Thursday, April 14, 2005

Thoughts on the nuclear option

During his more rational moments, Harry Reid is capable of hyperbole, but at other times he’s not even in the same ballpark with reality. Whenever he is making some statement about protecting the sacred filibuster, pulling out that little book, the Constitution, from his breast pocket (kept close to heart), he’s committing and act of theatrics campier than an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. I wonder if Reid ever saw the word “filibuster” in that little book. The term Nuclear Option doesn’t at all convey what that GOP is threatening to do – which is to strip the opposition party of its ability to filibuster judicial nominess. However, the term does capture something in the Dem's counter-threat, which is to grind government to a halt – a sort’ve Dem doomsday device, if you will. It’s lamentable that the GOP might have to take such a measure simply because the Dems, seemingly unable to prevail at the polls, have chosen to hijack the majority rule because of its own deficiencies.

The Dems somehow think that "checks and balances" refer to the two parties, but the Constitution says nothing about political parties. When the Constitution refers to checks and balances, it is in terms of the divisions of government. Perhaps Reid should move his little book away from his heart and closer to his eyes (when he's not thrusting it in front of a camera). As I’ve said before, I love the two party system because it marginalizes radical elements of the political spectrum. It’s a natural state in our government, but it isn’t ordained by the Constitution and the idea the two parties are necessary to bring a balance in power is pretty absurd. In a free society like ours, even if every elected official was from the same party (which is not likely to happen) there would still be divisions based on regional differences and economic interests. Take a look at that GOP today and you will see differences and debate on virtually every issue from abortion to the war on drugs to the War on Terror. That the Dem leadership has marginalized itself should be of little concern to the GOP.

It’s almost comical that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi feel that the failure of their party at the polls should not diminish their party’s voice in any way. According to the rules of the Senate, the Dems are not doing anything unconstitutional by filibustering the 10 nominees. But the GOP won’t be doing anything unconstitutional by taking away that filibuster – in fact, they will be restoring majority rule.

So much for constitutionality…but what about politics?

I’m a little torn on the matter. On one hand, I’d like to see the GOP employ the “nuclear option” and let the Dems try to challenge them strength against strength. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out this week, if GOP Senators are worried about escalation because they may someday find themselves in the minority, then they might as well be the minority party now. On the other hand, as Bill Kristol pointed out on TV a week or so ago, the GOP should at least wait until the Supreme Court openings occur so that the issue will have maximum attention from voters. Since I think the whole thing is to the political advantage of the GOP, I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t employ the nuclear option until after the 2006 elections. At best, the GOP may get enough seats to end the filibuster without it. At worst, they would have lost about 18 or so months in appointing the judges.

But, ultimately, I like the idea of the filibuster as used by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I’m not sure why the current filibuster used by the Dems on the judicial committee does not require someone sweating it out, speechifying until he or she is hoarse, defying sleep and urinating in a bucket so that they stay on the premises – you know, when a filibuster meant something. If the Dems want to block an up or down vote, they should earn it. If possible, the GOP should change the filibuster rules to that kind of measure.

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