Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Comity Prevails

While some will argue that the dangerous imbalance of power which threatens our nation is only aided by compromises which provide an illusion of balance, I cannot help but be heartened that dialogue has averted for now a rancorous showdown in the United States Senate over the so-called nuclear option.

Just this morning I learned in an email from MoveOn.org, that a deal was brokered late yesterday among 14 Senators, 7 from each party, in which the minority party will retain their right to filibuster nominees they consider unfit for the judiciary, in exchange for agreeing to vote for cloture on three of the controversial nominees currently awaiting Senate confirmation. It was amusing to see that MoveOn and President Bush both hailed the agreement, though with very different spins.

Being a compromise, I'm not entirely happy with it, but on the whole there is much to be happy about, and unsurprisingly many centrists are elated. Whether this "centrist" coalition of senators may broker some compromise on Social Security as South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham seemed to suggest on Hardball, remains to be seen. Graham's participation in the group interests me, as he continues to stand out as a principled conservative in the Senate. Though I was disappointed that he capitulated to his party and voted for Alberto Gonzales' nomination both in committee and on the Senate floor, his questioning of Gonzales in the Judiciary hearings convinced me that he was genuinely displeased with Gonzales' behavior in approving relaxed interrogation procedures.

Other good news in this, is that William Myers nomination to the 9th District Court appears all but dead, and I believe it spells the end to Bill Frist's Presidential ambitions. The one possible downside to that is that a Frist nomination may have been more beatable, but I've learned to be very wary of hope which resides in the strategy of a weaker opponent. It is also gratifying to hear James Dobson wail like a sore loser, exposing himself further as an enemy of moderation. While that's hardly news to many of us, remember that his effectiveness in riling the right against gay marriage was largely effective because he comes off as so fatherly and reasonable in his radio addresses to those susceptible to his message.

On the down side is the likely, though not assured, confirmation of three very conservative appointments to prominent positions, the worst of which is probably William Pryor, whose recess appointment and radicalism was effectively rebuked by Senator Leahy in this press release from last year. I'm less well acquainted with Priscilla Owen, but must confess from what I've heard from Janice Rogers Brown, that while she is certainly an ideologue, prone to radical sounding statements, she has a sharp intellect and is probably qualified on judicial grounds, though I dread her potential impact when regulatory matters come up for review, given her pro-business bias.

Russ Feingold, for whom I have an abiding admiration, did express disappointment with the compromise, but overall I share with Kos relief that comity has prevailed, dialogue averted confrontation, and the minority retains some semblance of a check on the power of the Republicans in power.

1 comment:

-epm said...

Comity, for now, yes. But I think the autocrats in the extreme right want to create an excuse to change Senate rules sooner rather than later. While polls indicate that the American public is in favor of preserving the right of the minority to filibuster, there are still others who wish the far right dictated it's will unchecked.

There is a division among Americans on the very vision of the institutions of American governance. And more frightening, there seems to be a lack of respect, let alone concern, for fellow citizens with whom they disagree. While hardly a scholar, I can't help but wonder if this isn't similar to the conditions leading up to the American Civil War.

At issue is not just foreign policy and bankruptcy laws, but the very architecture of our government. Maybe I overstate the division, but I don't think by much, if I do at all. Now is the time for reasonable people of all stripes, for whom compromise isn't seen as sin, to speak and act with the same vigor as those in the manic extremes.