's being inconsistent.
But, again, we've been over this.
I think I missed the moment where Feingold became a Tactical Genius who is Beyond Reproach, could you remind me when that was?
On the Roberts vote, help me understand what the downside of a No would have been.
The downside of a Yes was that now Feingold is on record saying it's ok to put more people on the Supreme Court who will rule in favor of forced childbirth and in favor of an Executive Branch which doesn't answer to any other branch. It's funny, his other votes aren't like that, so why was this one?
Roberts should not have cleared the narrower hurdle.
What was wrong with voting No? What was there to lose, that hasn't already been lost?
I don't think Feingold -- or anyone else -- is beyond reproach. But I also don't think Feingold is being inconsistent here, nor do I believe that his vote for Roberts was a bad call.
To be honest, I'm getting kinda sick of having the same conversation over and over again. So, regarding the Roberts vote, I'll refer you to my original post, or check out the Medley thread again.
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