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Senate moderates deal: A house of cards

By Lisa Fabrizio
web posted May 30, 2005

Last Monday night's deal between fourteen Senate moderates gladdened seven self-important Republicans and a whole lot of Democrats, especially their media wing. Typical comments on the Memorandum Of Understanding contained the usual words 'courageous,' and 'maverick' when referring to the leader of the coup, their icon, John McCain.

For some reason -- perhaps just to annoy conservatives -- the media actually believe that McCain's antics are a stepping-stone to the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. They also believed this in 2000 and 2004 and will probably go on believing it until he either switches parties or dies. The thinking seems to be: anger Republicans and they will vote for you.

What are these people smoking? They gave McCain all the juice they could in 2000 and he was badly beaten by conservative George W. Bush once the primary route turned South. And the country is even redder now than it was then. Have the media noticed that almost anywhere conservative Republicans run for Congress they usually defeat moderate ones?

An interesting exception to this was Arlen Specter in blue Pennsylvania, whose victory was ensured by President Bush and arch-conservative Rick Santorum campaigning on his behalf. The result? You didn't see Specter's signature on the MOU.

As for the MOU itself, it is a beautiful example of a dish of Seinfeld-like hash -- it is a deal about nothing. The 400-word ditty basically says, 'we Democrats will vote for your three most extreme nominees in exchange for your not stopping us from doing what we promise not to do to less extreme nominees.'

When faced with such daunting concepts, even most conservative pundits found themselves howling indignantly before they could figure out that the document is not worth the embossed paper it is written on. Almost before the ink was dry, signatory Republicans Lindsey Graham and Mike Dewine were swearing oaths of fidelity to the 'nuclear option' should any of their Democratic counterparts misbehave.

Let's do some simple math. With the pristine fourteen occupying the sacred middle ground, the GOP has 48 votes and the Dems have 38. Should the Dems want to filibuster again, they first must peel off at least three of the moderates while to counter, the GOP needs only two to go nuclear and at least two have already pledged to do so. So the majority is no worse off than it began the week and has gained the approval of three conservative judges in the bargain.

Meanwhile, those who claim that the MOU was a victory for the minority party, should consider some anonymous words from a far leftist at DemocraticUnderground.com:

"Let's see. The Republicans and Bush "only" get 8 of the 10 most reactionary and right-wing judges we have seen in a long time approved. Yup. I'd call that a big win ..... for Bush. Well, Bush finally needed to win something. After all, George Bush only got all of his key presidential appointments and some really nasty anti-consumer legislation (class action tort reform, bankruptcy bill) passed with the help of Democratic Senators, including Harry Reid. Anyone going to pop the bubbly tonight and celebrate this great victory?"

In the end, it's not about nuking the filibuster, which was just the means to an end. The filibuster has, in one form or another, existed for centuries in the U.S. Senate. The task consists of backing the Democrats down from using it to prevent votes on nominees that clear the Judiciary Committee. The Republicans win when its use is not abolished but, as the left says, safe, legal and rare.

As for the media, they can gush all they want about the pristine fourteen 'saving the Senate' but the end of the Senate -- as envisioned by the Founding Fathers -- began back in 1913 when the 17 th Amendment rendered it popularly elected and thus subject to the influence of lobbyists. So much so, that to curb its wretched excess, the beatific McCain had to craft legislation aimed at checking that influence, but which resulted instead in limiting the freedom of political speech.

Democratic leaders think the MOU is teaching the executive branch a lesson by admonishing it to end its "power grab." They don't seem to realize that the GOP didn't have to grab the power, it was granted them by the American electorate in increasing numbers over the last ten years. It was the minority in this case who tried to assert 'rights' that the voters have simply removed from their grasp.

So hopefully when all the smoke clears, the Senate minority can drop the filibuster threats and return to its time-honored tradition of conducting confirmation votes: mere character assassination and calumny.

Lisa Fabrizio is a columnist who hails from Connecticut. You may write her at mailbox@lisafab.com .


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