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May 01, 2005

Why Is This Column Different From All Other Columns?

David Brooks knows something you don't:

Bill Frist should have taken the deal.

Last week, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, made an offer to head off a nuclear exchange over judicial nominations. Reid offered to allow votes on a few of the judges stuck in limbo if the Republicans would withdraw a few of the others.

But there was another part of the offer that hasn't been publicized. I've been reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush's pick, he'd come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush's nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed.

Brooks thinks Frist should've taken the deal. Hell, so do I. If Reid offered to unilaterally lay down arms no matter how crazy-insane Bush's nominees were, Frist should've jumped. If he could've effectively shepherded Roy Moore's long lost ideological twin through the confirmation process, any sins he committed in the filibuster fight of 2005 would've been long forgiven by the time 2008 rolled around. He would've gotten Dobson his dream nominee -- Amazing Grace, Frist was lost but now he's found.

So why didn't Frist take it? Did he believe Reid would screw him? Maybe, but he could've always gone nuclear if Reid broke his promise. Is Brooks being misinformed? Possible, though it's kinda odd for him to be misinformed in a way that makes the Republican majority leader look like an idiot. This column, frankly, makes no goddamn sense. Maybe Brooks believes that Reid looks like a tool of liberal interest groups for keeping such an eminently reasonable offer secret and Frist looks like a tool for rejecting it and thus the whole affair illustrates his point that both sides are too beholden to special interests, but it's not like Brooks to prioritize his column's argument above his party's image and make the opposition look good in the process, so that interpretation's out too.

So tell me, dear readers, what is going on here?

May 1, 2005 | Permalink


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I'll believe that Harry Reid promised to not fillibuster the unknown first Sup Ct. nominee when Harry or some reputable Sen. Dem. confirms it. Then I'll go ballistic for proposing the most damaging compromise of this Congress. But not until it is confirmed by a truth-teller.

David Brooks has misrepresented so many things in his columns that he now shares with Bush the dishonor of no one knowing when he is telling the truth or not.

I say ignore Brooks the fool.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 1, 2005 4:04:49 AM

I don't believe Reid would have offered that deal. Why would you want to preserve the filibuster if you don't intend to use it?

My first thought reading that column, Supreme Court nominee Janice Rogers Brown.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope | May 1, 2005 7:16:41 AM

That one's easy:

The starting point of the argument is that Reid bested Frist in this encounter. Brooks is trying to grasp at something to discredit Reid among Democrats--saying that he offered to confirm an SC nominee presumably does that.

Whether Reid actually offered that is irrelevant. If he did, it must be because he knew it would not be accepted and he would look reasonable afterward. If not, Brooks is just lying. But the departure for the reasoning is simply that the compromise didn't happen.

Posted by: Marshall | May 1, 2005 7:44:57 AM

One thing to note. The next SCOTUS nominee is most likely going to be a replacement for Rehnquist (or O'Connor). If that is the case, the Dems probably wouldn't filibuster the nomination anyway. If the nominee really sucked, Reid might be gambling that they could kill it in the court of public opinion. Frist might have thought that the offer was a promise to not do something the Dems wouldn't do anyway.

If that is the case, Frist would want to keep the offer on the DL because he would look like he is blocking an legit offer to end the impasse. Reid would want to keep the offer on the DL because, unless it was accepted, he'd look bad with the base and have nothing to show for it.

Posted by: space | May 1, 2005 8:22:27 AM

Couple of thoughts:

1.) Brooks IS writing in the NYTimes, OK? So his narrative (if true) purports to do damage to Reid with Reid's base.

2.) If Janice Rogers Brown is O'Connor's replacement, it's a mite different than if she's Rehnquist's replacement.

Posted by: Ara Rubyan | May 1, 2005 9:06:12 AM

We need confirmation.

Posted by: Quiddity | May 1, 2005 9:18:15 AM

Reid is a tool of the left, another Daschle. How the hell do you think he keeps getting reelected in Nevada?

Why would Frist accept a deal on judges previously nominated and rejected, to quote the great Chuckie Schumer, "because they're too far out of the mainstream?" What happened between then and now--did these "compromise" judges snort some magic moderate dust? Hello? Hello?

Posted by: Billy | May 1, 2005 9:48:28 AM

Reid gave Frist a choice that he couldn't say yes to, in much the same way that every anti-abortion bill Congress passes fails to include an amendment for safeguarding the health of the mother, because the crazy outlaw-all-abortions-ever wing of the party won't stand for allowing any abortions, so they keep getting knocked down as unconstitutional. Frist can't say yes, even if he wants to, because the Dobsonite Loony Nationalist Theocratic Oligarchs will have his head.

What Reid has been doing is brilliant, really. Make public conciliatory moves that they can't agree to, then when the inevitable filibuster comes, they can't just pull a Daschle on him and call him (and by extension, all Senate Dems) "obstructionist(s)".

Posted by: S | May 1, 2005 10:01:14 AM

This column, frankly, makes no goddamn sense.

Show me one of Brooks's columns that ever made sense. I would want confirmation of this. If true, I'd be angry at Reid. I doubt that it is the full story. Some kind of deal was offered, but not, I think, this one.

Posted by: janeboatler | May 1, 2005 10:07:28 AM

I agree with S (and others) who have been praising Reid for his moves. Here is a man who really seems to understand the pressures on the GOP leadership, and who has been using that knowledge to win battle after battle.

It's not just tactical, either. He has a strategic vision to lay the groundwork for a coming Democratic resurgence. Backing people like Frist into lose-lose scenarios is part of that.

Brooks is a complete hack. Everything he does is intended to help GOopers and hurt Democrats. Since it is extremely unlikely that he would make something up that would hurt the GOP, we should read this column as true. Probably Brooks got hold of a juicy tidbit and his desire to be the one who broke the story overrode his hackness.

Reid's a risk-taker. But let's save our outrage for when he actually loses one.

Posted by: Stephen | May 1, 2005 10:14:45 AM

A contentious issue on which one wins can be run on once or twice more, by claiming victory.

A contentious issue on which one loses can be run on over and over again.

If it's all about winning elections, and not about governing, you win by losing.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | May 1, 2005 10:18:14 AM

Yeah, Reid knows Dobson has Frist by the nuts, so his object is to make the most generous offer that Frist can't take back to his patrons. And word gets around among Republicans less beholden to the American mullahs (they exist, and we only need 5 of them) that Frist is unwilling to compromise, and presto, Frist doesn't have the 50 votes he needs to pull this off.

Posted by: ktheintz | May 1, 2005 11:13:18 AM

My mother and I disagree on this, so I'll take the heat - I think Brooks is being Brooks; that is, a nominal conservative who seems himself as an enlightened contrarian - a "vital center" in a world of extremes. It's crap, but it's his crap, and he holds to it.

That's not the part where my Mom and I disagree, though. The poiint is, and to some extent I agree with this, that we have to get to a point where this is no longer an issue. What Reid proposed, if indeed he proposed it, is brilliant. He essentially said to Frist, take a few extremes off the table, the rest will get votes, and the Supreme Court approval process will go smoothly. Reid is, in fact, offering to make the Senate work. Properly. Reasonably.

I get that lefties have the equal, opposite bugaboo that righties have about judges - our guys or no one. But honest to God, what we need are just good judges. Smaret people who think about the law and apply it fairly and thoughtfully. I may not agree with Justice Scalia, but I do think he's a smart man who cares about the law. And that's what a judge should be (I don't, by the way, think the same of Clarence Thomas, but that's for another day). At some point there has to be a way to dial back the rhetoric, calm down and keep the Senate process for approving judges in good working order. I think many people, left and right, have lost sight of that. If Harry Reid is keeping his eye on that, I think that makes him genius. And that I think, is Brooks' point. We don't appreciate the compromisers in this country, and we should.

Posted by: weboy | May 1, 2005 11:17:32 AM

I get that lefties have the equal, opposite bugaboo that righties have about judges - our guys or no one.

I presume that the Democrats don't count as lefties, then, having passed 96% of Bush's judicial nominees?

Posted by: Allen K. | May 1, 2005 12:02:01 PM

Reid must have know that Frist wouldn't bite. Honestly, take a look at the people to which Frist is Pandering. No compromise is possible with these deranged lunatics. None. Any little give-back to the Dems would mean the influence of SATAN, SATAN, SATAN! Frist has painted the nation, the congress, the judiciary, and especially himself, into a corner.

Those who doubt Reid's judgment ask yourselves this question: Would you have thought Frist would go for this compromise? I'm inclined to say no. Reid simply called Frist's bluff, and Frist was forced to show his hand. It was a brilliant tactical manoeuver, in my opinion.

Posted by: urizon | May 1, 2005 12:11:20 PM

I think you guys are overthinking this a bit. It doesn't really matter if Reid did nor did not make the offer. Frist has aspirations of running for president in the next election and he has already stated that he will not accept any partial compromise. He wants all nominees to have an up or down vote.
Reid has shown weakness by making any offer. The only reason why he would do this now and not earlier is the Democrats now believe that the Republicans actually can and and will change the Senate rules. Frist, on the other hand, knows he is in a strong position. Why should he take a compromise?

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | May 1, 2005 2:14:36 PM

Reid's too good to make that offer if there was any possibility it'd be accepted.

Posted by: Kimmitt | May 1, 2005 6:02:43 PM

Painting someone elected statewide from Nevada as a 'lefty' takes a special kind of mind.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | May 1, 2005 9:44:43 PM

Reid's too good to make that offer if there was any possibility it'd be accepted.

Reid was among those senators who voted for bankruptcy 'reform'. For a party that purports to represent working people, this has to rank as the most morally supine and politically stupid move in a long time -- and that's really saying something, given the Democrats' track record of brainlessness and spinelessness. So if Reid's 'too good', I hate to think of what 'mediocre' or 'bad' might be....

Posted by: sglover | May 2, 2005 10:01:46 AM

I think Kimmitt meant politically shrewd, as opposed to righteous, sglover.

As to whether the bankruptcy vote was "politically stupid?" Time will tell. I'm with you on the "morally supine" part.

Posted by: urizon | May 2, 2005 1:22:35 PM

This is a battle of the bases. This judge thing is for the bases to get excited or not.

Now Reid's offer was counter base, however, pro-rest-of-people-paying-attention-who-don't-yet-subscribe-to-an-ideology (or the pragmatists). Frist said, hell no my priority is to screw the dems and show the base I got's the sack to do it.

So nuke's are on baby, let the showdown begin. And in the end Reid will throw all kinds of parliamentarian maneuvers that should have been thrown around already on bills like bankruptcy (which Reid voted for).

ho hum, its useless to fight them on this one. They have the power, and wether they use it or not really is NOT up to the Dems.

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