Saturday, January 28, 2006

In Support of the Filibuster

Two things up front. First, I don't really like the idea of a 'filibuster'. Often, it seems like taking one's ball and going home. That being said, I have some vestiges Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, (or, for the West Wing fans Stackhouse Filibuster), good-government idealism left in me, so I can see the appeal of standing up for a righteous cause, and fighting it out with every maneuver at your disposal.

Second, my thanks to RIA for inspiring both my thoughts on the matter, and inducing me to broadcast them. This post is best read as a response to her well considered disappointment with the filibuster. To those of you who disagree with me, I welcome a discussion on the subject, and hope we can engage our "best minds", as she might put it. If we can't speak openly about our ideas, where are we?

So, on to why I support the filibuster, even if calling it in from a ski slope in Switzerland doesn't seem the best plan from a tactical standpoint.

Part of my disagreement with RIA's position is ideological. Alito will be that bad. I'm not sure you can have an appreciation of how bad a Justice Clarence Thomas is without getting into it. It's not the results he reaches, it's the blatantly non-legalistic way in which he reaches them. Precedent he doesn't like is not binding, but if he likes the result it would engender, he's "bound to follow". His opinion in the recent Oregon right-to-die case is a perfect example in point - he thought Raich (the recent medical marijuana decision) wrongly decided, but didn't like the Oregon law, so he dissented based on Raich, if that makes sense. And I think Alito might be worse on every aspect of individual rights and freedoms.

And I could maybe live with that save for the executive power issue, where he truly is off the reservation, Borkishly so. I'm not sure how strongly I can express my disgust for the "Yoo doctrine" which he appears to buy. It's wrong, and based on a very selective reading of history and precedent, but it's 'truthy', so gets trotted out to defend such laudable acts as torture, kidnapping and presidential law-breaking.

For those reasons, he is to be fought tooth and nail. Yes, the Democrats bungled the hearings, but that doesn't mean it's time to close up shop.

As for the 'tactical' aspects, the Dems have been talking 'tactics' on everything that comes down the pike, and have 'tactically retreated' us into one (bungled) war, the rumblings of another in Iran, a disastrous disaster response, a drug package that is quite possibly worse than that for anyone without Pfizer stock options, and active disenfranchisement of minority voters in Texas and Georgia. And I could go on. At a certain point one has to stand up to a bully.

Additionally, the fact that prominent GOPers went immediately ON RECORD to denigrate Kerry's move leads me to suspect that we're doing something right. If they were really happy about it, they'd crush it first, crow about it next Tuesday at the State of the Union, and then have a snack. Polls strongly show that if Alito were to cause an overturn of Roe, people would lose their minds - that case is not hard to be made so it's time to stand up and do it.

Between Roe and "would allow presidential law breaking (which oh, by the way would also include no accountability for the Katrina response)" those are two pretty strong assaults to be countered merely with mealy-mouthed assurances of "well-qualified jurist".

As for the 'opportunistic' aspect, so what? That's part and parcel of politics. Further, the charge of 'opportunism' is just another one of the dissent-squashing fear tactics that this administration has used to cow all opposition since 9/11. I'm sick of being called a coward or a traitor or an opportunist, or a defeatist every time I advocate what I genuine think is best. That's why I jumped on XWL earlier this week for his take Joel Stein's LA Times column, and that's why I'm riled up now.

And so I get back to it, at a certain point the opposition party has to stop quivering in fear every time Karl Rove looks at them funny and start opposing. If not now, when?


reader_iam said...

What I was trying to tell you in my comments section last night was that the "opportunistic" referred to Alito (who seems to be able to spin just a little to easily to fit his job-seeking circumstances) and also SENATORS, because it's now, in my view, too little, too late. They botched it. It seems to me that they're now just trying to get self-righteous political traction from themselves on the back of their own screw-up.

Obviously, this doesn't apply to you, because you're not a politician.

(Besides which, I fail to see how use of this word is a dissent-squashing fear tactic. If that scares anyone, much less discourages them from dissenting ... well, let's say I find that a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. But whatever.)

One other teeny-tiny point: I think you would be very hard put, within my post, to find anywhere that I defend Alito personally or indicaate that he's my idea of an ideal Supreme Court Judge.

Read it again and see ...

demimondian said...

They botched it.

Did they? I think that depends on "what the meaning of 'it' is", to paraphrase Clinton. If by "it" you mean the hearings, you'll get no argument from me. If by "it" you mean the nomination as a whole, I think I disagree. In my opinion, the Alito nomination isn't botched until and unless it becomes an appointment. As long as the vote hadn't happened, it hasn't been botched.

My Republican friends keep telling me that "elections have consequences". That's true, but they also cast a shadow back in time. Even if the filibuster fails, there's an opportunity to say "Look, this is the first chance we've had to stop this. We're doing what we can, and here's why." That vote, cast in the shadow of a midterm ten months from now, may be a solid tactic, even if it loses.

Aspasia M. said...


I agree -- The threat of presidential power and the Yoo doctrine, individual liberties, and everything else you cited in your post.

I was dismayed at the performance of the Senators at the hearings. But this is too important to just give up the fight. If not now - then when?

I'm sending faxes tonight to several Senators.

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Icepick said...

Pooh, spare me the complaints about being called a traitor. I've been called a traitor for supporting Bush, and I'm regularly told that I'm evil for being a Republican. (And you strongly imply that yourself.) Not to mention the whole "stolen election" thing. So the whole "Don't call Democrats names!" bit is a bunch of phoney bullshit on your part.

As for being an opportunist, the fact that you are all over Bush's case about the Katrina disaster BUT FAIL TO MENTION Democratic incompetence and corruption in Louisianna indicates that you ONLY have partisan goals on that story.

So please, no more "I only have the good of the Republic in mind" posts. Admit that you hate all Republicans, and that you want us all locked up or shoot and be done with it.

Pooh said...

Pick, a very fair point re: Nagin and Blanco, to be sure. There is more than enough castigation to go around re: New Orleans, and the local pols surely deserve a healthy. My post was not meant to focus on that, rather to add it to the list of things that might have gone better had the opposition part had a more, er, responsibiltating effect.

As far as you being called a 'traitor' for voting Republican, I find that equally repugnant. And no, I don't hate all Republicans. I strongly disagree on many policy issues, and I have great antipathy towards the representatives you have chosen, but my guys lost (and as much as I dislike the tactics chosen by GWB, my guys picked a tool, who proceeded to run a toolish campaign. How did we get to a point where GWB and Kerry were considered the two 'best' to choose from?).

But discussion of those disagreements is key to a functioning democracy, and for whatever reason, that dialogue doesn't exist now.

Perhaps my writing is a little more strident on this issue than it might have been, but I think the Alito nomination represents something of a perfect storm to raise my ire. I've been on edge about it since the hearings where I was simultaneously dumbfounded by the inanity of the Democratic questioning and disgusted by the faux outrage over a few tears. There may be crying in baseball, but there shouldn't be in either politics or law.

The reason I asked last week for book recomendations is I want to get a better understanding of why a worldview different than mine appeals to people, and I'm coming to understand, in principle, the appeal of conservatism (though I don't agree with it, in large part because it serves as a 'thumb on the scale' against supporting social change which I find desirable, especially re: invidious discrimination. But that's neither here nor there.)

Finally, this post is not directed at you, it's directed at my guys. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. It's time for the elected DEMs to show that they are about something more than staying elected, damnit. Surely you can respect me calling on my 'champions' to fight for me, can't you?

Please, Pick, I aim not to offend. I want to hear opposing views. I want you to hold my feet to the fire when I say something off-base. I want to hear why I'm wrong. I'd like to think I'm capable of changing my mind when presented with sufficient evidence.

reader_iam said...

Pooh, did you happen to pick up/order Sowell's "Conflict of Visions," which I think I recommended to you?

I really, really do think the time is ripe to read it.

Also, though not perhaps directly on target regarding differing political worldviews, I think you might enjoy Stephen L. Carter's series on public virtues. I'm especially thinking of "Civility," which also speaks to the topic we broached off-line and to which you allude here. (Another is "Integrity" and I can't think of the other one off the top of my head, though I own, and heartily recommend, all three.

Icepick said...

Pooh, if you want to be partisan, BE PARTISAN! Complaining about name calling is farting in the wind. Every side does it, and they have in every time. The charges and counter-charges now are no more or less scurrilous than previous times. Your guys are tools. My guys are tools. There is little or no reasoned debate. Same as always.

Re: Understanding other points of view. I had more here, but deleted it. I'll just ask a question instead. Why is it all the people I knew that grew up privileged are strident Democrats, but everyone I know that grew up poor grew up to be conservatives or independents?

Restated: Why do you think that I, who grew up poor in the South, would have the same point of view as you, the son of a college professor and lawyer? Other than wanting the same toys for Christmas, where is the common view point?