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August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Is It Possible to Un-Jump the Shark?

Robin’s boss really gave ’em hell today, and it was wondrous to behold.

April 28, 2005 / Uncategorized



‘As Aristotle once said of virtue, respect for the rule of law is “one thing.” It is indivisible.’

‘This aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place.’

‘”And when the last law was cut down and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast-man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”‘

‘Two-thirds of the American people reject their argument. The nation is overwhelmingly opposed to this dangerous breaking of the Senate’s rules. And, so the leadership and the White House have decided to call it a crisis.’

‘I served in the Senate for eight of my 16 years in Congress — and then another 8 years as President of the Senate in my capacity as Vice President. Moreover, my impressions of the Senate date back to earlier decades — because my father was a Senator when I was growing up.’

‘Their grand design is an all-powerful executive using a weakened legislature to fashion a compliant judiciary in its own image.’

I was reminded that what have often been painted as Gore’s political vices — his deliberate manner, bookishness, and tendencies towards grand, occasionally distorting pronouncements — can equally be deployed as his virtues.

More to the point — what’s astonishing about this essay is the way in which Gore turns what could have been a straightforward polemic against a Senatorial rules change into a historical vortex, at the point of which is Gore himself. He begins, somewhat obliquely but directly to the point, with an account of his own experience in the 2000 election, then vanishes behind his own magisterial account of the maelstrom of intellectual and political history — Aristotle, Sir Thomas More, Madison, Lord Acton — only to reappear at the end, through a kind of sleight of hand, as the chronicler of the Senate and the constitution itself. Throughout, he is measured, steadfast, and relentless.

What kind of political player will Gore be in the next decade? Clinton is the reconciler, simultaneously defusing vitriolic personal passion against the Republicans and representing the last, best alternative. Carter is the moral exemplar, playing out thirty years of the beautiful defeat. Kerry’s still a strong democrat, but for the most part he’s just gone back to work.

Gore could play a role closer to what people originally envisioned for post-New Hampshire Howard Dean, and mediating somewhat between Dean and Clinton: subterranean action through the press and alternative media, the steadfast intellectual and political conscience of the party and the nation. And that would be something remarkable.

James Greer says…

Any who seek to wield the powers of government without the consent of the people, act unjustly.

Polls say the people want a vote on judges. Also, the people voted for republicans who have a majority rule.

I guess Gore is saying democrats are acting unjustly by subverting majority rule via the filibuster.

Polls also say that people don’t want the filibuster rules to be tampered with, 2:1. (Here’s my source, where’s yours? ).

So I know your guess about what Al Gore is saying is deliberately, simplistically, wrong. Al Gore is saying that Democrats are acting within the current tradition and rule of law, the rules of the game knowing which the people elected this current slate of Representatives and Senators. Changing the rules of the game well after the start of the congress and well after the election is subverting the will of the people.

I’ll keep shouting it till I’m horse. We are in a Republic, not a simple Democracy. (Ironic, isn’t it, that it’s when the Republicans are in power we suddenly have to keep reminding people of this.) A simple Democracy can easily amount to a mob. The Republic maintains liberty, due process, civil rights, the rule of law, and justice by having checks and balances in place to oppose the Tyranny of the Majority with exactly such counter-Majority tools as the filibuster.

Oh, btw, can I just say that I only became a Clinton fan when he chose Al Gore as his running mate, that’s how much I love that man? I still have my tattered 9th grade copy of Earth in the Balance,, a Christmas present from my parents. (Yeah, that’s how geeky I was.) Sorry, Robin, I know you kind of need him to be running your company but damn I wish he had run for president again.

James Greer says…

The poll you cite was seriously flawed. Need another source? Here, have another.

It’s all in how you word the poll, that’s why real politicians don’t follow polls. They lead with their core beliefs. If you reword the poll, you’ll find 81% OF PEOPLE ARE AGAINST THE FILIBUSTER.

And I agree with you on Al Gore running for president again, I wish he would too. He’d be a lot easier to beat than most other democrats.

James Greer says…

Changing the rules of the game well after the start of the congress and well after the election is subverting the will of the people.

If they follow the rules to change the rules, well, that’s how congress works. And it would be impossible for a majority with a mandate to “subvert the will of the people”. What they are doing is exactly what the majority sent them there to do; to enact republican agendas and policy.

If you don’t like it, shoulda gotten more votes.

Er, James, did you happen to read those links you posted?

From your first link:

Private Republican polling shows scant support for a plan to stop minority Democrats from blocking judicial nominees, officials said Thursday, as two of President Bush’s most controversial appointments advanced toward a possible Senate confrontation.

These officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a recent survey taken for Senate Republicans showed 37 percent support for the GOP plan to deny Democrats the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, while 51 percent oppose.

Additionally, the survey indicated only about 20 percent of Americans believe the Republican statement that Bush is the first president in history whose court appointees have been subjected to a filibuster, a tactic in which opponents can prevent a vote unless supporters gain 60 votes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting the survey data has not been made public.

Your second link is an unsupported screed from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (that’s this Tony Perkins, by the way, not that his ties with the Council of Conservative Citizens are entirely relevant, but just fun to know, right?). His complaints:

Not once in the poll do the questions explain that what the Democrats are doing is both unprecedented and borderline unconstitutional. The questions dealing with the unprecedented filibuster do not even mention the word “filibuster,” leaving uninformed participants at a loss to what exactly the Democrats are doing.

According to The Post, “the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush’s nominees.” Seems to me that’s a straightforward presentation of the issue, and using the word “filibuster” would make it more confusing, not less. Your OpinionJournal link also critiques the lack of the word “filibuster,” which is fair, but totally unpersuasive to me.

As for “unprecedented,” all I can say is — Um.

Not that I need to go on, but I’m curious about what drove you to those particular links, James? Did you query Google News for “poll” and “filibuster” and link to the top five results? Your fifth link describes an anti-filibuster poll as being “faulty” and “partisan,” and your sixth link is a memo about a poll conducted by two GOP groups, with no mention of the nature of the survey, the methodology, or even the margin of error.

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