Saturday, April 16

Marchand Chronicles: The Nuclear Option

Conventional Warfare
Mike Marchand
The Marchand Chronicles
April 18, 2005

In the opening of Bill Whittle's essay named STRENGTH, he compares the U.S. assault on Fallujah with Sam Houston's actions in the battle for Texas and asks, "Did you want to feel good or did you want to win?"

I want to win. I strongly suspect Hugh Hewitt and Ed Morrissey want to feel good.

Hewitt has spent nearly all this week on his radio show, his website, and his Weekly Standard column requesting — demanding — that Senate Republicans move forward with the "nuclear option" to overturn any Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees. Likewise, Captain Ed has been banging the drum on his blog, insisting voters should cut off all funding to the GOP in a scathing post called "Not. One. Dime."

Haven't we been down this road before?

In 1995, Congressional Republicans shut down the government in a noble attempt to force a balanced budget, an eminently reasonable idea. The result was the virtual end of Newt Gingrich's career and a boost to President Clinton's flagging reelection hopes.

More recently, last month Congressional Republicans led a special session, passing a bill with the noble attempt of forcing the courts to reexamine the Terri Schiavo case, an eminently reasonable idea. The result was a loss of face for the Republicans, who were considered to be overreaching and violating one of the central tenets of federalism.

And Hugh and Ed think this will somehow turn out better? How?

They are right, of course, in that the Republican base cranked out the vote for Senators on the basis of stopping judicial activism and Democratic obstructionism. But what they don't consider is that there are plenty of moderates and non-Republicans who despised the ham-fisted power-play politics displayed in the above examples, and will be turned off by something as drastic as altering traditional filibuster rules. Additionally, GOP voters unaffiliated with the religious right will again be spooked by the idea of theocons controlling the government and restricting debate (witness this recent Instapundit post).

The counterargument is that the filibuster's "rules" have been malleable, and that the unprecedented action is really the Democrats' filibustering nearly all of President Bush's nominees; and that the "theocons" aren't really controlling and restrictive, they're just attempting to get majority-supported judicial nominees a fair up-or-down vote. There's just one problem:

People won't care.

If the Republicans had PR skills anything close to the Democrats'; if we had a balanced media culture that played everything straight; or if the American voters by and large had a thorough knowledge of the Senate's role in the Constitution or its procedural history — if any one were the case, it would be worth the fight to block the potential filibuster.

But all people remember about the 1995 government shutdown is that Newt Gingrich became The Gingrinch That Stole Christmas. Similarly, all people remember about the Congressional action to save Terri Schiavo's life is that the Republicans overreached based on some memo touting the Schiavo case as a "great political issue." The truth about the Republicans' motives was forgotten. It will be again.

Does this matter to Hugh or Ed? It doesn't look like it. Hugh Hewitt dodged the idea that the Republicans might lose politically by saying this: "The GOP seems to think it is loosing [sic] the pr war because people don't understand the issue. Wrong. The base understands the issue completely, and it is disgusted with dithering." The problem is that the base, even if it comprises the majority of Republicans, certainly doesn't comprise a majority of the voters. The GOP will lose the PR war because people — not just the Republican base, in fact everyone but the Republican base — don't understand the issue. History has shown that, and if Hugh thinks the Republicans are too feckless to move forward with the "nuclear option," what makes him think they'll be able to defend it afterwards?

Fine by Hugh. If the GOP moves and loses, he'll send checks to the Democratic opponents of any Republicans who don't toe the party line. Well, that'll be pointless. Once the GOP moves forward, win or lose, the careers of Lincoln Chafee, possibly Olympia Snowe, and almost certainly Rick Santorum will be finished. All of them are Republican senators from blue states who face reelection in 2006. Chafee and Santorum have already been targeted by the Democratic money machine. The Democrats won't need Hugh's checks; they'll have an issue which Howard Dean and the DNC will raise millions against. And Bill Frist will become Newt Gingrich Redux. If he doesn't retire in 2006, he'll be marked for defeat. If he leaves the Senate to run for president in '08, he won't win.

Captain Ed wants to scorch the earth even more by cutting off all donations to the RNC and the NRSC if the Republicans don't move. Well, what will that accomplish? The exact same thing. Without truckloads of funding, the Democrats will have the scalps of Chafee, Snowe, and Santorum, possibly also someone like Jim Talent. As Beth from MY Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy sagely noted, it'd be foolish for the GOP to purge itself and hand Democrats the victory.

So . . . what's the plan, then? Let them filibuster.

When staunch southern Democrats attempted to filibuster the Civil Rights Act in 1964, they lost. Why? Because they went on for two and a half months. They couldn't sustain their momentum any longer. People saw through it for what it really was: a desperate attempt to hold on to their tiny little sliver of power and control.

The filibuster was starved out because of solid leadership from Hubert Humphrey and President Johnson, admittedly both Democrats, but they were on the right side of history. LBJ, when faced with the definite knowledge that the Dixiecrats were going to filibuster, refused to send any further business to the Senate, forcing Strom Thurmond, Robert Byrd et al to talk indefinitely. Filibusters are traditionally beaten by, basically, filibustering the filibuster: instead of the determined senators talking the bill to death, make them talk themselves into exhaustion and embarrassment.

Yes, I know, filibusters of judicial appointments are unprecedented. I'd love to see the Democrats get rolled over on this idea, too, but it's a trap. Most Americans think "filibuster" is a Dairy Queen dessert ("the new Filibuster Parfait!"), but they'll know that the Republicans are trying to bully the opposition (thanks to timely reminders by the Democrats and the media).

America won't stand for the Republicans attempting to break the filibuster with brute force. Let it die like every other unsuccessful filibuster has. Plus, it'd make for great soundbites: Barbara Boxer giving recipes for great sushi. Chuck Schumer reading out of the NYNEX phone book. John Kerry complaining again that he might have won the election if only Democratic voters weren't completely stupid. Ted Kennedy telling us a little more about his good friend Osama. Just think: by forcing them to sit around and talk indefinitely, we'd get Democratic idiocy served to us on a platter, 24/7, for as long as they continue to blabber and yap.

If you look very closely at the posts I've already linked to, you can see the dimmest outlines of this occurring. Senator Frist has moved large chunks of the agenda before the judicial nominations, so as to clear the way for an indefinite filibuster (from "Not. One. Dime."). Senator Santorum said the vote to end the filibuster should be "within a couple of months" (from Hugh's post about the "PR war"). Predictably though somewhat sadly, both of these provoked outrage. Captain Ed opined that the schedule change represented the fact "that the judges are actually the lowest priority for Frist and his band of merry cowards." Hugh Hewitt reported that Santorum's comment lit up his phone lines and triggered an "e-mail avalanche."

The Democratic filibuster of President Bush's judicial nominees is unprecedented and needs to be stopped. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and when Republicans pick the wrong way, they are punished by the voters because they're seen as going too far. It happened in 1995 over the government shutdown. It happened last month over Terri Schiavo.

Let's not run full-steam into the brick wall again this time. Kill the filibuster by killing the filibuster, not by preventing it.

(Edited 3/20 3:46 PM to fix a really stupid error.)


Location: Mishawaka, Indiana, United States

I graduated with an English degree from the University Of Notre Dame in 2001, and in 2008 I have a day job that has nothing to do with my degree but gets the bills paid in a semi-regular fashion. (I have running water five days a week!) The idea is that once I get turned around on my bills, I go to grad school. I also have an idea for cold fusion. Anyone's guess which will be feasible first. In non-work mode, I'm usually reading columns by famous and well-read thinkers, blogs by critically praised writers, or sometimes blogs by overzealous cranks who make me laugh. I yearn to be all three at once; until then I'll settle for being the third. I also have an undying love for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. Praise them and I'll buy you a beer; curse them and I'll dump it over your head. If that's not enough, I'm becoming quite the fan of no-limit Texas Hold'em. My games have one of two results: I either win all the money or whine because I didn't win all the money.

marchandchronicles -at-

Fair warning: I reserve the right to post any and all criticisms and flames, in their entirety. Seriously. Just ask this guy.

July 2006
May 2006
April 2006
January 2006

January | February | March | April
May | June | July | August
September | October | November | December

Essays on whatever I feel like writing about.

August 8, 2005: High Gas Prices
August 1, 2005: Judge Roberts' Hearings
June 20, 2005: Senator Durbin's Comments
May 23, 2005: Newsweek & Pepsi
May 2, 2005: Al Gore's MoveOn Speech
April 25, 2005: Lebanon
April 18, 2005: The Nuclear Option
April 11, 2005: Pope John Paul II
March 5, 2005: The Domino Effect
January 31, 2005: Iraqi Elections
January 24, 2005: Bush's Inaugural
January 17, 2005: Roemer, Dean & The DNC

WARNING: links, comments & trackbacks may contain profanities or other items of unscruples. marchand chronicles does not endorse any comment/opinion expressed in any such addendum.

A¨ A© aces
Steal The Blinds

A§ K§ ace-kings
RealClearPolitics: Index / Blog

A¨ Q¨ ace-queens
MY Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy
Michelle Malkin (no link: here's why)

A© J© ace-jacks
Captain's Quarters

Aª 10ª ace-tens
Riehl World View

K¨ Kª kings
James Lileks: The Bleat / Screedblog
Eject! Eject! Eject!
USS Clueless / den Beste @ RedState
Hugh Hewitt
Power Line
Little Green Footballs
Hog On Ice
protein wisdom
Ace Of Spades HQ

Q© Qª queens
a small victory
Little Miss Attila
LaShawn Barber
Virginia Postrel
You Know You Wanna

J§ J© jacks
InDC Journal
Best Of The Web Today
A Chequer-Board Of Nights And Days
Belmont Club
Tim Blair
Decision '08
Michael Barone
Big Lizards
Balloon Juice
Cold Fury
Jim Treacher
Baseball Crank

10§ 10¨ tens
Volokh Conspiracy
The Corner
Roger L. Simon
The Truth Laid Bear
Michael Totten
Galley Slaves
One Hand Clapping
Belgravia Dispatch
Paterrico's Pontifications
John Hawkins
Patrick Ruffini

K© Q§ paint
Day By Day
Cox & Forkum
Filibuster Cartoons
Daryl Cagle: Index / Blog

?? ?? jokers
Dave Barry
The Therapist
Roller Coaster Of Hate

A© 6© suited
Kanka's Sports Page
MY Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy
Indiana Blogs!
A Cub Fan Rants
Steal The Blinds / You Know You Wanna
Riehl World View

9¨ 8§ connectors

10§ 2¨ brunsons
Publius Pundit
Pulse Of Freedom
The Radio Equalizer
Good News From The Front

9ª 7§ nine/sevens
A Cub Fan Rants
From The Corner Of Grace And Wayne
The Cub Reporter
View From The Bleachers
Goat Riders Of The Apocalypse
Lingering Bursitis
Northside Lounge
Cubs Now!
Old Style Cubs
Hoosier Daddy?
Cub Ramble

8§ 8© 7© 7§ snowmen & walking sticks
NDToday Message Boards
Kanka's Sports Page
The Blue-Gray Sky
Kelly Green
The Irish Trojan
Irish Today
The Backer
The House Rock Built Notre Dame
Ruth Riley
The Shrine Of The Holy Whapping
The Spoons Experience
The Primary Main Objective
Musings Of A Domer

5§ 5ª black fives
Michael Yon
Mudville Gazette
Austin Bay
Froggy Ruminations
the fourth rail

5¨ 4ª moneymakers
Steal The Blinds
The 2+2 Forums
Cardschat Forums
Daniel Negreanu
Dutch Boyd
Paul Phillips
Evelyn Ng
Jennifer Harman
Wicked Chops
Guinness And Poker
Al Can't Hang
Big Slick Nuts!
The Cards Speak
Wired Aces
Damning The River
The Tao Of Poker
2 Hole Cards
The Poker Sponge

7ª 2¨ rags
The American Spectator
   Ben Stein
Boston Globe
   Jeff Jacoby
Boston Herald
Chicago Sun-Times
   William O'Rourke
   Richard Roeper
   Mark Steyn
Chicago Tribune
Daily Telegraph
   Mark Steyn
Dallas Morning News
   Mark Davis
The Hill
   Dick Morris
Human Events
   Ann Coulter
Los Angeles Times
Miami Herald
   Dave Barry
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
   Nick Coleman
   James Lileks
National Journal
   The Hotline's Blogometer
National Review
   Beltway Buzz
   William F. Buckley
   David Frum's Diary
   Jonah Goldberg
   Victor Davis Hanson
   Lawrence Kudlow
   Rich Lowry
The New Republic
   Peter Beinart
New York Post
New York Times
The Observer
   Hit & Run
San Antonio Express-News
   Austin Bay
South Bend Tribune
Tech Central Station
USA Today
U.S. News & World Report
   Michael Barone
The Wall Street Journal
   Peggy Noonan
   Tunku Varadarajan
Washington Post
   Charles Krauthammer
   George Will
Washington Times
The Weekly Standard
   Fred Barnes
   Dean Barnett
   Hugh Hewitt
   William Kristol
   Edward Morrissey
   Jonathan V. Last

3§ 3¨ treys
Associated Press
   The Note
   Public Eye
   The Morning Grind
   First Read
Drudge Report
Power Line News
Sky News
Agence France-Presse

2© 2ª deuces
Daily Kos
Josh Marshall
Matthew Yglesias
Andrew Sullivan
Crooked Timber
Brad DeLong
Juan Cole
Oliver Willis
The Huffington Post
Kicking Ass
Donkey Rising
New Donkey

Click here and stroke my ego!

Join The South Park Blogger Gallery!


Contributor to Steal The Blinds


marchand chronicles has such massive readership and influence that it makes me weep.
—Glenn Reynolds


Damn right.


What's Your Line?


I absolutely love the name of your site.

Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson, Power Line
Just the name? Not the content? . . . I'll take it.

You have something in common with Dave Barry, Hemingway, and Mark Steyn: I'm not linking to them, either.


That's good stuff there Mark.

Dean Barnett, Soxblog
Psst, it's "Mike."

(click to buy)

St. Elsewhere
The Pulse: SIRIUS 9

All text and original images © MMVI by Mike Marchand/Marchand Chronicles.

Okay, so I don't really have a copyright. But I still don't want you ripping me off. Reprint it all over the Internet if you like, but give me proper credit and link back to me. Besides, if you're going to plagiarize, steal from someone with some talent.

Powered by Blogger

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by

Blogwise - blog directory

Listed on BlogShares

(Photo: Larry Kang)

You can be one, too: Full Tilt Poker
Bonus Code: MARCHRON