Although FrontPage Magazine views Monday night's compromise over judicial nominees as a negative development, some on the Right have viewed it as an outright victory. Two of our regular columnists have submitted conflicting viewpoints on this outcome. Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris considers the agreement a triumph of centrist compromise. Talk show host Michael Reagan, on the other hand, sees this as a sellout. Below we reproduce both views out of respect to them and as a service to our readers.. -- The Editors.
PRO: The Center Restores Sanity
by Dick Morris
The deal to avert a change in Senate cloture rules is more than just a temporary outbreak of sanity in this highly charged partisan accelerator chamber. It amounts to a transfer of leadership from the polarized, party leaders to the narrow but critical center of the institution.
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) still has the corner office, and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still has the key to the executive washroom, but it is the 14 senators who crafted this deal who now are the people to see in the Senate. Few realized that when the Republicans garnered 55 seats in the elections of 2004 it did not represent a gain toward achieving cloture as much as it set the stage for a transfer of leadership.
Now it takes just as many renegades from the left to break a filibuster as it does from the right to pass a bill. This parity is conferring tremendous power on the moderates. Although there are very few of them, these centrists can now stand to achieve a great deal of power.
During the Clinton years, for example, Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) reveled in his ability to represent the handful of centrist Democrats who agreed with the president’s vision. But now, the defections from the polarizing agenda of the leaders are broader and more equally distributed between the parties.
The number of centrist dealmakers — 14 — is also worthy of comment. It must have been designed so that no single senator could be blamed for the deal by his or her leaders. Strictly speaking, only six would have been needed to stop Vice President Cheney from casting the deciding vote in favor of orthodoxy. But each side anted up seven members so that nobody had to take the rap.
The motives of the 14 are interesting. On the Republican side, Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee and Arizona’s John McCain are the usual suspects when one comes up with a list of sane moderates. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham has always been on the verge of a leap into moderation, restrained only by the state that he represents.
But Mike DeWine (Ohio) and John Warner (Va.)? Neither is part of the usual crowd. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) would be more like it, but he was doubtless paralyzed by his aspiration to stay as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. DeWine, who is brilliant, and Warner, who is not, bear watching. Something may be up!
On the Democratic side, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman leads the ranks of moderates. Unfortunately, he has no followers. So where did Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Dan Inouye (Hawaii), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La), Ken Salazar (Colo.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) come from?
Byrd we can discount. He probably voted to sustain the filibuster in case a new civil-rights bill comes down the pike. After all, it was his legendary 14-hour talkathon to kill the 1964 bill that still resonates in our memory.
But the others? Could this be part of Pryor realizing that he comes from Arkansas and Landrieu that she hails from Louisiana? Could they be gun shy after watching five Southern seats go Republican in 2004? Nelson may have his eye on the drubbing neighboring South Dakota gave party hardliner Tom Daschle, and Salazar may be thinking of his narrow margin of victory. Let’s hope so? Inouye? Search me.
But whatever their motives, let’s celebrate the fact that there now exists, in effect, a third-party caucus in the Senate of moderates from both parties. They may offer a chance for us to be rid of the reflexive and revolting partisanship that has led to government shutdowns and presidential impeachments, each equally abhorrent to most voters.
We can only hope that this new middle of the Senate will take the agenda away from the extremes in each party and bring government back to the middle, where it belongs.
ANTI: A Betrayal by the Gang of Seven
by Michael Reagan
"We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the radical right of the Republican party an undeniable message....the abuse of power will not be tolerated."
That was Democrat Minority Leader Harry Reid chortling over his party having once again put one over on the stupid party.
Seven so-called Republicans signed an idiot’s compromise over the matter of judicial nominations, agreeing to defy the White House and their own leadership and for all intents and purposes give the Democrats a license to continue obstructing the approval of the president’s judicial nominees.
Make no mistake about it – this deal is nothing less than an abject surrender made more humiliating by its impudent demand that the President consult with the Senate before submitting his judicial nominations to the Senate.
According to the surrender document, “We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.”
In other words, in addition to shamefully legitimizing the Democrats’ unprecedented use of the filibuster to prevent nominees from being given their constitutional right to be given an up-or-down vote, the deal attempts to rewrite the Constitution by seeking to meddle with the president’s right to be the sole judge of whom he will nominate for judicial appointments.
If you listen to the seven deserters indulging in self-congratulation over their betrayal of the voters who made the GOP the majority party in the Senate, the deal was a victory for all Americans. But if you want to know who really won in this disgusting episode listen to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who boasted that her group was "heartened that the crisis has been averted and the right to filibuster preserved for upcoming Supreme Court nominations. We are confident that a Supreme Court nominee who won't even state a position on Roe v. Wade is the kind of 'extraordinary circumstance' this deal envisions."
Time and again the Senate’s Democrat minority have demonstrated their willingness to employ the worst kind of skullduggery and outright lying and deception to obtain what they could not win from the voters, yet this gang of seven displayed a child’s naiveté in accepting as valid the minority’s trustworthiness and their promises to abide “upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.”
Even more incomprehensible is the gang of seven’s reliance on the Democrats’ definition of the term “extraordinary circumstances,” not spelled out in the surrender document, which states: “Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.”
In other words, they will rely on the duplicitous Democrats to decide what constitutes “extraordinary circumstances,” which you can be certain they will define as relating to a nominee’s stand on abortion and the legitimacy of liberal judicial activism supplanting the legislative process and the will of the voters as expressed at the polls. You might just as well post a sign on the door of the Senate chamber stating, “No conservatives need apply.”
The liberals’ real target is the probability of Supreme Court vacancies and the administration’s demonstrated tendency to nominate conservatives. By retaining the ability to filibuster, they plan to block any nominee to the high court who does not fit comfortably into the left-wing mold. Fortunately, the gang of seven was unable to surrender the ability of Senator Frist to employ the nuclear option should the Democrats attempt to deny the president’s Supreme Court nominees their right to up-or-down votes.
Finally, the GOP’s conservative majority needs to let the gang of seven know they will pay a very high price if they continue to play the Democrats’ game.