The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cookin' up the nuclear option

From the Rampaging COW comes a bit of old-timer wisdom Charlie Cook-style. As an intro, I'll say that I thought the Dems were looking pretty astute in having Reid offer some potential ways to compromise, and that Frist was being all-too-predictable by swatting the offers aside (and thereby kissing fundamentalist butt, even as the Dems look ever stronger to an increasingly ill-at-ease public). But Cook has taken a bite out of the Sandwich by pointing out what should have been obvious to me-- maybe the GOP was never serious to begin with. Here's a taste of what Cook has to say:

"But when legislators can't legislate, they cease to serve a useful purpose. Whether a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, each member of the Senate came to the body to enact laws and serve their constituents. Shutting down the chamber would not allow them to serve either purpose.

While conservative and liberal activists outside the Senate yearn for a showdown, members of the institution will find themselves under enormous pressure from each other and from those interested in seeing other issues move forward to reach some kind of agreement to prevent the place from blowing up.

The pressure on Republicans will be that they are now well on the way to having a year in which they will get little, if any, credit for any legislative accomplishments and instead will be remembered for controversies
over filibusters, Terri Schiavo and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. Overhauls of bankruptcy and class-action lawsuits have been overshadowed and progress on the energy bill and other badly needed
legislation is being threatened by the Senate's, media's and activists' preoccupation with going nuclear. Republicans need to get the train back on track and focus the spotlight on issues that affect voters' daily lives,
instead of on partisan fights over inside baseball and culture wars.

Democrats have seized the higher ground on a number of issues since the Nov. 2 elections and have succeeded in framing Republicans as arrogant and out of touch. But they are coming under pressure to build on those gains rather than run the risk of being labeled obstructionists -- a charge that was a contributing factor in last year's defeat of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. -- by pushing too hard on this one fight."

All right, so I've been guilty of what a lot of bloggers have-- resenting the elaborate courtship dance of the Senate in favor of advocating a fighting stance. At the same time, it's difficult for me to take Cook's arguments at face value this time. I admire his work, and look to him as an experienced voice of the insider. But this time his argument leaves out a whole lot of evidence. Witness the recent military "base realignment," which takes blue state jobs and moves them to the red states-- odd to say the least, since it was New York that was attacked and not Sorghum, Mississippi. Not to mention what looks like punishment of both moderate conservatives and conciliatory Dems in the way the chips are falling. Witness the consistent GOP policy of steamrolling would-be conciliators of either stripe. The only thing that an extended hand of friendship has earned moderate Republicans or conservative Democrats is a bloody stump. And some chumps (I'm looking at you, McCain) are still buying it.

Cook's a smart guy, and obviously much more experienced than I, but I can't help but think that he's being too charitable toward a GOP that has shown itself -- time and time again-- to forsake its professed values in the name of holding on to power.

Example: (I'm taking reader BL's word for this, and want to acknowledge his contribution) Senator Mitch McConnell started using the term "Byrd Option" to refer to the nuclear option on Fox News Sunday this last weekend. Would the GOP be testing new names for the nuclear option (coined by Trent Lott, just in case anyone doesn't know) if they were just waiting for a chance to drop the argument?

UPDATE: I haven't linked to Talking Point memo in quite a while. It's been pretty disappointing for at least the last month-- wimpy guest-bloggers, and Marshall spending too much time with his latest business enterprise. But today he wrote an excellent piece on the nuclear option. Here's the link.