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US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had surgery today for pancreatic cancer. Odds are that she either will retire or die in the near future, which would be a great loss to the nation. If so, then Obama will appoint his first Supreme Court justice to replace her. That appointment will say much about Obama, the Senate Democrats and the Senate Republicans.

I say this now: if Senate Republicans filibuster Obama's nomination -- meaning that if every single GOP member of the Senate refuses to vote (because all of them must concur to defeat a cloture motion) -- then the Democrats henceforth should literally ignore the GOP. For all Obama's talk of post-partisanship, for all of his GOP appointments to his Cabinet, for all of his significant legislative concessions despite his commanding congressional majorities, the GOP has done nothing to reciprocate. To date, the House GOP gave Obama zero votes, the GOP derided Obama from his first day in office, and now the Senate GOP would filibuster a Supreme Court nominee when they themselves threatened to eliminate the filibuster when a larger Democratic minority lined up against Roberts and Alito.

If such hypocrisy comes, and if it doesn't prompt Democrats to make light of GOP obstructionism and take steps to end it, then the Democrats are pansies and primaries are certain to follow.

The wise move now would be for Democrats to start using their commanding majorities in both Houses to show the GOP that neither the Administration nor the Congress will let the GOP roll them anymore. They badly lost the election and yet the Democrats have accorded them far greater authority and influence than the GOP's electoral numbers command. If the Dems keep rolling over and playing dead, they'll roll over and over and over until the nation falls off a cliff.

Date: 2009-02-05 07:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're being mildly disingenuous here. First, the fact that some Democrats crossed the line on the (deeply flawed, special interest-beholden, and waste-filled) stimulus package is evidence that opposition to it is not merely a partisan interest.

Second, just because the Democrats failed, at every opportunity, to be an effective opposition party does not mean Obama (who knows better, regardless of your stance) is going to blame the Republicans for being one. You shrink from blaming the Democrats for anything, but their spinelessness and inept Congressional leadership is to blame for their lack of productivity.

The wise move, technically, would be to assemble a stimulus package that doesn't look so much like crap-business-as-usual in DC. This is predominantly a spending/appropriation bill right now, and Obama's consistent railing against the "failed economic policies" of the past is currently being used as a foil for both a bunch of highly questionable (but NEW AND SHINY) economic policies that, historically, cause serious long-term economic problems in nations that implement them (yay, more long term entitlements - see France), as well as a large number of programs that will either be long-term stimuli (outside the scope of the current recession) or not stimulant at all.

Another point you don't address is: what if Obama's first pick for nominee sucks? Oh, right, he doesn't make mistakes, and all left-leaning judges are constitutionally sound and intellectually brilliant while right-leaning ones are inept, dishonest, or both. I forgot.

Date: 2009-02-05 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I agree with Heef (mostly). Also, on the judicial pick, he needs to select someone who the Repubs can support also, not make a divisive pick (which the GOP has been guilty of doing in the past, of course). In the case of Roberts, for example, he was quite conservative but his record was impressive. Ditto for Alito and going back further, Scalia, even though I am sure you say "may he be cursed" whenever you utter his name. As for ignoring the GOP, that is a very dangerous game because if he doesn't have GOP buy-in for anything, he risks getting ALL of the blame when things go wrong. As a matter of self-preservation, he needs to get the GOP on board to an extent. Finally, there was a lot of junk in the House stimulus plan. Education for STDs. Refurbishing the national mall. Good stuff? Maybe. But not stimulative. I view the house bill as an opening offer that hopefully in the end will get much better.

Date: 2009-02-05 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Good stuff? Maybe. But not stimulative.

Hmm. Does it need doing? Would doing it cost money? Hire some people to do it, and then the thing gets done, the money goes in the people's pockets, ta-da!

I'm no economist, but that sounds stimulating to me.

Date: 2009-02-05 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
See my response to [ profile] heef. My point is not to support any one policy, bill or nominee, but to note that the Official GOP position strategem for nine years has been to refuse compromise with Democrats, on nearly every issue, no matter what. This strategem eventually wears and, if it reaches a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, should cause the Democrats to lash out. If the Democrats acted the way that the Republicans have for years, the Republicans would hardly have heat in their offices now.

Which isn't to say that the Democrats are always right. They're not. The stimulus bill may or may not work; its contents may or may not be "correct"; a judicial nominee may or may not be terrific. I am not a dyed-in-the-wool liberal right or wrong, and especially on judicial policy, I have deeply nuanced views that transcend the usual and very tired left-right continuum. My point is that the institutional Republican Party would have greater claim to moral and policy legitimacy if for once it actually built bridges to somewhere rather than burning them.

Date: 2009-02-05 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
[points this response at the anonymouse I was responding to in the first place][g]

Date: 2009-02-05 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm. Does it need doing? Would doing it cost money? Hire some people to do it, and then the thing gets done, the money goes in the people's pockets, ta-da!

I wish the bill were better-formed than this, but parts of it are not.

Some things are far more effective as stimulus than others. For instance, unemployment help, food stamps, heating oil - good. National Endowment of the Arts, bad - very low bang for the buck.

By your rationale, you could make the case to spend an arbitrary amount of money, and on anything... not to mention that one of the best economic stimuli, historically, has been war, so by that analysis, we ought to go start another, right?

There needs to be substantial thought put into it. That's why Geithner and Summers are on board trying to assemble this thing, and not Cheech and Chong.

Date: 2009-02-06 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Or STD education and refurbishment of the Mall, since that's what your mouse brought up and I was specifically responding to. :-) That's all.

Date: 2009-02-06 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sure, but even those aren't really stimulus, they're appropriations (and social policy, in the case of STD education - don't get me wrong, I support it, but it's a matter of defining its category). Refurbishing the mall is a short-term, very small job creation that ends very quickly - it creates effectively zero long-term jobs. STD education, basically the same thing. So the anonyrodens was still correct - you can want those things, and that's fine, but they're not economic stimuli of any meaningful nature.

Date: 2009-02-09 02:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Of course he should pick a judicial nominee with an "impressive record"-- Michael Moore would be a terrible pick-- but if we're to maintain some semblance of balance in the Supreme Court, he needs to appoint someone who is as radically liberal as Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts are conservative. Arguing that his choice should be a moderate is like a smoker telling his non-smoker roommate that he won't complain about her not smoking if she won't complain about his smoking.

Moderates all around would be great, but when one side brings a gun, the other side needs to be armed too.

Date: 2009-02-05 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, right, he doesn't make mistakes

Oy vay. There you go again.

I wasn't offering a treatise of completeness. For the umpteenth time, I've never said and expressly disclaimed that Democrats generally or Obama especially are paragons of virtue and always correct. I've never said and continually disclaim that Republicans are useless. My point is a limited one: for the last eight years, and now this ninth, "compromise" has found no place in the official GOP lexicon. Not once during GOP hegemony of Congress and the Presidency (2001-2006), not once during Bush's final years when Democrats marginally controlled congress (2007-2008), and so far not once during the GOP's minority status under an Obama Administration, have the Republican Party leaders *ever* so much as given lip service to forging compromise with Democrats. On issue after issue, whether right or wrong, they have either rolled the Democrats and branded them traitors when Democrats dared to disagree (when the GOP ran DC), or they obstructed (when Democrats took power). There is no legitimate debate on this point, just disagreement on whether this point reflects good or bad politics.

If Democrats acted the way Republicans did, then there wouldn't be three Republicans in Obama's cabinet, the House version of the bailout would look very different and the GOP would have zero authority in Washington. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. That point, too, is beyond legitimate debate.

The question for the moment is not whether one or another policy is good or bad, but whether the GOP base and thus its official leadership can stand the concept of compromise on anything. So far, there is no evidence that they can and all evidence that they can't. That point, far more than any particular policy position, speaks volumes.

So please stop putting words in my mouth about particular policies. My point transcends one or another policy, one or another appointment, one or another year. This issue is far larger, and unfortunately far more dangerous for the American polity.

Date: 2009-02-05 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Notwithstanding the difference between your everpresent gushing tone when talking about Obama and your protestations that we should differentiate between it and your disclaimers (we've been over this, if you want me to stop pointing it out, stop doing it)...

You're right that the GOP rarely, if ever, compromised. You're also overwhelmingly supportive of a candidate who's supposed to act differently, particularly with people with whom he disagrees. If you want to talk about putting words in one's mouth, however, stop rebutting points I haven't made. I never claimed that the Bush-led GOP didn't do all of those things, and in fact, it's pretty much irrelevant to my point.

You can't have it both ways: you complain that the GOP acted one way, now you want the Dems to act in the same manner as a matter of (seemingly petty) revenge. Republicans, right now, are moving to have positive changes added to the stimulus package (and some negative, but the point is that this is not simply a thoughtless, bloc opposition.) You fail to mention this despite the fact that there is clear evidence that renders your commentary false - both Maine senators are working across the aisles with guys like Nelson, and THOSE MEASURES ARE BEING FRUIT. The GOP was right to vote down the House bill unanimously - it was, and still is, filled with useless and absurd spending. But no, from the way you're talking about it here, that's partisanship and obstructionism and noncompromise. Your conclusion is only reachable from a faraway view that includes none of the details - for someone who has complained endlessly about how people looking at big pictures didn't see nuance (see many of your Kerry-related posts), you're awfully hesitant to address nuance when it doesn't go your way.

Objection to a terribad piece of legislation is today being branded as ignoble, which is a sad state of affairs. If you really meant to support Obama in his remaking of Washington, stop supporting petulant partisanship, particularly in response to a contrived offense that only holds up when you omit a remarkable number of relevant facts... and don't offer up a conclusion of "the Democrats henceforth should literally ignore the GOP" in the same post as a tirade against hypocrisy and old-school partisanship.

In other words, the cry of obstructionism is only valid if the piece of legislation clearly does not warrant defeat and/or substantial alteration. You can't cop out and say that it transcends policy when the entire question of why the GOP is voting against this bill, unanimously or not, is connected to the bill's content. If the GOP were voting, vote in and vote out, against the Democrats repeatedly for a period of months or years, you'd be able to construct a legitimate complaint. As far as this vote goes, you do not, especially given that compromise and negotiation are going on regardless of whether or not you care to mention them.

Date: 2009-02-05 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is to say, "bearing" fruit. /sigh

Date: 2009-02-05 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You can't have it both ways: you complain that the GOP acted one way, now you want the Dems to act in the same manner as a matter of (seemingly petty) revenge.

No, not revenge -- that's dumb -- but possibly to induce greater cooperation. Bipartisanship, or post-partisanship, cannot be achieved by fiat: if the other side doesn't want to play, then sometimes one needs to take steps to better align their incentives. I would not support misuse of majority status.

You fail to mention this despite the fact that there is clear evidence that renders your commentary false - both Maine senators are working across the aisles with guys like Nelson

Indeed, but sadly, neither of the Maine senators are in leadership. If they were in the GOP leadership, then they couldn't act this way because the institutional GOP doesn't allow its leaders to act this way (or selects for leaders who won't). I was very careful to say that it's the institutional GOP leadership that's at issue, not every single GOP member of the Senate. As for the House, that's another story.

My comment was motivated by the prospect of a judicial appointment filibuster, not an ordinary disagreement on policy. To be sure, for the Republicans to insist on many things in the House bill -- hundreds of billions in tax cuts that the Democrats didn't want, only to vote against the bill unanimously -- smacks of disingenuousness. Honestly: why should Democrats compromise with the GOP, and give away many things, if the compromises won't win them one single vote? Again, this isn't about the merits but about an apparent strategem that cuts across issues, administrations and decades. And it's bound to lead to Democratic retribution, which I would not want to see... except if it hits a judicial nominee.

Date: 2009-02-05 09:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It doesn't really matter whether the senators are in leadership - if they're getting it done, who cares where they fall in the hierarchy? Snowe, at least, has the ear of leadership, and Boehner hasn't been exactly deriding the cooperation and conversation they've been receiving.

The fact that the Democrats allowed the bill to be altered without gaining a single vote can mean any/all of four things:

1. They actually thought about the Republican objections and implemented them because they made sense.
2. They actually thought about how the Republican-objected items would cost them politically and implemented them for that reason.
3. They're striving to be inclusive per new-Washington quixotism.
4. They're idiots and caved despite exacting nothing in return.

Personally, I suspect it's mostly #1, a little #3, and a little #4.

As a side note, the House is now officially a joke. Pelosi is currently the most dangerously-placed stupid person in America, and it is no surprise that the bill that came out of there was an utter mess. Her head needs to roll in favor of one containing anything grey.


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