The Left Hook! Archive


Sun. May 22, 2005

What's Up with the Psychotic Republican Power Grab?

I'm usually one to think less of conservatives, but honestly if someone, say, two years ago, had described to me a theoretical scenario involving what the Republicans have been doing with regard to Bush's judicial nominees, I think I'd probably have told him his tin-foil hat was leaking. The nuclear option and the apparently genuine threat to deploy it is the kind of absolutely psychotic power-grab, absent any sense of proportion, that any competent student of history would associate only with emerging dictatorships.

In context, Republicans, so far, have gotten over 95% of their judicial nominees confirmed. What would happen if they were unable to break a fillibuster on the 10 vile specimens presently before the Senate? Bush would simply nominate 10 other conservative Republicans, and the record--again, a 95%+ confirmation rate--suggests their confirmation would be a virtual certainty. Further, this present battle comes on the heels of the Clinton administration, when these same Republicans did everything in their powers to obstruct judicial nominees--the present braying about the fairness of "an up-or-down vote" must necessarily be judged in light of the more-than-60 Clinton nominees who were permanently bottled up in committee by today's brayers after "fairness."[1]  No one likes to be told "what's good for the goose" when they're the gander, but the solution to that is not to have made a bed in which you're unwilling to lie in the first place. The judicial vacancy crisis the Republicans created via their obstructionism was averted during Bush's first term, which means that talking point is also unavailable for their use in the present battle.

So what do we have, here? Republicans have been playing a game regarding these nominations with their dimmer constituents of the "religious right" variety, and, after so many months of sustained grandstanding demagoguery, they would find backing down to be politically uncomfortable. The proper solution here, again, would have been to forgo the grandstanding demagoguery in the first place. Even with their having failed to play it straight, though, political discomfort (and I question how much there would really be, at any rate) with a constituency they can safely take for granted isn't any sort of compelling argument for any policy change, particularly a major one.

No problem exists of even remotely approximate scale to act as sufficient justification for Republicans' behavior in this matter--no matter how they spin it, they're using a nuclear device to swat a mosquito. Even their own self-induced political woes, which are, again, no argument for policy change, are only potential woes, and not very potential ones at that. Those of us with any sense of perspective are, then, left to ponder the spectacle of a party which, while previously devoted to obstructing nominees as a matter of principle, has gotten over 95% of its own judges confirmed in the last few years, but is willing, in blatant violation of the Senate's rules, to eliminate the 200+ year fillibuster forever, just so it can, today, ram through 10 judges too controversial to garner strong enough support to be confirmed through legitimate means.



[1] Since Republicans have made such a public show of insisting that the use of the fillibuster against judicial nominees is "unprecedented"--one of their favorite things over which they've chosen to express their outrage--it should also be noted that they, themselves, attempted to use it against judicial nominees during the Clinton administration on at least six occasions. Bill Frist, the current leader of the nuke-the-fillibuster crowd, voted in favor of at least one of those fillibusters.

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