Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Who Is Mark Felt?

W. Mark Felt was the third highest official in the FBI at the time of Watergate. James Mann, who had worked at the Post at the time of Watergate and was close to the investigation, brought a great deal of evidence together in a 1992 article in Atlantic Monthly that fingered Felt and convinced many. He argued that the information Deep Throat gave Woodward could only have come from FBI files. Felt was also embittered at having been passed over for the Director General position and the FBI in general was hostile to the Nixon administration.

In previous unrelated articles Woodward had made clear he had a highly placed source at the FBI and there is some evidence he was friends with Felt. Felt was Richard Nixon's personal candidate as Deep Throat. Bernstein's son blurted to others that Felt was Deep Throat many years ago. Bernstein's wife at that time, Nora Ephron, tried to explain it away, saying that their son overheard her "speculations."

Woodward has kept in close touch with Felt over the years, even showing up unexpected at his house in 1999, after Felt's dementia began. Some suspected at that time that Woodward might be asking Felt if he could reveal him to be Deep Throat, though Felt, when asked directly by others, has consistently denied being Deep Throat.

(hat tip - Answers.com)

According to this Slate story, Felt had, less than believably, denied that he was Deep Throat before.

An End of an Era?

Mark Felt, second in command at the FBI has told Vanity Fair that he was Deep Throat.

This is amazing, since we though we would only find out after he died. And of course it needs confirmation -- at least two sources in this post-Newsweek/Quaran world) -- but this would put an end to one of the great Washington parlour room games (and also a University of Illinois class).

Saturday, May 28, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
JACK!!!!!

I hope you had a great time in Disneyworld. Wish I was with you today.

I Love You.

Dad

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Filibuster Fallout

The two biggest questions (and answers) that have surfaced after the Judicial Compromise of 2005:

How long will the compromise hold?

At least until Rehnquist announces his retirement and a successor is announced this summer, then all bets are off. (This is of course assuming that Bush nominates someone very right wing, which I put at about 80%.)

Will this Gang of 14 get together on other issues and try to force action?

A few of them will try to get together on issues such as Social Security or stem cells, but in the end this will be more an anomaly. That said, Sen. Reid should be doing everything he can behind closed doors to try and encourage this group to tackle other issues. Publicly, however, he must be careful not to alienate the 7 GOPers from their other colleagues. But finally the moderate GOPers have exercised some of their muscle after being patsies for so long. The Democrats should use this opportunity to appear non-obstructionist here, tackle issues that appeal to Dems and moderate GOPers and demonstrate that they are a party of ideas.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Rumors

There are several rumors out there that Janice Brown, one of the 3 nominees to get an up or down vote, may lose her vote in the full Senate. Although Frist and co. would publicly wring their hands about Democrats voting against the daughter of a sharecropper, they would also be able to crow that allowing an up or down vote does not take away from the minority's ability to defeat an unacceptable nominee.

But like I said, it is just a rumor.

What Now?

Now that the filibuster crisis has been averted, what shall I focus on?

There is always the Washington Gov.'s trial. But it looks as though the Republicans, who were so hopeful about the felon vote, got hoisted on their own petard by the Democrats and weren't able to come up with enough "Democratic felon" votes, after the Dems found enough "Republican felon" votes.

The Art of Compromise

Compromise: n, A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.

Here is the judicial filibuster compromise agreement.

It is clear that neither side gets everything they want from this agreement, the Democrats give the 3 nominees they consider most extreme an up or down vote, setting a precedent from what is an extraordinary circumstance. The Republicans don't kill the filibuster, but do get the 3nominees they were pushing the most voted on.

But it is also clear that most of the cries of outrage are from the right. A quick sample:

James Dobson calls the compromise a betrayal.
Michele Malkin says it is a GOP cave in
Gary Bauer calls is a sell out.
Hugh Hewitt goes after the 7 GOP compromisers.
Powerline calls it a very bad deal.
Pat Buchanan likened it to Munich on Imus' show this morning.
Scared Monkeys announce "Republicans Screwed."
Captain's Quarters blames Frist for not acting quicker.

I didn't see this a a big Democratic victory, although I am pretty happy to see the above group is so upset with the deal.

I think that this battle has only been delayed until there is a Supreme Court nominee. But then only if the Democrats plan on filibustering a nominee for the High Court, which I don't think is a good idea. With the amount of publicity that a Supreme Court nomination will get, Democrats need to make the case against an extreme nominee on the merits, otherwise they will just appear obstructionist. They can't do that with Circuit Court nominees, because the public isn't paying any attention, but the Supreme Court nominee will be a different story.

I also believe that there will be a great deal of pressure from the right wing to break this deal soon, possibly by pushing one of the 4 nominees that will not be getting an up or down vote within the next week.

Although he will try to downplay it, Frist is a big loser because he wasn't able to keep his troops in line. (Sens. Allen and Brownback must be secretly smiling, knowing that their 08 chances have improved at the expense of Frist, McCain and Hagel.)

It was also good deal for the Senate as an institution.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Breaking News

Various sources are reporting that a compromise has been reached over judicial nominations. More details to come, but you can be assured that neither wing will be happy.

Who Will Decide?

I mentioned earlier that there are three types of GOP senators (moderates, traditionalists and mavericks) who are negotiating a possible resolution to the filibuster impasse. Below is a brief description of each group.

The Moderates - Snowe, Collins, Chaffee, DeWine - These are mostly Northeasterners who probably aren't fully accepted in the caucus anyway because of their less conservative views. Most are uncomfortable with the continuing rightward direction that the GOP is heading and have made their own attempts to distinguish themselves locally from the national party. They also realize that their constituents will be uncomfortable with the Democrats being unable to have some type of check on the Republican power. Chaffee has already stated his position against, with Snowe and Collins assumed to be against as well. (Collins, however, is notoriously weak kneed, so she may crumble if put under enough pressure.) DeWine will probably fall in line, but it appears that he would prefer a compromise.

The Traditionalists - Warner, Specter, Lugar, Bennett, Roberts - These are the Senate elders who realize that this rule change will not be done in a vacuum, and remember what it was like to be in the minority. These five truly love the Senate and value it as an institution. But they are also the most susceptible to party pressure, since they have coveted chairmanships. My guess is that if truly given the freedom to do so they would all vote against, but tomorrow I think that Warner will be the only nay vote. (If Specter votes nay, expect the right-wing advocates to go crazy and remove him from his Judiciary Committee chairmanship.)

[UPDATE - I was told that Bennett and Roberts gave strong speeches on the Senate floor supporting the nuclear option today.]

The Mavericks - McCain, Hagel, Graham - Although all three are rock ribbed conservatives, they do not always hew the party line. All three have shown a willingness to work with Democrats and appear to believe that the Senate should try to work together, regardless of party affiliation. However, all three also have Presidential ambitions, and voting against the nuclear option would stain them with a scarlet letter in a GOP primary. McCain has already stated his position against, but he is already bright red from all of his other scarlet letters and doesn't care, Hagel wants to run in 2008, so I think he will stay in line. Graham could be a wild card, but I wouldn't expect him to be the deciding vote against his party.

In private, I think most would vote against Frist. In public, I only see 5 (McCain, Chaffee, Snowe, Collins and Warner) doing so. Democrats need to find one more vote. How they get that vote may very well depend on which camp their target sits.

Where the Nuclear Option Stands

With a little over 24 hours before the nuclear option is detonated, a quick run down on where we stand.

Basically, we are exactly where we where on Friday or even a week ago. The vote tally is unclear, but appears to slightly favor Frist and the GOP. Moderate, traditionalist and maverick Republicans continue to make some noise about a compromise, but prospects don't look good. So the continuing question, as it has been for months now, is can the GOP can get 50 votes.

A little later today I will look at the three key GOP swing blocks and what they might do tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Who is to Blame?

Both sides of the filibuster debate have blamed the other for creating the mess that we face this week. Others (including me) have blamed special interest groups or the President.

David Brooks has added another group to the list: moderate Senators of both parties. His basic premise, which is hard to argue with, is that if these moderates had a backbone then a deal would be done.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I Speak Good English

Your Linguistic Profile:

50% General American English
35% Yankee
10% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?


Hat Tip - Poliblog

Friday, May 20, 2005

Another GOPer Wobbling?

The people over at NRO's Bench Memos are worried that Lindsey Graham may be the latest Republican to wobble a bit about going nuclear.

Congress on Steroids

Robert George has been following the recent steroids hearings on Capitol Hill, and is not happy with either party.

(See, I'm not all filibuster all the time.)

Fence Time Over?

Carpetbagger reports that GOP question marks are beginning to fall. First is Gordon Smith, who I had thought was a real possibility, but it looks that I was wrong.

More importantly it looks as though Chuck Hagel's Presidential ambitions are showing, and he may be leaning toward helping Frist (and his Presidential ambitions).

It may come down to Arlen Specter, John Warner and Susan Collins. One man of principle and two political hacks. (IMHO) Frist may be close to getting the votes he needs.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Santorum Continues to Work Toward Unemployment in 2006

Ricky said this on the floor of the Senate today:

What the Democrats are doing is the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.' This is no more the rule of the senate than it was the rule of the senate before not to filibuster."

This, of course is, after recently taking Sen. Robert Byrd to task for his Hitler reference, when he said:

"Senator Byrd's inappropriate remarks comparing his Republican colleagues with Nazis are inexcusable."

Luckily, we only have another year and a half with this buffoon. (Santorum, that is, Byrd, unfortunately will probably win again and be around for another six years.)

Of course, Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman said, "Senator Byrd's invocation of Hitler's Germany ... is reprehensible and beyond the pale."

I await his similar statement about Sen. Santorum.

Sphere Reactions

Some reactions from around the blogsphere (I do hate that term, almost as much as "Homeland") to the filibuster debate:

Steven Taylor is unimpressed with the debate tactics of Harry Reid.

Kudzu Files is unimpressed with either sides debating tactics.

Addison Quale praises Rush Limbaugh's insight into the debate.

Carpetbagger thinks Frist is short of his 50 votes.

Daily Pundit says let the majority rule.

Joust The Facts agrees and says, since Bush got a higher percentage of the vote than any Dem President in the past 40 years, the voters have already decided this issue.

Polipundit explains why a real filibuster wouldn't work.

TPM thinks that the Republicans are putting power over the Constitution.

Bull Moose looks for the Centrists for relief from this situation.

[Update - in case you missed, The Los Angeles Times, Michael Kinsley run, op-ed page recently came out in favor of the nuclear option. Of course, they hope that this is the end of all filibusters.]

This Sounds Familiar

David Broder quotes Utah Senator Robert Bennett as saying, "[i]f Hillary Clinton becomes president with a Democratic Senate and wants to appoint Lani Guinier to the Supreme Court, Harry Reid could make that happen with 51 votes."

Of course, Broder also points that 35 of the 55 GOP Senators have been elected since the 1994 elections and have never served in a meaningful minority.

My advice to the GOPers, since I am giving out advice today: Look before you leap.

Nuclear Option Results

I have no idea how this vote over filibustering judicial nominees will play out, but for that matter no one else does either, including the White House, Sen. Frist or Sen Reid. My guess is that the GOP will prevail, but I have enough questions about the GOP Senate traditionalist out there (Warner, Bennett, Lugar, Roberts) and whether they will ultimately place partisan loyalty over institutional loyalty, that almost any result is possible.

I can see the Dems winning the cloture vote, or the Republicans. I can imagine a compromise that avoids a vote or even Sen. Frist pulling back because he knows he doesn't have the votes. Frankly, I can imagine any result, but one, the one that Mickey Kaus hypothesizes: enough Democrats voting for cloture to avoid the nuclear option fight for now. For Democrats this would be worse than losing the vote, it would be losing face and showing that you have feet of clay. One way or another this has to be decided now, either through compromise or vote.

The Republicans could afford to back down, they have the majority and Frist & Co. could their partisans, "better to walk away than lose this fight now, we'll fight another day over the Supreme Court." But for Democrats backing away now would be tantamount to surrendering. It is saying we were going to lose and all of the tough talk was just bluster, so instead we'll lose on a Supreme Court nominee and probably lose the PR battle as well.

My advice to the Democrats in the Senate is this: you face being as marginalized as Democrats in the House, unless you fight this fight, and then react accordingly. It you lose, create the procedural nightmares for the Senate GOP that your threatened to do and don't worry about the bad PR the chattering class will give you about being obstructionist (you are the minority party, you are supposed to be obstructionist); if you win, be gracious, don't overplay your hand and only filibuster nominees that truly, truly deserve it. And remember, even if you lose, the precedent is there, and the next Democrat President will have an easier life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When Is a Judicial Filibuster Acceptable?

Apparently, according to Sen. Frist, when he votes to uphold one.

Do what I say, not what I do.

And this is after saying ad naseum that it is a Constitutional requirement that every nominee gets an up or down vote, he says this about why did he vote for one in 2000.

The issue is not cloture votes per se, it’s the partisan, leadership-led use of cloture votes to kill - to defeat - to assassinate these nominees. That’s the difference. Cloture has been used in the past on this floor to postpone, to get more info, to ask further questions.

Well, ok, what if the Dems say that "just want to ask more questions" of these 7 judges? Then can we end this thing?

So to all of the bloggers out there killing the New York Times for being hypocritical on this issue, I say look in your own glass house first.

Compromise Proposal Draft?

A draft of a possible compromise is available here.

I do not vouch for its accuracy.

This is the type of compromise that I expect may ultimately prevail. It doesn't completely resolve the issue, but it does punt it down the road a bit.

Nuclear Option News

The Washington Post reports that with the nuclear option, a/k/a constitutional option, imminent, a compromise is still possible and that negotiations not including the two leaders have increased their intensity.

The New York Times says that both Frist and Reid laid out their arguments for and against the nuclear option in a meeting of 12 centrist Senators.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Nebraska's Ben Nelson and Arkansas' Mark Pryor have lined up six Democrats that would vote to limit the filibuster, but that John McCain has not yet found the six Republicans need to force a compromise on the leaders.

The Los Angeles Times outlines the pressure that both sides are feeling from their interest groups on their respective right or left.

The Christian Science Monitor states that despite the GOP's efforts to rename it, the nuclear option fits because "total war fits the tone of this conflict.

The Washington Times announces that all efforts at compromise are dead.

The Chicago Tribune has a nice overview of where we stand and how we got there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

And So It Begins . .

All of the news reports indicate that the nuclear option begins tomorrow. Let the games begin!

Newsweek

By now almost everyone knows about that Newsweek really screwed up the Quoran story. And everyone also knows that as a direct result of this story, 17 people died in Afghanistan. Right? J.D. Hayworth said it today on Imus "Newsweek lied, people died." And the White House has called on Newsweek to do more just than retract the story and issue an apology. It is all very clear.

But now here comes Andy McCarthy in NRO (no, not that Andy McCarthy) telling people on his side to calm down for a second:

Here's an actual newsflash — and one, yet again, that should be news to no one: The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more.
. . .
What are we saying here? That the problem lies in the falsity of Newsweek's reporting? What if the report had been true? And, if you're being honest with yourself, you cannot say — based on common sense and even ignoring what we know happened at Abu Ghraib — that you didn't think it was conceivably possible the report could have been true. Flushing the Koran down a toilet (assuming for argument's sake that our environmentally correct, 3.6-liters-per-flush toilets are capable of such a feat) is a bad thing. But rioting? Seventeen people killed? That's a rational response?

It is also worth pointing out that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs last week denied any connection between the Newsweek story and the rioting.

So in short: Newsweek messed a story up and apologized, and radical Islam is irrational, but the two aren't connected. To use this mistake as a chance to keep reporters from reporting things that may not be favorable to the current administration is rank opportunism. Newsweek apologized, exactly what more are they supposed to do?

(And BTW, I hardly think Michael Isikoff is some crazy lefty, does anyone remember Monica Lewisnky?)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Another Defender of Senate Tradition

Sen. Dick Lugar apparently told CNN on Sunday that "[o]n the fundamental issue, I believe we are skating over very thin ice here with regard to the continuity of life in the Senate as we've known it . . I'm opposed to trying to eliminate filibusters simply because I think they protect minority rights, whether they're Republicans, Democrats or other people."

Although he wouldn't commit to opposing the nuclear option, I believe that his comments warrant his inclusion with traditionalists (Warner and Roberts) that may value the institution of the Senate over short term partisan gain, even if they are hesitant about not supporting their leader and their party.

Hat tip - The Carpetbagger Report

Who is the Radical?

Sen. Frist has an op-ed in today's USA Today supporting his imminent invocation of the nuclear option.

In paragraph 2 of his op-ed, Sen. Frist says:

Our Constitution grants the Senate the power to confirm or reject the president's judicial nominees. In exercising this duty, the Senate has always followed a careful and deliberate process of examining the nominees through hearings, discussing their merits in committee, debating them in the full Senate and then coming to an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. We investigate, we debate, and then we decide.

But then he says in paragraph 3:

Beginning in 2003, however, the Senate stopped deciding. Until then, every judicial nominee who cleared the Senate's committee process received the courtesy of that vote. Some nominees were rejected on the floor, but they always received that vote.

As someone who is always in need of a careful proofreader, I can appreciate how errors like this can occur, but exactly how does the "cleared committee requirement" portion of his argument in paragraph three, jibe with the "every judicial nominee got an up or down vote" portion of his argument in paragraph two? I far as I can tell, it doesn't.

What Sen. Frist really means is that every nominee who survives the Senate's various procedural requirements and hurdles gets to an up or down vote. If he means otherwise, Sen. Frist should acknowledge that he has a radical new view of the Constitution.

In his op-ed Sen. Frist is unable to acknowledge that it has never been the tradition of the Senate that every nominee would get an up or down vote, nor has it the Constiution ever ben interpreted to require an up or down vote.

Historically, there have always been various procedural ways in which the minority party, or individual Senators,were able to stall judicial nominees. By removing those obstacles in the past few years, the GOP majority has been reducing the minority party's power, a pattern they would continue by invoking the nuclear option.

You can read Frist's whole op-ed here. But remember, it is Sen. Frist and the GOP who are introducing a radical new Constitutional interpretation, not Harry Reid and the Democrats.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Is Pat Roberts a Senate Traditionalist?

This article from the Kansas City Star suggests that Bill Frist may have to worry about Kansas Senator Pat Roberts supporting the nuclear option. This may just be a slight diversion, but it could also be some GOPers are worried about the Senate as an institution if Frist decides to unilaterally change the rules midstream.

Only time will tell which of those is the case, but for now, Roberts has to considered as one the GOP question marks.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Liberal Media Strikes Again

Crooked Timber nails the liberal media once again.

You just can't trust those guys.

Yankee Sacrilege

Robert George asks if Don Mattingly (a/k/a Donnie Baseball to Yankee fans; a/k/a one of the most overrated players of the 80's to the rest of us) isn't cursed.

The Living Constitution

Conservatives frequently accuse the Court of reading between the lines to find rights that are not explicitly stated, i.e. right to privacy.

But many conservatives are doing exactly this when they preach about the Constitutional requirement that all judicial nominees must get an up or down vote. Andrew McCarthy at NRO is the latest to have discovered this requirement in the Constitution. (No, not that Andrew McCarthy.)

His logic is that if any procedural block on judges or other gov't officials is Constitutional, then it would frustrate the ability of the execute branch and the judicial branch to function. The reasoning is unsound primari;y because it is not supported by the text of the document.

As a refresher, this is what the Constitution says about how judges are confirmed:

Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2

He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The Constitution also says this:

Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

That's all folks -- you show me where it says that the Senate is Constitutionally required to vote on judicial nominees. It simply isn't there. I am sure that the founders didn't anticipate this particular situation, but they could very easily has said that the Senate shall confirm or deny, rather than give advice and consent. Indeed, it is a sound argument that by not voting on a particular candidate, that the Senate is fulfilling its advice requirement.

You can read the whole Constitution here. Peruse it and make up your own mind.

[Update - Fellow NROer, Matthew Franck, takes McCarthy argument apart here.]

A Little History Lesson

Charles Krauthammer’s op-ed in today’s Washington Post is notable for two things. First he backhandedly acknowledges that Republicans have attempted judicial filibusters before, something that the GOP has consistently tried to mislead the public about.

First the GOP line was: We have never supported a judicial filibuster. Next the line was: Well, we have never tried filibustered a nominee who had majority support (Abe Fortas, although even this is fact is certainly open to debate.) Now there is the realization that in 2001, 13 GOP Senators voted to filibuster one of President Clinton’s Circuit Court nominees, Marsha Berzon. (You can see the vote tally here.) So apparently those Senators (including Sens. Allard Brownback, Bunning, Inhofe, and Shelby) don’t have such a problem with the filibuster. (Of course, now Sen. Allard seems to think that filibusters are helping terrorists, I guess 9/11 did change everything.)

The second thing that the Krauthammer article is notable for is his duplicity in arguing that judicial nominees have never been upheld in this way before. While he is technically correct, he also certainly knows that the only reason the Democrats are employing the filibuster is because the GOP has done away with the procedural mechanisms that Senators in the majority and in the minority used to employ, such as blueslips, to place a hold on judicial nominees.

There can be no debate that both side have used parliamentary tactics, or the Senate rules, to keep nominees from getting the “up or down” vote. (Hence the 50 or so nominees that never got a vote during the Clinton years.) The Dems howled during those years and the GOP never really seemed to care. When the GOP got rid of some of those parliamentary tactics in the past few years, and the Dems had to resort to the filibuster. My guess is if the blueslip procedure was back in place, the Dems would have a much harder time keeping all of their guys (and gals) in line for a filibuster.

I don’t see real distinction between blueslips and the filibuster – both are parliamentary tactics which are used to frustrate the chance for an “up or down” vote. As I said before, it is the “every nominee gets an up or down vote” which I believe is the new theory that is being intoduced, and with dubious Constitutional authority.

This is not a Constitutional crisis, it is a a power struggle in which both sides and their supporters are showing hypocrisy. But this rule change will have a long lasting effects. And the aftershocks will not always work in the GOP’s favor in the future.

After all, the GOP won’t always have the White House and the Senate. By getting rid of parliamentary roadblocks to judicial nominees, they are throwing away a right that they may have to resort to when they find themselves back in the minority.

The question every Republican needs to ask before voting for the nuclear option: Is Janice Rogers worth whatever 10 Judges President Hillary Clinton might appoint?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bolton Drama

I don't have particularly strong feelings about whether John Bolton should be the next UN Ambassador, generally I think the President should be able to pick his representatives, but Bolton does seem to have a bad temperament and his choice would send a poor message to the world about what we think about the UN, however, several others do have strong feelings.

On the pro-Bolton side is NRO's Beltway Buzz.

On the anti-Bolton side is The Washington Note.

Both are live blogging the hearings. An now with Voinovich voting against the nomination, it should certainly be a great Washington drama.

It will serve as a nice prelude to the Nuclear Option debate likely to be held next week.

In Case You Were Worried About Judicial Street Cred

This is a footnote from an actual case.

The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch "hoe." A "hoe," of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing "hoe" to "ho," a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps "You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies."

United States v. Murphy U.S. App. Lexis 7695, n. 1
Decided May 4, 2005
Opinion by Circuit Judge Terrence Evans

Newt!

The Des Moines Register reports that Newt Gingrich is using his book tour to lay the ground work for a possible run for the Presidency in '08.

It is hard to believe that it is almost 10 years since Gingrich went "moose hunting" in New Hampshire to lay the groundwork for a challenge against Bill Clinton. That didn't work out so well (apparently he couldn't find any moose or enough voters who wanted him in the White House) but he is apparently back on the hustings again.

You can say what you want about Newt (and what I have to say usually isn't too kind), but he does have ideas. And he doesn't seem quite as scary after 8 year of Tom Delay.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

East Waynesboro Update

When we last left the East Waynesville Baptist Church, Rev. Chan Chandler was leading the church in expelling congregants who had voted for John Kerry (or at least not vote for George W. Bush) in the 2004 Presidential election. Naturally, controversy and national attention ensued.

Last night, according to the AP, Rev. Chandler resigned his position with the church. At the same time 40 or so members walked out with him, with some apparently resigning their memberships in the church, in a show of solidarity.

(Local coverage from the Asheville Citizens-Times can be seen here.)

This result is not particularly surprising - it seems as though Rev. Chandler overstepped his bounds and was not particularly supported by the church's long term members. Part of this may have been a generational clash, with Rev. Chandler, 33 years old, and some younger members seeing the pulpit as a political soapbox, while older members prefer that politics be left in the narthex. It also keeps the IRS at bay, which certainly had to be of some concern.

Outside the Beltway thinks Chandler and his supporters will start up a new congregation. Arguing with Signposts sees that some lessons on PR can be gained from this incident.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

As Seen on CNN

Apparently my little corner of the web was featured on the Inside the Blogs portion of CNN's Inside Politics.

You can see the video here.

Glad that CNN thinks this is a "cool little site."

Latest Filibuster News

My laser like focus on this continues:

The New York Times expects a midweek confrontation.

The Washington Times says Frist is ready to pull the trigger with Judge Owens as the test case.

The Washington Post points out that the Supreme Court is the real reason for this fight.

Steven Taylor would like to see a compromise, but thinks the Democrats have too much invested in the fight. (I think it is exactly the opposite -- Republican groups are the reason for this fight at this time.)

Rich Lowry says that Republicans say they have 50 vote, more or less. (I like Rich, but that doesn't really say anything does it, the "more or less" part is really the rub here.)

Jarrett Conner at Political Capital doesn't go for the idea that a "real filibuster" is the answer.

MyDD points out that Bush has had 96% of his nominee confirmed.

Texas Theologue wonders if the nuclear option is the best idea.

Get Your Blog Up has 49 Senators against the Nuclear Option. (My guess is 50 -- with Smith, Warner and Specter on the fence.)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Compromise?

From today's Roll Call, the details of a possible nuclear option compromise:

A bipartisan coalition of Senators believe it is close to a deal that would avert the looming showdown between Republicans and Democrats over judicial filibusters. The potential deal, spearheaded by Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), would involve at least a half-dozen Senators from each party signing a letter or memorandum of understanding that signals how they would proceed to vote on all matters related to judicial nominations.

The six Senate Republicans would commit to opposing the so-called nuclear option to end judicial filibusters, which would leave GOP leaders short of the 50 votes they need to execute the parliamentary move to abolish the procedure. In exchange, the six Senate Democrats would pledge to allow votes on four of the seven circuit court nominees who were already filibustered in the 108th Congress and have been renominated.

Perhaps more importantly, the six Democrats would pledge to vote for cloture to end filibuster attempts on all other judicial nominees named by President Bush, including Supreme Court picks, except in “extreme circumstances,” according to a senior aide familiar with the discussions.

The aide familiar with the discussions declined to say which four circuit court nominees would be approved. “It’s very close,” the aide said of the deal, requesting anonymity. The precarious deal — which would last at least through the 2006 elections — still hasn’t been finalized, and neither side would reveal who was a party to it. The agreement would not require a single vote to be cast for it to be executed.

As long as each side has at least six Senators willing to uphold it, Senate Republicans would be unable to carry out the nuclear option and Senate Democrats would be unable to execute a successful filibuster. If Frist wanted to, he could still force a vote on the parliamentary move to end the filibuster — something he is widely expected to do sometime this month — but it would face certain defeat if the six Republicans held strong. Nelson and Lott were both traveling late last week and were not available to comment on the potential deal.

I am sure that those on the right will howl, but this make pragmatic sense to me and avoids making a bad situation even worse.

Time For a Little Talk

I like John Kerry, I voted for him and I think he would have been a good (but not great) President had he won last year.

But someone needs to sit John Kerry down and explain to him that he will not be the nominee in 08. Not going to happen, and beginning to run again now will only increase the embarrassment later.

John, thank you for your service, but your time is over.

Comity Still Alive in the Senate?

On the brink of an abyss, this Washington Post report suggests that compromise is still possible over the filibustering of judges. The motivation being less about power and more about preserving the Senate. I think that rational members on both sides of the aisle realize that the are on the verge of taking a plunge that could fundamental change the way that the Senate works if the current plans for the nuclear option are not altered.

And lets be perfectly clear -- neither side has clean hands. While filibustering judges is rare, although not unprecedented, the Republicans are changing the rules by requiring an up or down vote on all of the President's nominations when that has never been the standard. As Chuck Hagel observes in the article "What we did with Bill Clinton's nominees, about 62 of them, we just didn't give them votes in committee or we didn't bring them up."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

My Way or the Highway

In a move that should jeopardize its tax-free status, a church in Waynesville, North Carolina has voted to expel members of the congregation who voted for John Kerry in 2004. Placing a requirement that members vote Republican, or at least for or against a specific candidate, would seem to me to violate their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

My guess is that this is the act of an overzealous preacher who will probably be slapped down by his congregation once they realize the trouble that he would bring down on them if he continues his crusade.

Friday, May 06, 2005

80 years later . . .

As you may remember from history class, the Scopes Monkey Trial occurred in 1925. Now the Kansas Board of Education has decided to do it all over again. Not a reenactment mind you, but a full-fledged "trial" to try and determine if we humans came from monkeys, and if so, whether it could have happened without the hand of God involved. (The Board of Ed is now controlled by the religous right.)

During "opening statements" the Intelligent Design side proclaimed that "[p]art of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools. This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications." Notably, national and local scientific leaders have boycotted the trial.

This is just too stupid for words, but I am fascinated and will try to keep my loyal readers updated on the trial. I will try to keep my mocking of the Kansas Board of "Education" to a minimum.

(Hat Tip - OTB)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Showdown Inevitable

Bill Frist tells the USA Today that a showdown on filibustering judges is almost inevitable and that a vote should happen before Memorial Day. He says he has the votes. I am not so sure and think that the situation is still fluid for at least two or three GOP Senators.

As should be clear, I favor some sort of compromise rather than invoking the nuclear option. But be perfectly clear, if Frist does gather enough support, the Democrats must hit back with whatever legislative and procedural methods at their disposal, even at the risk of some backlash.

Democrats should also assert that with this gambit the GOP has killed the filibuster once and for all. (It would be painful in the short run, but very useful when they gain a majority, probably in 2008 or 2010.) If the Republican majority chooses to keep their word an honor future Democratic legislative filibusters, fine, but Democrats should know that the GOP will use this tactic again. (The first time is always the hardest, next time will be easier, and pretty soon it will be routine.)

Preempting the GOP's further destruction of the filibuster by making this vote an up or down vote on the future filibuster is one last way to attempt to bring Frist to the table to negotiate in good faith, and will certainly weigh on the minds of some of the more moderate or traditional GOP Senators when they cast their vote.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Art of Compromise

As I said earlier this week, the idea behind compromise is that neither side gets everything that they want, but both sides get something.

David Brooks reports that Harry Reid made an offer to Bill Frist that if the President withdrew some of his seven filibustered nominees, then there could be up or down votes on the rest. As part of this compromise, the Democrats would agree not to filibuster any Supreme Court nominees.

This is a reasonable compromise, or so it seems to me. The GOP gets their protection from a Supreme Court filibuster (which is all they really care about) and the Democrats get to keeps some of the more extreme judges from getting put on the bench. Both sides would take some heat from the extremes in the party, but would probably receive accolades from most of us who believe that our leaders in Washington are there to work together.

Brooks thinks Frist should have taken this deal, as does Kevin Drum, Von at Obsidian Wings and Ezra Klein, although he doesn't really believe this offer as Brooks is reporting it. But I think that Frist has maneuvered himself into a corner on this issue. Anything short of busting the filibuster will destroy his Presidential hopes. I guess it would take a bigger man to put aside his personal ambitions before plunging the Senate into an unknown abyss.
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