Thursday, January 12, 2006

Shut It Down

Apparently, Joe Lieberman is feeling the heat. He's reportedly said that a filibuster of Alito is a real possibility. And if Holy Joe is on board with a filibuster, you've got to think virtually all Democrats might be too.

Personally, I think the use of the filibuster here is completely warranted. Alito has been less than forthcoming in the testimony before the Judiciary Committee -- dodging questions on everything from his past associations to his present ideology -- and the little light that has shone through has only revealed a jurist with a paleolithic view of civil liberties and a faith in executive power that would've made Henry VIII pause.

Now, there are those on the Democratic side who've argued that the Democrats shouldn't filibuster Alito because it will make the public think they're "obstructionists." Screw that. That is cowardice at its worst, and it's precisely that clutching-the-hanky, what-will-the-neighbors-think? attitude that makes the party look like it has more wusses than a squad of mathletes. The only people who buy the "obstructionist" schtick are those already brainwashed by Faux News. The people in the middle seem to like it when the opposition party actually does a little opposing, as we saw all too well when the Democrats pulled their testicles out of cold storage and defied the president -- stubbornly and successfully -- when he tried to dismantle Social Security.

The filibuster would be a great way to highlight what Alito -- and the president who nominated him -- really believe. As long as the American people are hearing about peripheral crap like Alito's failure to recuse himself in a case or his association with a group of curmudgeons at Princeton, this isn't going anywhere. But take the time to spell out what they want -- a political philosophy that puts the president ├╝ber alles, pure and simple -- and the American people will sit up and listen.

And it would also do a great job of showing people what the Democrats believe. The government doesn't have the right to ride roughshod over the people's rights and invade their privacy. The government does have a duty to provide equal justice to its people and provide for their safety and security, two things that this administration is pretty horrible at. And in sticking to these principles, the Democrats could show that they do, in fact, have core beliefs that they're willing to fight for, and that they'll fight for ordinary Americans too.

Shut it down, people. Shut it down.


teh l4m3 said...

Absolutely. Filibuster the fcuk away. Hell, I'd watch that on C-SPAN -- could you imagine Barbara Boxer on Borkalito with regards to Roe V. Wade and a unitary executive?

Moonbats? I'll show you a goddamn moonbat.

Otto Man said...

Amen to that. I want to see some hot Obama action.

S.W. Anderson said...

OM, I agree about all the off putting things about Alito, especially his preference for government over the individual and for the executive over other branches. It's a safe bet he's just as prone to favor corporations over employees, consumers and taxpayers.

I understand your preference for having Dems on the committee go all out to torpedo Alito's nomination. I'd like to share share your certainty it's a good idea, but I don't.

For what you're suggesting to work without generating a lot of public resentment in this election year, Democrats would have to make a compelling case. It would have to be simple enough to explain in a paragraph, in a less-than-30-second sound bite, and be backed up by some kind of solid, gothca-type proof. In short, it would have to be an obvious deal breaker in the minds of most people.

Keep in mind, most people don't follow these things all that closely, much less in an issue-oriented way. They look at the guy, size him up, check out his family in the background, and decide whether he seems OK or turns them off. They're willing to accept that if he's a Princeton grad, worked for Reagan, made it up that ladder to an appeals court bench, the ABA supports him, he's had praise heaped on him by Bush and the Republican noise machine, he's probably as OK as most lawyers and judges are.

Many probably also believe that if the Democrats were going to produce anything really damning about Alito, they would've come up with it by now.

I just don't think the fact Alito seems too tilted toward favoring the powerful and fumbled around about CAP membership is going to set off alarm bells in too many heads. So, if Democrats try to make their case against him on that basis, a whole lot of people will indeed see them as overreaching out of partisan orneriness.

The upshot of that could well be fewer campaign donations and votes for other Democrats later in the year. I'd hate to see that happen.

Then, there's the abortion/right-to-choose issue. And on that, there's ample reason to believe he's going to vote against Roe at the first opportunity. But the fact Democrats suspect he's going to do that won't do it for most people, even though most tell pollsters they don't want Roe overturned. For that to work, Alito would've had to fess up, which he of course declined to do.

If Democrats are going to go to the wall about something, I think they'd do better to make it about free trade and the selling out of our economy; about making single-payer health insurance available to all; about either conducting the Iraq war more intelligently or getting the hell out of there, etc.

Mr Furious said...

The upshot of that could well be fewer campaign donations and votes for other Democrats later in the year. I'd hate to see that happen.

While I agree with you that is a risk, I am done playing the game that way. Worrying about donations is particularly weak, and in my opinion unfounded. I'm not sure anybody who actually donates money to the party is going to be anything but invigorated by a display of spine.

The biggest problem is boiling down the message to a no-brainer for the public. Compleate fealty to an executive branch out of control is a good place to start. Alito is a strict destructionist who seems perfectly willing to dismantle the separation of powers and equal branches of our governement, relegating the Congress to the sidelines and the Court to rubber-stamp status.

Fuck 'im. Shut it down.

My ONLY caveat to this strategy is the successful formulation of a good message AND STICKING TO IT! No freelancing on this, different Senators running around with their heads cut off with conflicting messages. And the guys who cannot be out in front? Kennedy and Kerry because they look to kneejerk and Byrd because he's too much of a coot.

Bring out the Durbins, Obamas, and Feingolds please.

Otto Man said...

I hear what you're saying SWA, but I still think the Dems have to take a stand.

If the problem is that the public isn't going to understand what's going on, then the filibuster -- which is nothing but long speeches -- is a way to get it done. And I'm not saying stress the CAP stuff. If it goes to filibuster, it has to be the Big Issues:

The polling right now shows that a slim majority (52%) think Alito should be confirmed based on what they know and that an even larger majority (lost the %, sorry) think he shouldn't be confirmed if he'd overturn Roe. It seems to me that if the Dems can use the filibuster to convince the American people that Alito is anti-Roe they'll have plenty of support for their stance. The issue of executive power is an even bigger one, I suspect.

If Dems play this right, they might not stop Alito, but they'll make a strong case to the American people that they actually do have convictions, they actually do have the courage to fight for those convictions and, upon closer review, those convictions -- supporting privacy, for instance -- are ones the American people share.

We've had five years of the Democrats being scared of their own shadows. I'm sick of it. If we're not going to oppose, then there's no reason to have the opposition party.

Thrillhous said...

SWA pretty much wrote what I wanted to, but he did it much better and managed to avoid using the word "suckers" (Simpsons reference; not calling any of y'all suckers).

I really think the good guys lost the fight before the hearings even started. I think SWA's description of how most people evaluate the nominees is spot on - they just sorta size him/her up, check out the family, and try to get a sense from the headlines what kind of person he/she is.

Our best chance was to get some troubling headlines on this guy before the hearing (yes, the "framing" thing again), so that people would come to Alito with some doubts already in mind. That didn't happen. When the hearings opened, he was, like SWA said, a guy who seemed to have all the necessary credentials and no borkian red flags.

The hearing itself was a disaster, as far as opposing him goes. This CAP thing just seems petty, and the media, right or wrong, has utterly locked on to the "dems are meanies who make women cry" storyline. Filibustering with that as the backdrop seems like charging into a windmill to me.

Everyone keeps saying "if we can make a 30-second soundbyte of what's wrong with Alito, we can win". The hearings are already over, and I have yet to hear a soundbite. I can think of a soundbite that sounds great to me and other Cspan junkies, but not one that would appeal to regular people. Not to mention the dem criticisms would have to make it past the media filter, no small feat in itself.

I do think dems need to fulfill their role as the opposition party, but I think you have to pick your battles. Would a filibuster of Alito last even a day before it was killed?

The dems should oppose Alito by voting against him. You can still have unity and a clear message, and you'll have the vote to refer to when everyone realize how bad Alito sucks.

Otto Man said...

The dems should oppose Alito by voting against him. You can still have unity and a clear message, and you'll have the vote to refer to when everyone realize how bad Alito sucks.

At the very least. The Roberts vote was 22 against, so maybe we'll see 35-40 against this time.

Mr Furious said...

I should point out that since I didn't watch one second of the hearings, my strategy might be sort of trapped in a "pre-hearing" fantasy mentality.

Thrillhous is right, if we didn't get any traction during the hearings, that's not a good sign going forward. Message and discipline ARE the biggest Dem Weakness. If the only impact from four days of hearings is the guy's wife crying, that ain't encouraging.

Rass'nfrass'n media...

Another thought I had since my previous post... (commence elitism) I'm not so sure Average Joe gives a shit or understands that the branches of governement are supposed to be equal. I think, they do sort of, but I believe most people really think the President is the most powerful branch, and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Partisan Dems like us, will be excited by a Democratic stand, but arguing against a Unitary Executive Branch will fly over most people's heads or come off as Bush-bashing. It's not, but that's how it will play.

In my mind this Executive power/government reshuffling fight is huge—bigger than Roe—but I'm not sure it can be the lead issue.

I still think it's worth going for, but I will say this: Filibuster or no, any Dem who votes to confirm Alito is dead to me. At least take THAT much of a stand.

Thrillhous said...

Partisan Dems like us, will be excited by a Democratic stand, but arguing against a Unitary Executive Branch will fly over most people's heads or come off as Bush-bashing. It's not, but that's how it will play.

Amen, Mr. F. It would also get rejected by the media types as too boring. If it ain't about a stained dress or a coke can with pubes, it just ain't gonna register.

Otto Man said...

If it ain't about a stained dress or a coke can with pubes, it just ain't gonna register.

I'm sorry -- I must've zoned out there until you got to the stained dress. What were you saying?

S.W. Anderson said...

By all means, the Democrats should oppose Alito with their speeches and votes, when it's up for a vote by the full Senate. Unified, party-line vote and message, absolutely.

That will make a principled statement, one they can refer back to when the fan gets dirty, as I'm sure it will after Alito's on the court.

OM, making a stand in a powerful, resolute way is something the Dems need to work on. They need to develop a unified voice and message on an issue where the public already has serious misgivings. We've seen how those exist thanks to Cindy Sheehan and John Murtha, for one example that jumps to mind.

David Brooks was on Charlie Rose's show last night. One of the things he mentioned partially explains how the opposition started getting the upper hand back in the '70s.

He told how the neocons tuned into average people's frustration with what they saw as rising crime, anti-law enforcement attitudes, lamebrain judges and juries, and defense lawyers running amok, getting the worst of the worst off on technicalities.

Republicans made themselves the champions of all those people who felt strongly that things had gotten out of hand, that Democrats (who then held lots more elected offices) were in denial, too soft, too politically correct, etc. That gave the Republicans a huge opening for gaining all kinds of traction.

Well, I'm saying there are things out there now where Republicans are vulnerable — free trade, loss of jobs and industries being a big, important one. But Democrats have yet to do the sorting out among themselves to take a unified stand and come up with a coherent message on that.

A big reason, I think, is that a bunch of powerful Democrats come from blue, seaport states that are making pots of money off of trade. So, what's bad for the country as a whole is good for their states.

Somehwat understandably, they don't want risk their political butt by choosing what's right for the country over what's lucrative for the folks back home, many of whom are their voters and contributors.

At some point, there must be a sorting out, a drawing of lines and development of a unified stand on that issue. I think if the party could work this out, a message could be developed that those trading-state senators and Congress members could take to their constituents and special interests. And if the whole party was putting forth that same message in a powerful, coordinated way, those trading-state officeholders would gain collateral support, which would help strengthen their spines.

Bottom line: there's plenty of opportunity, more now than in years. But Democrats have literally got to get their act together.

S.W. Anderson said...

I want to take a moment to commend everyone who has commented here. All of your comments are intelligent, informed and thoughtful.

Too often on blogs, someone acts the troll and starts attacking others' motives, intelligence and sanity. Then it all goes downhill.

This exchange is one of the best I've ever seen on a blog. I salute you all.

Otto Man said...

Right back at you, SWA. Well played.

Studiodave said...


Otto Man said...

You're like school on Saturday -- no class.

And you wonder why even the plumper porn stars aren't interested?

Mr Furious said...