Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Washington Sampler

Two bits of news I'd like to discuss here.
First off, Crooked Timber excerpts from a Financial Times article by Adam Posen of the IIE (talk about hearsay!). The money quote:
"However, the Bush administration is putting its political staying power ahead of economic responsibility - indeed it is weakening the independence of those very institutions on which Americans rely to check economic radicalism. For example, the current Republican congressional leadership is trying to override the constitutional design whereby the Senate acts as a brake on the executive branch and on the self-interest of “majority faction”. Bill Frist, senate majority leader and George Allen, the Republican senate campaign committee chair, said their unprecedented direct campaign against Tom Daschle, the defeated Senate minority leader, should warn moderate Republican and Democratic senators not to be “obstructionist”, even though that is precisely what the Founding Fathers intended the Senate to do.

… Markets tend to assume that the US political system will prevent lasting extremist policies so, even now, observers discount the likelihood of the Bush administration fully pursuing - let alone passing - this economic agenda. If the thin blue line of Democrats and the responsible Republican moderates in the Senate bravely fulfil their constitutional role, perhaps the damage will be limited. If not, we can foresee the US economy following the path to extended decline of the British economy in the 1960s and 1970s and of Japan in the 1990s."

Those commentators who think that the Senate should just rubberstamp whatever the President throws at it are seriously missing the point. The Senate has the obligation to take seriously its role as a check against unbridled executive power. This isn't to say they should just become liberals for the sake of opposition. But the trend towards excessive party discipline and partisanship needs isn't healthy for America as a whole, regardless of whether we're talking about economic policy or judicial nominations.

Second, the first two Bush cabinet officials to resign are Don Evans and John Ashcroft. I couldn't care less about Evans. Ashcroft's resignation is most certainly welcome (though I've read some reports that say Ashcroft actually was a moderate voice inside the administration and his tough-talk outward persona didn't match what he really felt), though I'm worried about who will replace him. Also, this quote, apparently from his resignation letter, immediately struck me:
"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

On what planet, exactly? Even if you think that America has made significant progress toward making ourselves safer from terrorist assualt (something I'm not sure I believe), we certainly aren't there yet. If Bush insiders think that America is safe and are going to shift their focus away from American security, it does not bode well for America as a whole.


N.S.T said...

One thing, and it's small. Don't you think that if the party roles were reversed, Democrats would be just as partisan in rubber stamping THEIR President's legislation? 99.9% of the things done in congress, the things we don't hear about because they don't make a good story, incidentally, aren't controversial. They pass quickly without much opposition at all. It's the other one percent of controversial legislation, the stuff we hear about in the media, that your comment pertains to. And I'd humbly submit that the tiny portion of bills and resolutions that are controversial and bring out the partisanship you speak of in our elected officials cannot be taken as a disturbing trend towards partisan politics. It's only that the media doesn't tell you about the majority of it-- the bipartisan stuff. --Tell

David Schraub said...

Yes, The Resolution in Support of Father's Day and The Resolution Honoring the Troops are bipartisan affairs. They are also relatively inconsquential. For the IMPORTANT stuff congress does (and I really don't care whether that's 80%, 20%, or 1% of the total), partisanship is bad. I think Democrats would probably be somewhat partisan as well (and I'd oppose that too). At the same time, I think they'd be less partisan simply because they encompass more ideological diversity, their leadership tends to be more towards the center (IE, Harry Reid is the leader, not Ted Kennedy), and because they aren't as good at imposing partisan uniformity and playing hardball as, say, Tom "The Hammer" DeLay is (that's not my nickname, btw).