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April 26, 2005

Against Compromise

So Trent Lott and Ben Nelson are pushing a compromise that would bring four of the blocked nominees to the floor, kill three of them, and end the Republican effort to kill the filibuster. But according to the new WaPo/ABC News poll, only 26% support "changing the Senate's rules to make it easier for Republicans to confirm Bush's nominees", while 66% oppose it. That's quite a majority firmly in opposition, and it includes almost half the Republicans surveyed. More interesting, from the perspective of who'd win a media war over the issue, is this question: "The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block those nominations?" 48% think the Democrats are right, 36% think them wrong. And that's a much softer numerical comparison than the one Reid uses (I think he's got a 195-10 number, or something similar).

So why compromise? Numbers like this ensure that Frist simply won't have the votes. Neither the principled Republicans nor the opportunists are going to feel safe on the nuclear option bandwagon. So let him go ahead and try to force the issue. Let's say, hypothetically, he got the votes. Is this a fight he can win? The Senate comes to a screeching halt, the talk shows focus on the protection/dissolution of minority rights, and folks don't understand why Republicans have broken with years of tradition over 10 nutball judges. Public opinion, already against the GOP solidifies, and Senate Republicans begin to defect, handing the right a HUGE loss and effectively ending Frist's presidential aspirations.

Now, it's certainly true that the outcome isn't as preordained as all that, nothing's ever immutable in politics. But it seems that Reid and Co. could gamble, with reasonable certainty, on killing the nuclear option. And serving Republicans with a defeat on that, right after Social Security and Schiavo, would really solidify perceptions -- and thus the media storyline -- of the right as disorganized and on a downward trajectory, while adding significantly to Democratic momentum. So while I recognize that there's more risk in pushing forward, it seems that the potential rewards are much greater. It codifies GOP overreach, it'll empower Republican moderates, and it'll solidify the power and unity of the Democratic caucus. And I think that's worth the risk.

April 26, 2005 in Strategy | Permalink

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» No compromise from Here's What's Left
Ezra says something very similar to what I want to say:So Trent Lott and Ben Nelson are pushing a compromise that would bring four of the blocked nominees to the floor, kill three of them, and end the Republican effort [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 26, 2005 1:49:19 AM

» Let’s Make a Deal from Shakespeare's Sister
After confirming 95% of Bush’s nominees, why should the Democrats even be considering a compromise with an abusive group of bullies who are creating this entire debacle out of a ridiculous notion that they somehow deserve 100% complicity on any... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 26, 2005 10:42:21 AM

Comments

I agree with you. In most matters, the Republicans have the media firmly on their side, but in this one, they could wind up looking like Newt Gingrich did.

Posted by: Diane | Apr 26, 2005 12:04:58 AM

However, the compromise only matters if the two sides make a deal. Publicly displaying a willingness to compromise, given the right terms, makes a politician appear less partisan and more reasonable to a centrist voter. It would be easy enough for either side to sabotage the compromise at any point and blame their opponents.

Posted by: Julian | Apr 26, 2005 12:35:42 AM

The White House isn't compromising, so there is no problem.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-04-25-karl-rove_x.htm

Posted by: marky | Apr 26, 2005 1:36:21 AM

Let's assume that Bush can't or won't back down on getting all 10 justices, but then put that assumption aside.

Is halting some of the wingnut judges with a compromise better for the country and the Dems - the bi-partisan statesman approach, or is betting on successfully filibustering each of 10 nominees better - the principled opposition to extremism approach (which surely will be hard)?

Preserving the filibuster on nominations is worth a lot (for axing future Boltons and Thomas').

But I'd be strongly tempted to go for broke and have a good issue for 2006/08 too, by opposing an "extremist takeover of the courts".

But the starting assumption is probably real, and Repubs don't keep their word, so on with the Bill and Harry show.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Apr 26, 2005 5:10:27 AM

As others have asked, can the Dems really trust any agreement with this totally unprincipled version of the Republican party? These folks play to win. Rules, ethics, laws, and truth just don't matter. As Carville might say, Frist is sinking, throw the sonofabitch an anchor!

Posted by: marvyt | Apr 26, 2005 8:19:34 AM

It is a foregone conclusion that Senator Frist will attempt to make the rules change. The argument is sound. Never before in the history of the Senate has anyone ever used the filibuster against judicial nominees. This is something new the opposition came up with. A rule change would only restore the age old tradition of up or down votes for judicial nominees. Besides, Senator Frist has gone past the point of no return at this time. He has his eye on the presidency and must make this attempt to court those on the right who see the need to win the culture war if he wants a shot at the next presidential election.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Apr 26, 2005 9:21:09 AM

The Dems need to get the MSM to say, "204 out of 215 ain't bad. The President isn't happy unless he gets everything he wants. 51% isn't a mandate."

I think, in the long run, not compromising is the right move on this. However, if the Dems lose on this, just remember, someday the Senate will have a Dem majority and the neo-cons will have no say.

Posted by: Chief | Apr 26, 2005 9:41:56 AM

In essence the Dems are filibustering themselves and the public on this one. They are going against a 2/3 majority on an issue they actually strongly believe in?

NO deal. Plain and Simple.

Posted by: media in trouble | Apr 26, 2005 10:26:06 AM

I think Josh Marshall has the right take on this. As long as the offer is "we'll let a couple guys through if you take the nuculitutional option off the table for good" then its win/win for the Dems. 2 judges is nothing compared to having the Fillabuster available for the Supreme Court. And the fact remains that the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner and can't really compramise without seriously pissing off the Religious Right, who are already testy of Schiavo. If it works out that way, the Dems have shown themselves willing to compramise and shown up the Republicans. Another PR victory for the Democrats. Its a bluff we can afford to have called, and we come away big winners if the GOP don't accept the offer. I think its a brilliant move as long as they stand firm on what they are asking for.

Posted by: BStu | Apr 26, 2005 11:24:09 AM

RZ: Ridiculous. Would you like to see archival video of Walter Cronkite telling you you're wrong? Now stop it. You're embarrassing yourself.

Ezra: The Senate won't come to a screeching halt. In fact, Reid's plan is precisely the opposite. Unlike the 1995 government shutdown where picnicing families were turned away from shuttered National Parks, Americans will be able to turn on C-SPAN2, where they'll see that "Senators will be at their desks more, on the floor more, in session more." In short, the very opposite of a screeching halt. And that's the beauty of it.

Posted by: Kagro X | Apr 26, 2005 11:49:16 AM

The Senate theocrats are not to be trusted.
As our fearless leader said, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me - you can't get fooled again"

Posted by: C Paris | Apr 26, 2005 12:52:11 PM

Ezra et al-

You're missing the theatre of this. Reid floats a compromise. He leaks it perfectly. Frist, indebted to Dobson and the rest, is asked to comment on the proposed compromise, and has to reject it outright. Now the Democrats are conciliatory, Frist is obstinate, and the public is more likely to side with the Democrats.

Reid played this perfectly.

This is D.C. Perception is reality.

Posted by: a | Apr 26, 2005 12:57:03 PM

Is Robert Zimmerman satire or is he for real?

Posted by: Drfranklives | Apr 26, 2005 1:05:24 PM

I'm intrigued by how you are all so confident on this issue especially as conservatives are increasingly happy at the way thing are heading.

I can safely predict one side or other is going to get somewhat upset soon and judging by the way things have gone over the last few years it's going to be YOU!

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