Politics postsWednesday July 17, 2013
Ranking Filibusters: More Reasons Why the GOP Sucks
Hendrik Hertzberg on the New Yorker site breaks down the three types of filibusters used to stall executive action and the legislative process, and ranks them from most defensible to least defensible:
Senate filibusters allow a minority of the Senate, against the wishes of the majority, to do three things. Torpedoing a President’s nominee for a post in his Administration is the most indefensible of them. The President is separately (and more or less democratically) elected. He has a presumptive right to staff his Administration with like-minded officials. Also, an executive nomination is like a law that has a sunset provision: the appointment expires automatically when the Presidency changes hands. Filibusters of ordinary legislation are slightly less indefensible, because a law can always be repealed by a future Congress. (Of course, repealing a law is as subject to filibuster sabotage as passing one.) Filibusters of judicial nominees, especially of Supreme Court Justices, are actually the least indefensible of the three. The judiciary is the joint creation of the Presidency and the Senate (“advise and consent”). And judicial appointments are for life. They don’t expire every four years like Cabinet and other executive-branch appointees. They can’t be repealed. Once judges or Justices are on the bench, they’re there for good. (Or for ill.) The only way they leave office is if they die, retire voluntary, or are impeached—and the last impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice was two hundred and eight years ago. With judicial appointments, the stakes are higher. So it almost makes sense, arguably, for the barrier to be higher, too.
How easy would it be to employ the so-called nuclear option and get ride of filibusters altogether? Pretty damn easy:
On the floor, a Democratic senator would have raised a point of order. He or she would have asked the presiding officer (Vice-President Biden would want to be in the chair for this one) to rule that requiring a sixty-vote “cloture” before a nominee for an executive position can be confirmed or rejected by a simple majority is unconstitutional and, therefore, is out of order. The presiding officer would have so ruled. A Republican would have appealed the ruling. The ruling would have been upheld—by a simple majority. Presto chango.
Hertzberg is for employing the nuclear option, by the way. But he thought Harry Reid's compromise wasn't bad.
Now play ball.
If I were the I.R.S., I would be investigating Tea Party claims, too. From Jeffrey Toobin's post, “The Real I.R.S. Scandal,” on the New Yorker site:
It’s important to review why the Tea Party groups were petitioning the I.R.S. anyway. They were seeking approval to operate under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. This would require them to be “social welfare,” not political, operations. There are significant advantages to being a 501(c)(4). These groups don’t pay taxes; they don’t have to disclose their donors—unlike traditional political organizations, such as political-action committees. In return for the tax advantage and the secrecy, the 501(c)(4) organizations must refrain from traditional partisan political activity, like endorsing candidates.
I don't get why this isn't the story.
On the other hand, this may be a boon: a call to visit your local Tea Party office if you're ever in need of social welfare. I'm sure, as a social welfare organization, they'd be willing to help.
White House Correspondents Dinner: Obama with an Edge
I'm generally not a fan of this thing, at least not since Stephen Colbert skewered both George W. Bush and the press corps back in ... was it 2006? ... but Pres. Obama rocked it tonight with an edge. My favorite line:
I know Republicans are still sorting out what happened in 2012, but one thing they all agree on is they need to do a better job reaching out to minorities. And look, call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they could start with. (Laughter.) Hello? Think of me as a trial run, you know? See how it goes.
My second-favorite came after this joke about the edifice Obama is building next to the George W. Bush Presidential Library:
That's good. But this is the one that stuck in it in there. It's not the easy joke. It's the sharp joke that follows the easy joke:
I'm also hard at work on plans for the Obama Library. And some have suggested that we put it in my birthplace but I'd rather keep it in the United States. (Laughter.) Did anybody not see that joke coming? Show of hands? Only Gallup? Maybe Dick Morris?
I wish they'd cut to Nate Silver at that point. If he was there.
I haven't even gotten into the whole Daniel Day-Lewis starring in Steven Spielberg's “Obama,” or the beautifully serious way with which he ended it, but the whole thing made me think, once again, I'm glad I'm living in a country where Barack Hussein Obama is my president.
Here's the whole deal:
Remaining Stationary is the New Freedom
Did you see this story the other day?
With the Senate set to debate gun control this month, a National Rifle Association task force released a 225-page report on Tuesday that called for armed police officers, security guards or staff members in every American school, and urged states to loosen gun restrictions to allow trained teachers and administrators to carry weapons.
The report is fodder for Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. But the second graf became fodder for me:
Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas who led the task force, unveiled the report at a packed news conference with unusually heavy security, including a bomb-sniffing yellow Labrador retriever. A dozen officers in plain clothes and uniforms stood watch as he spoke; one warned photographers to “remain stationary” during the event. (Italics mine.)
It immediately sparked this idea for a Tom Toles-like editorial cartoon:
- Panel 1: Show the news conference, use Hutchison's quote, and have one of the armed security officers telling the photographers: “Remain stationary.” Include: “*Actual quote.” Photogs look scared.
- Panel 2: Similar scene in our new, NRA-approved schools, where an armed guard tells students: “Remain stationary.” Students and teacher look scared.
- Panel 3: Similar scene at mall. Armed guards telling shoppers, “Remain stationary.” Shoppers look scared.
- Panel 4: Then in Congress during arm-control legislation debate. NRA to Congress: “Remain stationary.”
- Panel 5: Then in front of the thousands who have died because of gun violence since Newtown. NRA to the dead: “Remain stationary.”
- Denouement: Little Oliphant or Toles figure at bottom with hands raised before NRA guard. Oliphant figure says: “Remaining stationary is the new freedom.”
Guns guns guns.
Henny Penny, When the Sky Fell: 'No End in Sight' and the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion
Yesterday, the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, pissed me off more than I'd anticipated.
I think what set me off was this piece by Alex Pareene on Joe Scarborough, and the realization that the bastards got away with it, got away with calling us names, too, and now blame us for flag-waving our way into war when I was sickened by it all. Pareene dissects Scarborough well but you almost want a body blow. I remember seeing MSNBC at the time, and the American flag waving behind triumphant music and the Bush administration's chosen phrase, OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, up front, and thinking, “This is a cable news show?” I was naive at the time. I'm so much older than that now.
I remember a few years later, in 2005 or '06, arguing with a conservative friend about Iraq, and he trotted out the usual right-wing line about whether I would put Saddam back in place if I could. I gave him a look. I said:
Would I put him back in place? Does that mean we get back all of the American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, and all of the Iraqis killed and wounded in Iraq? We get back the money we spent, and the prestige we lost, and the focus we lost, and we're able to spend that money and put that focus elsewhere? On our more immediate concerns and enemies? Is that what you're asking me? Would I make that trade? In a fucking second.
How did you celebrate the 10th? I got drunk and watched “No End in Sight,” Charles Ferguson's 2007 documentary, which is the best thing I've seen on our early involvement there. It's about all of the fuckups that led to present-day Iraq, which we no longer pay attention to.
What gets me each time I watch this? It's not the lies and misrepresentations that led us into war. It's not the fact that we spent a few months, rather than years, prepping for a post-war Iraq. It's not that we didn't send the troop levels the miltary wanted but sent the troop levels Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thought we needed (SPOILER ALERT: he was wrong), and it's not the fact that ORHA, the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the organization designed to stabilize Iraq, reported to Rumsfeld and not, say, Secretary of State Colin Powell. We could have gotten away with all of those fuckups. But then the Bushies disbanded Jay Garner's ORHA and replaced it, and him, with L. Paul Bremer's CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and Bremer ordered de-Ba'athification and the disbanding of the Iraqi military. And that was that.
A few quotes from last night's viewing, which I subsequently drunk-tweeted (see what you're missing by not following me on Twitter?):
- “We're a platoon of Marines. We could certainly stop looting if that's our assigned task.” — Lt. Seth Moulton.
- “It was just henny penny the sky is falling.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on media reports about the postwar looting in Baghdad.
- “My goodness, were there that many vases?” --Donald Rumsfield, implying that U.S. media reports on looting were greatly exaggerated; followed by laughter from the press corp.
- “Whether you were Sunni or Shiite, you were outraged about the looting.” --Nir Rosen, Iraqui journalist.
- “And what followed was this pervasive sense of lawlessness that Iraq never recovered from. Guys with guns took over.”
- “The Iraqi army was essentially standing there, waiting. They were waiting for an overture. ... No one did that.”
- “I thought we had just created a problem. We had a lot of out-of-work soldiers.”
- “I don't do quagmires.” --Donald Rumsfeld.
If you're looking for a gift for Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc., 10th anniversaries are traditionally associated with tin.
Bremer (left), taking over from Garner (right).