Despite some successes in Iraq, the Bush White House and the Republican Party seem hell-bent on squandering the advantages they won at the polls this last November. This is apparent on at least three fronts (1) the Bolton UN Nomination; (2) judicial nominations; and, (3) Social Security reform. Mr. Bush and the Republican bosses need to quit coasting and get in the game. The Social Security issue is worth its own post sometime, if I'm ever really bored, (cause it's boring), but a couple of points about the other two issues.
(1) The Bolton UN Nomination. Can't anybody play this game ? It's been obvious since the President announced Mr. Bolton's appointment to the UN ambassadorship that the Democrats (in particular Christopher Dodd) and, more importantly, the left-overs from the Powell State Department days were gunning for Mr. Bolton. Despite all this, the White House and the Senate managers seem to have been caught flat-footed by the intensity of Democratic opposition. They failed to defeat the nominaton on the merits, so the dirty tricks boys have gone looking and come up with a grab-bag of former co-workers with gripes. All very predictable. But most importantly -- they didn't make sure all their own guys were on board before they had their TV hearing yesterday. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid ! Dumkopfs ! Make sure the fix is in before you go on TV. Why didn't Richard Lugar know Voinovich had a problem before he convened the committee ?
The Senate Foreign Relations committee needs a new boss, somebody who isn't a milquetoast. And if this comes out jelly-side down, it should be a cold day in Hell before Voinovich ever gets another highway project, military base, or any more pork from this administation. And no tickets to state dinners at the White House, or invites to the Kennedy Center either.
This isn't over yet, but it's time to think in terms of Bolton going down. Gotta come up with a way to make lemonade out of the Bolton lemon. Make the Demos regret their victory. In lieu of Bolton, come up with somebody likely to be even more unpleasant to the State Department faction that wants to make nicey-nice at the UN. Somebody who will really drive the Ivy League professors bonkers. "Attention, please, attention....Senator Zell Miller, paging Senator Zell Miller...please answer the red telephone in the blue concourse..."
(2) Judicial Nominations. The Republicans are currently mulling over a plan to amend the Senate rules to allow a simple up or down vote on judicial appointments, in order to prevent the Democrats from filibustering Republican judicial nominations. Effectively, the Democrats can, at present, force Bush to have two-thirds approval to appoint a judge. I agree completely that the Democrats have totally abused the Senate rules, and that they will continue to do so, and that a lot of qualified judges will not be confirmed at this point. Priscilla Owen and William Pryor in particular.
However, I also agree with Dick Morris that the Republicans' forcing the issue on the filibuster would be a disaster at this point. By the time you've got your hangover, it's too late to go out on the town and party. The headache here is the price of the misguided Congressional interference in the Terri Schiavo mess. If the Republicans change the rules now and eliminate the filibuster, they will confirm the worst fears of most independent voters that the Republican Party means to force its views on religion and sex on the whole country.
No, I don't agree with this view, but it's a perception that has been reinforced by the Schiavo business. Instead of pandering to votes they already have, I wish the Republicans had done their homework, intelligently introduced their judicial nominees to the country, and tried to make the political case for getting rid of the filibuster. But they wanted to grandstand with Ms. Schiavo instead, and now they are set up to pay in terms of being unable to appoint meritorious persons to the bench.
As distasteful as it is, forget the rules change and let the Democrats play their filibuster game for the present, hopefully as often as possible, and for as long as they want to. Oh, and Senator Frist ? Forget that White House thing for awhile, okay ? You've got a D-minus on your present gig, and it's still headed south. Fix It, Doctor!
Before we can fix the Democrats, they have to be put in the wrong. The game now is to position them for the 2006 elections. Rather than setting themselves up to be tarred (falsely) as "extremists" the Republicans need to concentrate on getting the Democrats to paint themselves as "obstructionists."
In general, for the present, the entire Republican strategy should be built around giving the Democrats all the rope they will take. The Democrats are at present a minority party. They control no national center of power. They cannot reward supporters with offices and jobs. Like Newt Gingrich a few years ago, they have to take aggressive and bold positions to attract donations, and to keep their base motivated. They should be encouraged, nay begged, to do this. to pander to their most committed followers' most self-destructive instincts. Let them filibuster, obstruct and thwart and delay -- all the better to hang their sour attitude around their necks at the polls. In particular, encourage their pacificism and their anti-militarism in foreign affairs. Goad them here any way possible. The pacifist/lefty streak is their weakest point -- too many Democatic Senators next up for election are in Red States -- and this the part of the Democratic worldview that is most out of step with the post-9 /11 world.
But most importantly, the Republicans need to wake up, quit taking victory laps, and get their kaka together. They need to get a plan, and stick with it. The Demos are united at present. They have to be, their backs are to the wall. If the Republicans want to keep them there, they'd better remember that.