Friday, May 20, 2005

Judges, filibusters and hookers -- establishing the ground rules.

There's an old and thoroughly worn-out joke that goes:

Man: Would you sleep with me for $100,000?
Woman: Hell, yeah!
Man: Would you sleep with me for $25?
Woman: No way! What kind of woman do you think I am?
Man: We've already established what kind of woman you are. Now we're just haggling over the price.

Which brings us to Republican judgeship nominations and threats of Democratic filibustering. Rather than see this continual, tedious tap-dancing from the GOP about how it's so terribly, terribly unfair that the Dems are standing in the way of judicial progress and these fine upstanding wingnuts ... uh, nominees, I would dearly like to see someone at a gaggle ask White House Press Rodent Scott McClellan the following very simple question:

Reporter: Scott, we've heard a lot from this administration about how it's unfair and obstructionist for the Democrats to threaten to block some of the current White House nominees for federal judgeship positions.

A simple question then: Does this administration recognize any rationale -- any rationale whatsoever -- under which the Democrats would be justified in blocking a nomination?

Do you see the point here? First, it's a yes/no question, despite the fact that McClellan can turn even yes/no questions into fucking soliloquys on the nature of man or some damned thing.

The point is to get out in the open whether the administration accepts that there are any acceptable reasons, even theoretical ones, for the Dems wanting to reject a nominee. Or whether the administration feels it has absolute and unconditional carte blanche to nominate -- and have approved -- absolutely anyone they choose.

McClellan would almost certainly try to avoid answering, possibly claiming that it's a hypothetical question and he doesn't do hypotheticals. But any good reporter would have, ready to go, a concrete example, such as:

Reporter: But Scott, let me give you an example. If the White House nominated, for the Supreme Court, say, Rush Limbaugh, is it your position that the Democrats should simply approve that nomination? Is that the position this administration is taking -- that the Dems have a constitutional obligation to approve every nomination?

What if the White House nominated Bill O'Reilly? Is it your position that the Dems would have an obligation to approve that nomination as well?

It's a simple question, Scott. Does this administration recognize any rationale for the Democrats to say that they disapprove of a nomination and that they're not going to let that nomination proceed?

Aside from just dodging the question entirely, McClellan really has only two possible responses. First, if he claims that there's no acceptable reason for the Dems to reject any nominee, no matter how unqualified, incompetent or gibberingly insane, well, that's a pretty significant admission to make, and the Dems would have to be absolute idiots (I mean, even more than they are now) to not be able to get some mileage out of that.

On the other hand, if McClellan opens the door just a crack and accepts that, well, OK, theoretically, there might be circumstances where the Dems are justified in dissenting, well, the Dems should be all over that statement like Bill O'Reilly on a falafel. Once that admission is out, McClellan would have to be able to explain where the dividing line is.

Could the Dems filibuster a nominee that was, say, a unconscionable judicial activist? A pedophile? A convicted sex offender? Bill O'Reilly? Where would one draw the line? And McClellan would now be in the position of having to explain just where that line was. Either way, he's pretty well fucked.

To paraphrase the original joke, could the Dems filibuster a wife-sodomizing, adulterous, mule-fucking, 8" cut, gay male escort? Well, uh, I guess so. Could they filibuster someone just because that person was a conservative? Hell, no! That would be irresponsible, what kind of obstructionists are you? What gives you the right?

Um ... we've already established we have the right, now we're just trying to identify the boundaries.

: Upon reflection, to make this analogy more realistic, rather than asking whether the Dems should approve every nominee, I should probably have had the reporter asking if the Dems should allow a straight up-or-down vote on every nominee.

If you assume the GOP holds the majority in the Senate, then effectively there's no difference but, yes, I should choose my words carefully.


Anonymous said...

The way I read this, the republicans would simply say that the democrats have every right to oppose ANY nominee, but must do so in the open vote. They can cast their vote pro/con just like anybody else.

The filibuster is about a minority preventing the majority from even having the OPTION of bringing something to a vote.

And in that, its glorious. A filibuster is a grueling, agonizing thing to do, and any time a politician gives up his comfort and is willing to put pain on the line for something he/she believes in.. its a great tradition.

CC said...

Sure, I can see that as a possible response, but then it does answer the original question I posed in that it would be saying that an actual filibuster would not be defensible under any circumstances.

And if what you wrote was the response, I would most likely respond almost exactly that way: "So, Scott, let me make sure I understand you correctly. What you're saying is that a filibuster is never acceptable under any circumstances? Is that what you're saying?"

If it were me, I might go on to have some fun with this, asking something like, "So, Scott, what you're also saying is that, if the Dems were in the majority and they nominated, say, Michael Moore to the Supreme Court, the GOP should also allow a straight up-or-down, simple majority vote, right? That's what you're saying, right?"

Anyway, you get the idea. And, of course, this approach can be generalized to just about any situation.

Anonymous said...

The way your questions are phrased, it leaves the White House Press Secretary with an easy out:

"I'm not going to answer a hypothetical question."

CC said...

Technically, that's true but, in a sense, that brush-off is now being used for everything that Scottie doesn't want to answer, and reporters shouldn't let him get away with it.

I'll blog on this whole concept of "hypothetical questions" shortly. In short, it's a hypocritical cop-out, and it's depressing to see the WH Press Corpse letting McClellan get away with it.