Three Stooges strategery

How the Republicans are running circles around the Democrats.


Published July 17, 2007 10:42PM (EDT)

It is so rich listening to these Republicans decry the tyranny of the majority and stand up for the inalienable right to filibuster after their tiresome "up-or-down vote!" mantra of the past six years. Nobody ever accused them of being intellectually consistent. But this takes real chutzpah. From Think Progress:

"When Democrats held up the confirmation of a few of President Bush's right-wing judicial nominees, conservatives repeatedly complained of 'obstructionism.'

"Senate conservatives had threatened to deploy the 'nuclear option,' which would have eliminated the traditional Senate practice of filibustering.

"Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.: '[Filibustering] is wrong. It's not supportable by the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I'm perfectly prepared to blow this place up.'

"Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spokesman: 'Senator McConnell always has and continues to fully support the use of what has become known as the [nuclear] option in order to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate.'

"Today, however, these conservatives are proposing the exact opposite of the nuclear option -- a permanent filibuster. The Washington Post reports today that McConnell has requested that all Iraq amendments meet a 60 vote threshold, an effort designed to quietly block withdrawal legislation from ever passing the Senate:

"Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Reid with a counteroffer: an automatic 60-vote threshold for all key Iraq amendments, eliminating the time-consuming process of clearing procedural hurdles ... All the controversial war-related votes held since Democrats took control of the Senate in January have required 60 'yeas' to pass.

"'It's a shame that we find ourselves in the position that we're in,' McConnell said. 'It produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation.'"

You can't help but be impressed by the sheer audacity of their strategy. Since the November election, in every situation, the Republicans have responded by not compromising, negotiating or capitulating in even the most minor ways. They have instead aggressively upped the ante.

The Democrats won largely as a result of the public's desire to end the Iraq war. What did the president do? He escalated it. The Democratic congressional majority quite naturally wanted public oversight, the president offered private, undocumented "talks." Then, when Congress issued subpoenas to ex-staffers, the White House directed them not to comply. One showed up and testified incoherently, and the White House ordered the other one not to show up at all. Even when Congress asked for documents about Pat Tillman the president invoked executive privilege.

The Republicans in Congress have not been any better. Today you see them completely reversing their recent position that the filibuster is unacceptable (recall their mantra, "elections have consequences") and bizarrely calling for a permanent filibuster on all Iraq measures, as if ending the occupation should require a super-majority!

I don't think the Democrats have fully internalized what is going on yet. As I wrote the other day, we are dealing with a political party that is employing a strategy of anarchy in which incoherence is used to flummox the opposition and confuse the media. It is confident (and likely right to be so) that this will never catch up to it because the media has ADD and today's political atrocity is forgotten by the next news cycle. By running circles around the Dems with obnoxious disregard for the Congress and gleefully flouting their own precedents and rhetoric, the president and the Republican minority are almost daring the Democrats to try to stop them. Which is the point. They are going for the big narrative, which is the old standby that the Democrats are too soft to run the country: "If they can't stop Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, how can we trust them to stop Osama bin Laden?"

The question comes down to whether the Democrats will make sure the Republicans are held responsible for the mess they made or whether they will allow themselves to be held responsible for failing to stop them. The Republicans are betting that the public will blame the indulgent parents when the children run wild and it's a pretty creative plan for a party that has a deeply loathed president and monumentally unpopular agenda.

I wonder what the Democrats' strategy is?


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