May 20, 2005
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Republicans were already way over the top when they became mock-outraged at the Democrats blocking 10 Bush judicial nominees, less than 5% of the total number passed. Republicans blocked 60 or more of Clinton's nominees, some by filibuster, and most by a procedural method with the same effect of a filibuster--a procedural method they banned after Bush took office so as to deny it to Democrats.
Republicans have so far acted on this issue with nothing but extreme hypocrisy and dishonesty, and here's the rundown. First they protested Democrats not letting a judicial nominee get a vote on the Senate floor; but then it was recognized that Republicans usually blocked Clinton's nominees with the "blue slip" rule which prevented an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Hypocrisy.
Then Republicans railed against Democrats for using the filibuster, even citing times when it was used to block civil-rights legislation, with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist condemning the tactic of filibustering a judicial nominee, calling it "unprecedented." But then it came out that not only had Republicans filibustered Democratic judicial nominees before, but that Frist himself had joined in one in 1994. Not to mention that the filibusters used against civil-rights legislation were, naturally, Republican filibusters. Hypocrisy upon hypocrisy.
Then they decided to do away with the filibuster, which they themselves had used and counted on in the past; this action is what Republicans themselves termed as the "nuclear option." That term was coined by Republican Senator Trent Lott, and was used freely by Republicans--until their polling data showed that the term was viewed negatively by the public, upon which revelation Republicans not only switched to the term "constitutional option," but went into a successful full-court media press to claim that Democrats had come up with the expression (which most of the press still reports, even though it has been thoroughly disproved). Even more hypocrisy.
So now they're pushing the term "constitutional option," which is, of course, inaccurate:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee calls the possibility of enabling a simple majority to end a filibuster the "constitutional option," implying that the Constitution is on his side. The Constitution says two things relevant to his argument.
Article II, Sec. 2 gives presidents the power to "nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States." It doesn't say how the Senate shall grant this consent, and it makes no distinction between judicial and nonjudicial appointments.
Republicans read this language as requiring the Senate to provide an up-or-down floor vote on all judicial nominees.
Article I, Sec. 5, says that "each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings." Senate rules require 60 votes to end a filibuster and -- even worse for the Republicans -- require 67 votes to end a filibuster of a proposed change in the rules.
In short, the constitution not only doesn't prohibit the filibuster, it actually upholds
the process. Not hypocrisy by the Republicans on this point, but certainly an out-and-out lie.
But now they're going even further over the top, this time in attempts to smear Democrats in order to gain public approval. According to Republicans, Democrats are racist Nazis. And no, I'm not making that up.
Republican Senator Rick Santorum is now claiming that Democrats are acting like Nazis, comparing them directly to Adolf Hitler.
Republican Bill Frist is now hauling out the old canard that because one of the blocked nominees is black, that means that Democrats are obviously all racists (and probably sexists as well) because they fear putting a black woman on the bench.
All of this because Democrats had the gall to block a third as many Bush judicial nominees as Republicans had with Clinton, a sliver-thin 5% of all the extremist judges Bush sent their way. Rage, hypocrisy, lies, and ludicrous accusations of fascism and racism.
These people are certifiably insane.
Posted by Luis at May 20, 2005 02:20 PM
Republican Senator Rick Santorum is now claiming that Democrats are acting like Nazis, comparing them directly to Adolf Hitler.
Several things come to mind here. First, Republican's must be well aware of how closely they parallel Nazis. In fact, it seems likely that the Neocons are following their strategy playbook on how a right wing extremist minority position/party can achieve political hegemony. (See Richard Evan's "The Coming of the Third Riech").
But ever the Orwellians, it looks like they decided to beat public opinion to the punch by refering to their opposition as Nazis. First Bush casting Roosevelt at Yalta in the same light Hitler/Stalin nonagression pact, now Santorum. (In regard to Bush's Yalta By casting the first stone they figure maybe the label wont stick to them. Very clever indeed. Maybe too clever. In the past labeling Neocons as NeoNazis was considered out of bounds. But Bush and Santorum's statements means that such labeling is now occuring within establishment circles. This is an inflection point. You don't call your opposition Nazi's unless you are on the precipice of your own power grab, or you are on the precipice of being a victim of a power grab.
And this takes us to perhaps the most important part - what this all signals. I am sure I have stated at this site before some basic principles of game theory (but please read "The Evolution of Cooperation" by Univ. of Mich. Economist Robert Axelrod).
Axelrod asks and then answers the question: under what conditions does it makes sense to cooperate. The answer is when two parties (egoist) are in a prolonged interetive game that does not have a forseeable end. If I go to the local small grocer, the promise of nearly unlimited future transactions gives us an incentive to be civil to each other and to not cheat (or break rules of conduct) with each other. Thus, If I am a little short of money for a transaction, he might give me credit, and I will be sure to pay him at first opportuntity. On the other hand, I bought a used car that turned out to be a lemon. It was a one time transaction, the owner wanted to get off his hands, so he lied about what a good car it was (I later found proof that he lied, by checking the warranty on the battery, which he said he had never replaced). As a one time transaction he has little incentive to treat me well - so he lied, cheated and was uncivil. (I chalked it up to experiance).
Axelrod also states that the second best strategy under these conditions is tit-for-tat. If you punch me in the nose, I have to punch you back. Once you become convinced that punching me in the nose results in you getting punched back, you will return to civility. Axelrod also states, that once civility is returned to, it pays to forgive and forget and move on.
The point is: in an iterative game that has no forseeable end, the rational course of action is civility. Republicans and Democrats in congress, specifically, and politics generally, are seemingly locked in an iterative game - the rational course of action is civility. The conditions for cooperation has never been more evident than in the Senate - because they serve with 6 year terms, staggered, meaning within severing a single term you could experience multiple turns at being in the minority and the majority. Civility and cooperation is called for.
In July 2002, an article in the New York Times stated that cooperative behavior triggers pleasure implusles in the mind - while it varies from person to person, what this means is that perhaps as many as 90% of us are hard wired for cooperation (the rest are confused engineers). (I've tried to exploit this on dates - When I date a new Girl, I try to wrap one of our early dates into some kind of project that requires cooperation - cooking a fancy dinner together is best.) The point is that people who have served in the Senate state that its the greatest place in the world and is housed by the greatest people in the world. Senators both love the institution and each other. McCalluaghs (spell) Truman biography explicitly spells this out - but nearly every one that has served in the Senate has said something similar.
Okay now to my big point. Axelrod has stated, that once the end of the game becomes forseeable it pays to cheat, shirck, or act uncivily. Even if the end of the game is many moves from the present, it pays to act uncivily immediately.
If we take a step back, we see that the Neocon's are acting uncivily. Now for a long time, moderate Democrats were saying - well it is unreasonable to be uncivil back to them (because of the interative unforseeable end nature of the relationship, cooperation has to be encouraged). But Axelrod suggest, the only way to get back to civility is to punch back. Thus Kerry stock went down (because he didn't punch hard enough) and Dean's stock went up (and Reid's stock is way up, because he seems to be skilled in jujitzu (spl?)political tactics which is incumbent on a minority party.
The disturbing aspect concerning the Republican behavior in all of this is that they have irrationally abandoned civility. One has to wonder, if that perhaps they are not acting irrationaly in acting uncivily. That is to say, perhaps they foresee and end to the game, therefore they have begun cheating. Their behavior suggest that they foresee an end to the game because they are playing for permanent hegemony. Thus they will feign cooperation when it adances their cause, and then shirck cooperation when it is their turn to cooperate. They do this all the time - They used the fillibuster, or the threat of fillibuster to water down the judicial nominees in Clinton's administration and now that they are on top they are eliminating the fillibuster. Wild stuff here.
Now moderate Republican's say, wait, why are we doing this, we might not always be in the majority. The implied reason that we can infer from Axelrod's teaching is that the Neocon's are playing an end game strategy. They don't plan on being in the minority ever again.
Now you and I might wonder, How can they do that? Well they seem to have developed a number of levers here: control/ownership of the media, undermining of objective journalism, impoverishing the oppositions base, evidence of well planned vote tampering are just a few ways. I am sure they have quite a repitoire. All of this sounds conspiratorily. But so much of what the Neocons do seems so well coordinated and executed its hard not to believe that there is a nexis where it all begins. And I assure you they are familiar with what happened in Germany between 1928 and 19938 - with 1933 being the pivatol year.
Of course I am just speculating at such a conspiracy type conduct. Its all anecdotal evidence. The key thing is that the Neocons are acting irrationally uncivil and it portends of desire to end the perpetuation of two party politics into a permanent hegemony.
The best example of the dynamics of all of this is international power politics in the Europe in the run up to World War II. The analogy is not perfect as European power politics is multipolar, not bipolar - that is many nations (parties, or egoists). But anyway here goes the analogy.
In the late 1930s, Hitler began to act uncivily - making demands on the international system that threatened the balance of power. To the British and French statesman, the politics of Europe suggested that diplomacy be underwritten by civility. They took Hitler's signal as one that, perhaps, he had assumed incivility on their part, therefor they bent over backwards to demonstrate good faith civility to him - the agreement at Munich. What Chamberlain failed to grasp was that Hitler was not acting irrationally, or out of mistaken notion of the Western Allies were uncivil - what chamberlain failed to grasp is that Hitler wanted to end the itterative game - so he forsaw its end, thus he began to act uncivily. First he agreed to acquire only the Sudentenland, but then when it was his turn to be civil, he took all of Bohemia.
At this point the western Allies are cought wrong footed. Ending the game means war, and massive bloody war at that (drawing on WWI experience). Up to this point the western Allies, especially Chamberlain, can't get their head around the fact that Hitler wants to end the game of European Diplomacy. They still can't believe it. So they draw a line in the sand and it was Poland. But they are cought so wrong footed by the sequence and momentum of events that can't come up to speed fast enough to stop the loss of France.
Churchill's coming to power represents the point where the West finally got their heads wrapped around the reality of Hitler. Still getting ones head wrapped around the reality, and aligning the body with the head are two different things - and that takes time. The British were only able to buy time because of the twenty two miles of water between France and England - and then only still because Hitler altered his offensive tactics from bombing airfields and strategic targets to bombing cities. In effect a Jujitzu result that bought time for the British to mobilize their entire society to the effort required.
I see all that is going on now in American politics analogous to the power politics that ran up to the start of Word War II in Europe. The democrats have been cought wrong footed by the Neocon Republicans end-of-game strategy. Like the British at the Battle of Britain - the Democrats have to play a careful, jujitzu tactics to survive, to buy time until they are adequately mobilized to the task before them. So far, it appears that they are fortunate in having Senator Reid as the Senate minority leader. He has proven skillfull at political jujiztu so far. Unlike Britain in 1940 - the Democrats have no English Channel to protect them, no possible eastern front to drain Republican strength, no Roosevelt to lend aid and comfort from afar. This is all on them. Our civilization would then seem to hang in the balance.
Churchill said something to the extent of (and I paraphrase from memory, forgive me Sir Winston): "Hitler knows that he must beat us... and if he does all of Christendom-Europe will descend into a new dark age... but if we can hang on, (and we can receive help from the new world) ... and beat him then the world will ascend into a new age of bright new uplands... of peace an prosperity... So let us so bare ourselves to our duty that if our Empire should last another thousand years, future generations will look back and say, 'this was their finest hour'. (or something to that affect).
The the analogies to Nazis and Hitler would all seem to be appropriate on so many levels. Just not the way in which Bush, Rove nor Santorum would want you to be cognizant of - thus they are striking first - calling the Democrats Nazis. I see this as an inflection point, the incivility is being ramped up a tad bit higher, which means the game is becoming more strategic in its nature.
May God be with Senator Reid - this week especially and the next two years as he fights to protect no less than our way of life, our civilization.
Posted by: Tim Kane at May 21, 2005 01:02 AM
Tim: As usual, you state it with such eloquence and depth of understanding that it is difficult to respond with anything more than, "damn straight!" I feel almost silly pointing out that it's spelled "jujitsu," such a minor quibbling nit that is.
Your analysis is (again, as usual) greatly illuminating, and is in line with two things I have believed, one hope and one fear. The hope: that Democrats learn to punch back, damn the risks. That they will unify, organize and fight back with righteous fury equal to or in excess of right-wing zeal. The fear: that the Republicans have so successfully twisted the system that the coup may be irreversible, and if not, it will be a long, hard struggle. They have already subverted the media, but at a more fundamental level, have subverted language itself to their purposes. And they have used the fraud they committed in the 2000 election not to reform the election system, but to hijack it. Republican-made electronic voting systems without a paper trail--what does that suggest? Worse, what does it portend?
Posted by: Luis at May 21, 2005 01:16 AM
Yes my spelling sucks. I've never been good at that. Thanks for the complements.
Oh, I believe you can gage the "irreversibility" of the coup by the confidence of the Neocon Republicans. I suspect that they must have control of elections in enough states - by hook or by crook - to gaurantee majority status or they would behave differently.
What it means is that we are a banana republic. The social system will eventually look alot like Brazils. Not very pretty.
Right now I am studying the New York Bar. But I should be filling out Canadian residency papers instead. It takes two years for the paper work to go through. I could perhaps tolerate a banana republic social structure. But I don't like the idea of living underneath a system of controled information. Truth is so very important.
Posted by: Tim Kane at May 23, 2005 05:05 AM