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Binocular Vision: Brooks and Brownstein

May
23
2005

Yesterday, Brooks. Today Brownstein. Two sharp political writers take a look at the Filibuster Compromise That Wasn’t and come to – not surprisingly – different conclusions. It’s worth reading them in concert. The insight you’ll get ain’t pretty.
The NYTimes David Brooks makes fun of the moderate Democrats and Republicans who were working to forge a deal in the Senate to put off a show-down over filibuster rules.

“As we descend down this path, the moderates are being serenaded for their valiant efforts to find a compromise. I’m all for valiant efforts, but why do the independent types always have to be so ineffectual? Why do they always have to play their accustomed role: well-intentioned roadkill?
The answer, to be blunt, is that some of the moderates are moderates out of conviction. They do have courage. But many moderates are simply people who feel cross-pressured by different political forces, and their instinctive response is to shrink from pressure. They lack spirit to take risks, to actually lead.”

This from the guy who said, pretty much without stopping, that this was a nation too divided by partisanship – and too likely to continue to be divided — to be governed with any sense of decorum. So his pushing around the moderates so avidly feels a little — no, it feels a lot – like a cheap shot. And that’s before reading the LATimes Ron Brownstein who today bemoans the fact that compromise, once the hallmark of the Senate, is being pushed off-stage. Why? Intra-party fighting by Republicans.

“[Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid and [Majority Leader Bill] Frist have kept their distance from these negotiations. But participants perceive a distinction in their attitudes. Aides to Democrats involved see Reid exercising a kind of benign neglect. He has subtly encouraged the talks by not discouraging them. He has pressured Democrats on only one point: trying to secure the most ironclad guarantee possible from the Republicans not to support a filibuster ban later this congressional session.
Republicans involved, by contrast, believe Frist is actively discouraging a deal. One senior advisor to a key GOP participant says Frist has even suggested to some Republicans that he would rather lose a filibuster ban on the floor than preempt a vote with a negotiated agreement.
In both parties, the conventional wisdom is that Frist is pushing so hard for a vote because he’s courting social conservatives, the most ardent supporters of the filibuster ban, for his likely 2008 presidential bid. By this theory, Frist can’t accept any compromise that would allow potential 2008 rivals like Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) or Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) to accuse him of surrendering to Democrats.
“Frist has got so many people [looking over his shoulder] … that he doesn’t have any flexibility,” says veteran GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio.”

Okay, so Republicans are publicly saying that their party is pushing around moderates while Brooks, a happy conservative who’s got big-time ties to the party and its top-level advisors, is saying that Senate moderates have no sense of leadership. Put some Steely Dan on the turntable. Time for a little Pretzel Logic. No one who’s not in on this very private game – you know, like those breathing things called voters — is going to win here. No one.
Also worth noting: News that voters’ impatience – or is it disgust? – with Congress is at an all time high. Now how do you think that happened?
UPDATE:And is it possible that bad polling for everyone involved finally made Republicans and Democrats see the light? The filibuster fight might have looked like the Battle of the Marne to political insiders but to normal folks it was just more – sigh – politics as usual. That Democrats chose this issue to take a stand, as my good friend Marc Cooper has pointed out, isn’t just sad. It’s almost pathetic. That Republicans, jockeying for positioning in the next election cycle would play politics so blatently isn’t surprising – hey, the Dems do this stuff, too – but what does raise an eyebrow here is their determination, once again, to air their dirty laundry in public.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 2:59 PM | Permalink

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