Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fighting the next battle

I've left this position in comments on a few blogs now, and I was thinking of saying it to Laura and Amanda, so I guess I'll just post it here: the Democratic base shouldn't be getting too worked up about how anybody votes on Roberts. Even with all Democrats voting against him, he wins. Frist has too much power over the pro-choice Republicans for them to vote with us and defeat Roberts. Filibustering would be a bad move here, since the compromise Republicans will desert us, the GOP will push the nuclear button, the filibuster will be destroyed, and we'll be defenseless before whatever maniac Bush wants to send in as the O'Connor replacement. When the Senate math guarantees Roberts' confirmation, Democratic Senators would be wise to take up positions that'll win them the next battle.

That's what they 've done. If Bush nominates, say, Priscilla Owen, Leahy gets to say, "I'm willing to vote for competent Bush appointees -- heck, I voted for Roberts! But Priscilla Owen is simply not fit for the Supreme Court." In terms of winning the media battle, this is a more powerful position than universal opposition, and it'll make Owen look like the extremist she is. If Owen makes it out of committee, Harry Reid launches the filibuster. Then, if the right-wing judges are indeed regarded as genuine extremists by the public, compromise Republicans will be able to let the filibuster stand.

Another possibility is that the White House thinks through the above situation, looks at Bush's low poll numbers, and decides that an extremist won't be able to make it into O'Connor's seat. They nominate a relative moderate, and expose Dobson to the risk of another David Souter. Given how little power Democrats have, I'll be congratulating Harry Reid for at least the third time this year (Social Security Privatization, the Katrina Whitewash Investigation) on how well he's played his cards.


Anonymous said...

One argument against a "yes" vote is one made by Kos - basically, that a "precedent" has now been set that a nominee doesn't need to answer questions, that the administration doesn't need to provide info, etc.

I agree that this is the precedent it would set, but it doesn't automatically follow that this is a bad precedent.

I'm inclined to think that there's basically nothing we can expect the Democrats to do to stop ANY of Bush's nominees. (I think there ARE things they could do, but they won't because they're Democrats. Namely, they could "Bork" a nominee if they wanted to. But maybe they'll surprise me.) So given that basically Bush is going to get whoever he nominates, it might make some sense to give him some incentive to nominate another question mark like Roberts. That way we at least have a chance to get another Souter instead of another Scalia. That way, Bush knows he can get his nominee through without a big fight (and he's not really keen to fight right now) and we get someone who at least isn't a proven nutcase.

They could always pull out the stops and go the Bork route, but assuming they won't do that, the Roberts precedent (i.e. voting yes on a question mark) might be a smart move.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I like that strategy, dadahead. Overall, I'd be surprised if Bush goes off the deep end with his O'Connor replacement.

Laura said...

I gotta dissent, Neil. I'm not a big fan of some of the fuck-Leahy hysteria I've read on some of the blogs, but like I argued, why would a liberal choose to vote for a conservative justice? Leahy and Roberts don't believe the same things. Voting him out of committee is one thing. I'm OK with Feingold and Kohl's votes because their job on committee is to judge compentence, not ideology. But on the floor, Leahy et al are Dems. I don't expect them to trash Roberts or make a giant fuss. I can see how that could potentially be counter-productive. But, as liberals, I don't see the logic in voting for him. If we had a majority, I'd say just vote everyone down until Bush actually picks a moderate. In the minority, cast the harmless symbolic votes that signal that's what you'd do in the majority.

Neil Sinhababu said...

So you think the advantage Leahy gains in being able to lead the opposition next time while appearing non-obstructionist is outweighed by... what? Perhaps symbolic things mean more to you than they do to me.

Laura said...

Well, I guess it's unfair to crticize Leahy and not the others who voted him out of committee. Specifically, I took Leahy's comment to be an assurance that he'd also vote yes in the full Senate.

That said, symbolism is all we've got. Leahy's vote is meaningless in itself. If I thought Leahy and the others gave themselves some sort of leverage for a future confirmation battle, then it would be worth sacrificing the symbolism. But I don't. His vote will be powerless until we take back the Senate, and he's neither powerful nor "moderate" enough to sway official Washngton's beliefs about whoever is the next nominee. Given all that, why not use your vote to reflect your party's core beliefs?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Okay, fair enough. What we've got here is a differing estimation of the value of being able to go on TV saying, "I voted for Roberts but I'm not voting for this lunatic." Given that you see it as having no value, the rest of your position follows.

Laura said...

You might like this Kos diary. It supports your argument some.