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Booze and Dope


A lot has been said but there’s not really much going on – not yet – in the Supreme Court cases being heard today on shipping wine across state lines or permitting the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. As a rule, it’s silly to anticipate what the court will do based on the justices’ questions or comments. The court is a committee and well, it behaves accordingly.
The pairing of the cases – the dope case is about state’s rights to make laws that allow behavior considered illegal in other places, the booze case takes a look at laws that make legal behavior illicit – is interesting. But it’s nothing to get too excited about. Remember, it’s a committee.

The cases do, however, highlight an interesting split in the Republican Party. A split that’s also on display in Congress. Who’s going to call the shots? Social conservatives who want the state to impose restrictions on personal behavior? Or the Libertarian wing which could care less about boozing and toking? Or, if you’re a Democrat the question might be: How far will they go?
The same sort of drama is being played out on Capitol Hill where Congress today – in its last meeting of the year – tries to take up legislation it has been encouraged to adopt by the 9/11 Commission. The party’s conservatives are holding the bill hostage.
The split within the party isn’t expected to be limited to this session of Congress or to the Supreme Court. It’s expected to be a key element in the next session of Congress, a session that could include a package of tax cuts, revolutionary social security renovations and immigration, all bound-to be-controversial elements of the Bush Administration’s domestic agenda.
The pudits are spending their time and energy focusing on how President Bush will be affected by this split. My bet: He’s not going to care very much. He’s going to keep insisting that the plans and proposals he’s made are successful. This is a tough set of circumstances for the Democrats. How do they turn things in their direction? The tradition gambit has been to let the Congressional Republicans fall in on themselves and be seen as a bunch of no-accounts. That’s, in essence, what’s going on with the Intelligence Reform legislation. This gambit has worked well, huh? Republican majorities have grown. Democrat’s have shrunk.
So what’s going on? Well, voters are plenty cynical about Congress’ ability to do anything right. It’s the same sort of cynicism that has Californians loving Gov. Schwarzenegger even though he’s been hog-tied on a number of different initiatives by the California Legislature. He just keeps declaring victory, regardless of what’s he’s accomplished and voters believe him. Legislators, enamored of process and compromise, stand back in awe as Schwarzenegger takes credit for barely achieving – if that – his goals. It’s not just a good tactic for a governor, either. It works well for Presidents, too.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:54 AM | Permalink

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