Monday, May 23, 2005

Peace in Our Time

So this is the great compromise saving us from the nuclear option. I guess I'm glad that we're skipping that particular showdown (though my support for the filibuster is far from unambiguous), but overall, color me unimpressed. You can read the text if you'd like, but here's the gist of it:
Under the deal, judicial nominees would only be filibustered "under extraordinary circumstances," McCain said.

McCain said the group of 14 pledged to vote for cloture -- an end to debate -- for three judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen.

He said the group made no commitment to vote for or against cloture on two nominees, William Myers and Henry Saad.

The first thing that struck me was that the nominees I recognized off hand were the three getting a vote, Brown, Pryor, and Owen. That surprised me, I assumed at least one would stay off the list. That is definitely a victory for the GOP.

Beyond that small consolation, though, the right is livid. Professor Bainbridge is reasonably content, but he seems to be one of the only ones. Dobson is, predictably, outraged:
"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust" (link: Crooks and Liars and Kos)

It's interesting to note that Dobson appears to be standing behind Frist even after the defeat. Kos, by contrast, thinks Frist is finished after this. We'll see if Dobson maintains his loyalty to his lackey after the cameras go away, or if, like Palpatine and Count Dooku, he will allow his other servants to slice off the head of his failed protege (how's that for geek commentary?).

Powerline is apoplectic, of course. Galley Slaves maintains a sober tone, but it thinks that "extraordinary circumstances" will become a loophole one can drive a truck through. Southern Appeal "mourns" and claims the senate "has just effectively ratified the overthrow, through scandalous means of smear jobs and lies about nominees, the clear constitutional understanding that guided it for 214 years." Scared Monkeys' headline has rapidly made its way across the blogosphere: "Compromise Reached! Republicans Screwed!" I could go on, but you get the idea.

It was always all or nothing for the far right. So it's no surprise they are irate with any sort of compromise.

Third, what of the Democrats? The Moderate Voice has his usual stellar roundup. In the process, he links to Ron Forrnier, who says:
This is certain: Special interest groups on both sides demanded there be no compromise, and now both Frist and Reid will be ducking for cover.

Conservatives want changes on the federal bench after helping Republicans gain control of Congress and the White House. Liberals consider this a test of the party leadership's mettle.

Maybe, but I doubt it. While the Right is getting hammered, the vibe I'm getting from the left is that they consider this to be a victory. Maybe not the KO they were hoping for by defeating the nuclear option in a vote, but still a win on points. Wandering around The Daily Kos, always a good barometer of what the far left is thinking, I hear few firebrand claims of betrayal (though Russ Feingold certainly seems to be in that camp). Talking Points Memo isn't too confident on the text of the deal holding together, but he also seems to be okay with it, on the theory that Democrats came out stronger simply because they managed to fight to a draw--thus stopping the Republican steamroller for the first time in recent memory. Legal Fiction is echoing Kos: not perfect, but still a win. I think the prevailing feeling on the left will be positive. Reid comes out of this looking very, very good. Frankly, he outmaneuvered Frist badly: Frist was backed into a corner, could not accept any sort of compromise, and got burned.

But the biggest bombshell of the day might be this little tidbit extracted from Kevin Drum's comments:
Lindsey Graham claims that of the three who will get votes (Brown, Owen, and Pryor), one will end up getting defeated on a bipartisan basis. A secret codicil? Hmmm.....

Assuming that happens (big assumption), I revise my earlier assessment: Frist is cooked. I already can tell you how the spin war will break: Republicans will say its proof that the Senate can reject out-of-the-mainstream candidates without resorting the filibuster; Democrats will say that it proves that the judges really were extreme and thus justifies their fight. The reason Democrats will win is that Republicans can't get too heartedly behind their own position: their entire PR campaign has been saying that these people are exactly the type of reasonable judges that need to be confirmed. Dobson and Company will not be pleased to watch one of these people go down in flames--and will be even less pleased to hear Republicans claiming that, yes, whoever it was really WAS too extreme for the bench.

How this plays out politically will be very interesting. If Democrats win seats in 2006 (which looks very possible), this small victory will become huge.

So. There we have it. A compromise, if we can keep it.

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