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March 14, 2006

Comments

Frist really is a ninny. i'm so glad he won that straw poll - please, please, please, GOP, nominate Frist!

See, I completely disagree with this, cleek. I fervently wish for stronger, more able opponents, politically. Because it makes us stronger as a country.

Acknowledged, I'm a recent convert.

Bravo, Slartibartfast.

Slart, from your mouth to any deity's ear.

But the whole campaign system is rotten to the core. When a Senatorial race costs $70m+ per candidate, and the Presidential race costs $150m+ per candidate, we're just not going to get strong candidates. We're going to get candidates who are acceptable to the financiers - whose interest in what's good for the country takes a distant second to their interest in what's good for them and theirs. It means whoever gets elected is in hock to the money axis from the start, and stays that way in our endless campaign cycle.

That's as true for Democrats as it is for Republicans. That's how the GOP winds up creating a K Street project, and how the Dems get stuck with people like Biden and Lieberman.

It also means third party candidates, who are marginal at the best of times, have no chance whatsoever (in anything except, maybe, citywide races), because they're just not wired into the money axis.

Neither Feingold-McCain nor any other reform that has a chance in hell of passing Congress addresses the central problem: the idea that money = speech, and the First Amendment right to "free" speech is determined by how much money can be spent.

The only remedies I can think of would be anathema to just about everyone: free equal time in advertising, and public financing only, to a set limit.

But until the current system collapses under its own corrupt weight (and how will that happen, when the system works so well for its owners?) we're not going to get strong, capable, intelligent candidates with integrity. We're going to get hacks, whores, and spineless equivocators.

as a (recently) former Republican

I missed this change, somehow. Let me just say, "YEESSSSSSSS!" You've cheered my day very much.

And I'd rather have a sane Republican Party than a Democratic win, too.

Up down votes called for
Supreme Court Justices-yes
Dubai ports deal-no
censure-yes

funny, that.

CaseyL, You may want to take a look at Adonal Foyle's group Democracy Matters, which may be right up your alley.

CaseyL, this may be one of the few times that we agree on anything.

I'm kind of anti on the Dubai ports management deal, for many of the same reasons that some Republicans opposed it: not because it would involve the Ay-rabs, but because it would involve a government that's more friendly to our avowed enemies as I'd like. I'm not sure how you can be against outsourcing and for this deal (I know: OBE); I'm ambivalent on outsourcing and definitely against this.

Good stuff, Slart, though I think you're slightly harsh on Frist - he's the majority leader of the President's party, and wasn't (I think) elected to be a statesman.

"CaseyL, this may be one of the few times that we agree on anything."

Maybe we'll agree more, now that you've left the Dark Side. (I jest, I jest!)

Honestly, though, I like policy disagreements that are based on good faith and mutual respect, because I'm a big fan of synthesis. Being a liberal is inherently paradoxical: liberal philosophy requires being open to debate, and possibly changing one's mind as a result thereof. Not so much on basic tenets (liberty, equality, brother- and sisterhood) but on how to translate them into workable policy.

I can't say there's ever been a true Golden Age in American democracy - not without sounding like an ignorant ass, anyway - but what drives me wild about the current situation is that there's no honest debate at all on the really big issues, no good faith or mutual respect. It's all talking points and fearful equivocation - while the country's institutions implode and the warfront spins out of control.

What the blocked vote also shows is that most of the Democratic caucus is not willing to support Feingold.

He did spring this on them, and I can see why that was frustrating. Between this and the PATRIOT act thing, which they could've have spun as a victory without him, he's making them look bad.

But I'm pretty well convinced that the goal here is to force awareness of, and maybe some action on, the ISSUE--and that he sprung it on them because he would rather be very visibly standing all by himself on this than get 12 cosponsors and see it die the same quiet death as every other to hold the president accountable. And I don't blame him. Anyone who doesn't think Feingold's sincerely this upset about this issue has no clue what they're talking about.

I mean, how's this for a strategy:

Hearings would’ve forced Arlen Specter and Lindsay Graham to continue to criticize the Administration. Everyone knew that was the gameplan.

Wow, what a gameplan. What an inspiring display of leadership.

sorry, here's the link for that quote.

Katherine, I was wondering about your take on the springing aspect.

Note that some aspects of Frist's repsonse induce this sort of reaction in me.

"I can't say there's ever been a true Golden Age in American democracy"

Well, for a long time the populist Dixiecrats acted as a restraint on both parties, and few disciplined majorities were possible. Not that I am all that nostalgic.

And congresspeople used to spend more time working, and less time fundraising or at home.

There's a Republican Senator from the midwest that I like, insofar as I know anytihnig about him which isn;t much. Hagel? Every now and then he says something bravely and unpopularly truthful. Is hagel the right name? Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

(I also think that springing it on national TV makes it more likely that he is all alone, but also more likely for it to actually pass by some miracle or at least have the desired effect in becoming the "wacko lefty" position that makes a real investigation the moderate solution. Whereas if you do it the usual way, you can probably collect a small handful of cosponsors, but you make no news and it goes absolutely nowhere and changes no one's mind.

These closed-door appeals to principle--they never actually work on this caucus.

In a way it is a stunt--it won't pass, it's an effort to attract media and public attention and energy--but it's not Feingold who makes it impossible to pass. By that definition most legislation supported by Democrats is a stunt, but it's not their fault Frist and Hastert won't allow votes on decent bills.

But is it a stunt in the sense that Feingold is doing it for his chances in 2008 rather than out of serious concern for the Constitutional, rule-of-law issues involved? I really don't think so. Feingold is obsessive on this stuff, has been for years, and we all know it. You have to have a pretty giant ego to even consider running for President and I'm sure he's no exception. But I'd say it's MUCH more likely that he's running for President so people will pay attention when he talks about these issues, than that he's talking about these issues so people will pay attention to his Presidential campaign.

So depending on how you define your terminology, it's not a political stunt at all; or its an honorable and necessary poltical stunt.)

P.S.: a parable from the Daily Show, then I need to go to bed.

I got mugged the other day... and this bum was beating me with a bottle. And I said, you know what? I'm going to sit back and wait for him to accidentally hit himself with the bottle. Sure enough, he did! I mean, I was unconscious, but I think I won that battle.

In the spirit of atrios-philia:

Open Thread


Yeah, yeah, another stupid open thread.

Which is pretty much a given. Best thing I can say about that is, it's better to be him than, say, Hesiod.

firedoglake (via atrios) has the most appalling quote from Feinstein:

Whereas [the] president of the United States, deliberately misled and deceived the American people, and people in all branches of the United States government; * * *

Whereas [the president’s] conduct in this matter is unacceptable for a president of the United States, does demean the office of the president as well as the president himself, and creates disrespect for laws of the land

You see the punchline coming? Hamsher:
Too bad the President was William Jefferson Clinton.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY???

lily- Chuck Hagel (R) Nebraska, his brother in law runs Diebold IIRC. Chuck is surprisingly popular with African-Americans too. He won in mostly black districts in Omaha by a large margin, districts that had never been won by a Republican before.

Chuck does act like he's not worried about offending President Bush, to the point that the Republican base consider him to be a liberal (like John McCain) although after growing up in Nebraska I would have to say that even the Democrats there aren't liberals.

Slarti,

Impressive post. As someone who's said similar things in the past, don't let the cheering from people you otherwise disagree with grate too much. ;)

I've come to the conclusion that it's hard to find a party that represents genuinely conservative, or genuinely liberal, interests very well. This doesn't mean opting out of the political process, just of stepping back from the concept of 'membership' that is so easy to slide into.

Anderson- I've been thinking about that all night. One possible answer is that the Democrats in DC realize that its just already over. Maybe letting Republicans get both Congress and the Presidency at the same time was the last mistake. Bush has been using modern techniques to spy on people since 9-11 or before, it may just not be possible to knock the people behind Bush from power now.

I fervently wish for stronger, more able opponents, politically. Because it makes us stronger as a country.

well, i agree - from that perspective.

on the other hand, i would so enjoy watching the GOP Right or Wrong crowd eating a big of Frist.

As someone who's said similar things in the past, don't let the cheering from people you otherwise disagree with grate too much.

It doesn't grate at all, Jeff. There's this whole continuum of other issues for us to bicker about; places where we have agreement aren't cause for alarm. Hell, if there are a few discrete issues that, for instance, Jesurgislac and I can agree on...

One possible answer is that the Democrats in DC realize that its just already over.

As regards whether Feingold is making a mistake or not, I think you have to make that assessment from either a political game-theory POV or a resolving-an-important-issue POV; I don't see that these approaches are all that frequently in agreement. And I'm leaning toward the latter, just to be clear.

Instapundit apparently disagrees, but it's not clear whether he thinks this is a political or moral mistake. Whether it's a political mistake remains to be seen.

big bowl of Frist.

yes, leave it to ObWi to get me to leave out the best word in a sentence.

Maybe tactical could be substituted for political in the above. Dunno, it's early and I haven't had my java yet.

There are a lot of upsides for Feingold on this. Especially with the base. We remember he was the guy who voted against the Patriot Act. And he's the guy who stood up and shouted when it was necessary. He's now on my short list for 2008 (along with Clark, who's been silent on this).

What I think Slart and I and most of the rational moderates (leftish and rightish) are incensed about is the end of discussion. This administration, this Republican party doesn't want to *discuss* anything, they just want to decide.

The great power of the United States system is that you should not be able to do anything without persuading *somebody* that you're doing the right thing. Judicial Review, writ of habeus corpus, veto and override, filibustering and cloture, checks and balances......you have to come out in public and make your case.

If you know you have to make your case in public, and have it reviewed by someone, if affects what you bring to market. You self-censor, and your wildest ideas don't get proposed, because they're not realistic. If you have no prospect of someone saying "No" -- you will go far beyond what the body politic will truly accept.

9/11 gave this adminstration total carte blanche to "do the right thing" and they've used it as a cudgel to force through every half-baked idea without answering to anyone.

Debate. Discuss. Bring the censure resolution up for public consideration.

(Bring the Guantanamo inmates into a court and make your case against them. Bring your wiretapping to the FISA court and make your case. Etc.)

Debate. Discuss. Bring the censure resolution up for public consideration.

Yes. Sadly, though, that might mean they'd have to cut back on the usual crap that they consider on a daily basis.

There's an old old cartoon. The wolf spends the day trying to wisk away a sheep from the flock; and the venerable sheep dog works hard a foiling every attempt. All of a sudden, a whistle blows, all action stops. The wolf and the sheepdog grab their lunch buckets, pluck their time cards out of the slot and punch out, exchanging pleasantries the whole time. One would assume they're off to the local pub for a cold one while they kabitz about the days follies.

While the political battle for control over the power of the hearts and minds and money of Americans is most serious, the political gamesmanship we require doesn't always appear so.

You're right slarti, it means, well, whatever it means. And you don't think Frist knows that?

Step away from the politics, Bill? ???

There's no downside. ??? Unless your talking about the 2nd pawn move of a chess game.

If the charge is baseless, we'll see that. ??? Some 'we' may, some 'we' may not.

Isn't it a posting violation for someone to post using someone elses id? Or has slarti been kidnapped and being forced to post against his will. Or is it ObSiWi sweeps week again?

I'm not sure why you think this is not me, bbm. Nor am I sure what your somewhat cryptic comments mean; rather than discuss them I'd suggest that you elaborate.

There's an old old cartoon. The wolf spends the day trying to wisk away a sheep from the flock; and the venerable sheep dog works hard a foiling every attempt. All of a sudden, a whistle blows, all action stops. The wolf and the sheepdog grab their lunch buckets, pluck their time cards out of the slot and punch out, exchanging pleasantries the whole time. One would assume they're off to the local pub for a cold one while they kabitz about the days follies.

I love that one. "G'morning, Ralph. G'morning, Fred." I just don't imagine that it applies in this particular instance, other than perhaps suggesting that these guys have some off-time in which they're NOT being politicians. I'd fervently hope so.

I vote the posting crew save the above as as pure an example of stream-of-consciousness commenting as I've ever seen.

I have found a couple good articles like http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060327/greiderweb>this one and http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/3/14/213305.shtml?s=ic>here. But the scoop is what I didn't see. I scrolled through the major news bureaus at http://news.myway.com/index/id/home.html>MyWay and am seeing nothing.

I did think this was funny:

Jay Leno: “Senator Russ Feingold, who I believe is running for president, he's from Wisconsin. He said, over the weekend, he's pushing the Senate to censure President Bush for spying. And Bush said, he's not worried about it. He knew it was coming. He'd been listening to Feingold's conversations the last three months.”

I actually agree with slarti that the data mining issue needs to be discussed, right where it is being discussed. Debate the law in the Judiciary Committees and in Congress and in the Courts. Continue to examine our Constitution and how it applies to todays complex issues. Let our elected officials hammer it out and ask our judges to judge.

The court of public opinion? Well, sure. But it is what it is, right Mr. Leno?

Ahh, Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf, done by Chuck Jones. And one of the reasons it is so funny is that it is so obviously opposite to what actually happens. So claiming that this a good mirror for what is going on is wrong on a number of levels.

However, one side is perpetually incompetent, which could mirror the Inside the beltway Democratic establishment, and which is why this may ring a bell with BBM. Hell, it rings a bell with me, but probably not for the same reasons that it rings a bell with BBM

Now I want to watch What's Opera, Doc.

Looks as if Feingold hasn't exactly gathered a whole bunch of support, yet.

And Tim, I'm the declared Poster Child of stream of consciousness commenting. So good of you to acknowledge that. And you know, and this is the God's honest truth, I almost called upon lj to help me find the cartoon reference. He truly is the crown jewel of internet research.

And slarti, that's exactly what I meant. I was a little disturbed you related Frist's political positioning to his medical practice. Not fair, really. But at the end of the day, they are politicians and that's what politicians do. I was surprised by the veracity of your post. Try this: when I see Harry Reid do his thing in front of the daily press brief I shake my head in disbelief that this man could ascend beyond Dog Catcher. I understand, however, that in person and off camera meetings, he's quite an engaging gentleman. I should've assumed so. (You liking this Tim?)

Straying a bit further out, I presume you can over analyze anything, but it seems to me the cartoons presented to us way back had a little depth to them. I wonder how that would plan to the Islam world these days.

Here's another:

Jay Leno: “If you think about it, ‘The Sopranos’ are a lot like the Bush Administration, know what I'm saying? No, there are wire taps. People are going to jail. The second in command accidentally shoots his best friend.”

"would play" not "would plan" And I spell checked too. Dang!

I was a little disturbed you related Frist's political positioning to his medical practice. Not fair, really.

Well, he got peanut butter in my chocolate.

Which, when translated, means roughly: Frist polluted one with the other, only he did it first.

Why didn't you say so, I hate Reese's. Tell me you can't stand John Madden and I'll love you forever.

And then there's http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2006/03/constitutional_.html>this one. (It's Tim's fault)

I think Scott has forgotten that there's already a process put in place (by those pesky slave-owning hole-poopers) tom implement what he calls a 667. It's called amending the Constitution.

"to" implement.

Yeesh. Time for more coffee.

And, actually, John Madden's starting to grow on me. I can't stand Keith Jackson. Or Joe Theismann; even though he frequently makes interesting observations, it's all about Joe.

Iran Contra and Our Present Constitutional Discontents

Sandy Levinson at Balkinization traces our present crisis back to the 80s:

"He [Holden] also offers several hypotheses as to why Congress has voluntarily ceded much of its power to the White House. One reason, of course, is that serious debate about public policy requires immense investments of time and energy actually to learn what is involved. Modern politicians get relatively little payoff for such investments, especially if the President can count on loyal supporters (which Holden analogizes to the king’s agents in 18th century British parliaments) to proclaim the supremacy of the President and the inappropriateness of a truly independent Congress (especially, of course, during a time of war)." ...SL

I actually believe, per Constitution and FFs, the Senate should be the most powerful branch, at least in foreign policy. The House should lead in domestic policy. The President is an executive, and should no more initiate policy in any way whatsoever than a General should decide when to go to war or Interior create parks. The Presidency "negotiates" treaties in the same way a 3rd-level Undersecretary of State negotiates...under the complete control and supervision of the Senate.

It is a very tough system, and very difficult to keep whatever idiot sits in the Oval Office from grabbing power. Unitary leadership is the default for human nature, but our country is based and utilizing and thwarting the worst in human nature to achieve positive outcomes.

Good post, Slart. I wish Feingold had gotten more support for this before he announced it, but now that he has, I'm dreading that all the usual suspects on the Democratic side of the aisle are going to scurry for cover rather than try to hold the president accountable. I can't decide which is worse - the Dems who think Bush broke the law and who're afraid of saying so, or the Dems who probably think there's nothing wrong with illegal wiretaps as long one of their own's in the White House.

Just popped in to say hello and without a single rivulet of consciousness. But this, too ........

..... a noted Roman historian, roused from his sumptuous tedium by the unnerving ability of the odious world to become itself in ways unbecoming to his exquisite and always virginal alabaster standards, once minutely adjusted his toga and let fall this bored judgement -- here, on these pages, to a fellow who later found unbecoming environs more becoming to himself -- "look what you have become".

I have read today and observed Slart very becoming in his becoming and not because it becomes me (no becoming there, I am what I am) but because it is simply a very becoming becoming, a quality not observed in the discourse in recent times.

Bob,

Interesting essay you pointed out. I have noted before that for me, Bush's willingness to bring people involved in Iran-Contra, such as Poindexter, Abrams and Negroponte, into his administration was the first sign that this was going to be a difficult adminstration to accept as being willing to handle such matters in an above-board manner. I only wish I were not so prescient.

I don't know Bob, reading over the Federalist Papers #47 & #48 I'm not sure Madison thought as such. No doubt an issue as difficult then as now. I'd better cite, hold on...http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed48.htm>start here and maybe read backwards. Good stuff. Read, then discuss among yourselves.

BTW, I appreciated the post, slarti.

Thanks, DTM. I don't do it for the applause, but it's nice all the same.

I'm going to have to disagree completely with blogbudsman. It's pretty clear from the design of the Constitution that the Congress is supposed to make _domestic_ policy through its power to initiate laws, which the president can only accept or deny, and that the President is supposed to make foreign policy, which the Senate can only accept or deny. This is why the Senate has only a yes/no power over treaties. It can ask for changes before ratifying, but it can't force them, the way it can force a law into existence over the President's veto.

In other words, the Senate checks the President's power over foreign policy the way the President checks Congress' power over domestic policy (which comes from its role as the font of law).

I actually believe, per Constitution and FFs, the Senate should be the most powerful branch, at least in foreign policy. The House should lead in domestic policy. The President is an executive, and should no more initiate policy in any way whatsoever than a General should decide when to go to war or Interior create parks.

Bob, this battle was lost in the Washington Administration. I was just reading about how Washington pondered whether to ask the Senate for a list of desiderata before sending Jay to negotiate a treaty with GB, and decided against it.

John Biles's neat schematic is suspiciously simple but very attractive.

I'm not going to disagree completely with John. But those cut and drieds just aren't anymore. Was the port issue domestic or international? National security? Love this stuff.

I reread #47 & #48

"In other words, the Senate checks the President's power over foreign policy"

Well, I am more inclined toward a President having greater influence over foreign policy than domestic, and am most offended by the laundry list of WH initiatives that the SOTU has become.

The Constitution is just a set of laws, and laws force nothing, determine nothing. Tyranny or dissolution is always a possibility, and laws do not prevent it. There is a meta-Constitution that should help each branch it is attitude towards its role, and there are mechanisms that create inertia against the usurpation of perogatives. I prefer perogatives to powers. We should always be on the edge of a Constitutional crisis, and the three branches should see themselves in conflict and competition with the other two.

Yes the President can theoretically bring "take or leave it" treaties and judges to the Senate. The Senate should be greatly offended by such actions, and reject them out of hand. Consultation, compromise, and cooperation should be forced...the point of "blue slips", for instance. And resisted by the WH, until both sides become exhausted. No branch should grant the others an inch. Governance should be really hard. The Senate could try to negotiate treaties, but deciding on which ten members would sit across from Putin would be challenging, and the executive could refuse to enforce it, and the judiciary not recognize it as law.

So the President ignoring laws or interpreting them as he pleases strikes me as not that extraordinary. It is not "wrong" until he is stopped and punished. What is extraordinary is the Senate and Judiciary not saying:"Make my day, mudder." The Fathers feared factionalism and parties above all things, because of the dangers of cooperation and unified government.

And as I see history, war is not an extraordinary situation, just "diplomacy by other means". We have rarely not been at war or near war. Finegold is just doing his job.

FLASH: Harkin co-sponsors the censure bill.

"Bob, this battle was lost in the Washington Administration."

No battle is ever lost. I respect the "Constitution-in-Exile" movement, and the desire to negate Marbury v Madison. Don't like it much. We is a free peoples, and politics is a market, not a set of chains or a geological formation. Even Microsoft will one day be dust.

Iron Lungfish: I can't decide which is worse - the Dems who think Bush broke the law and who're afraid of saying so, or the Dems who probably think there's nothing wrong with illegal wiretaps as long one of their own's in the White House.

The former, and there are a lot more of them.

Slarti: thanks for the post. It's definitely not going to be the end of Feingold's career. And I believe that Senate debate of censure, should there be any more of it, will demonstrate that there is a great deal of merit in it.

slarti - there's the Demo ticket for '08. Feingold and Harkin. Would be a boost for the ethanol industry. Could be worse.

Would be a boost for the ethanol industry.

Well, that's just what we need.

And I believe that Senate debate of censure, should there be any more of it, will demonstrate that there is a great deal of merit in it.

I don't think I'll make any predictions.

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