OK, so the Democrats have exercised the so-called "Nuclear Option," thereby adding an even greater measure of venom to an already toxic political situation. The historic step assures next to nothing save streamlining the process by which Democrats will be able to approve President Obama's judicial and federal nominees. So far as what form or shape Republican retaliation will take in the immediate and long-term future, stay tuned. Suffice it to say, the caterwauling of press, pundits and politicians has been maximally shrill and minimally edifying. Predictably, Democrats are blaming those they derisively refer to as their "friends across the aisle," for forcing them to take this radical step; while Republicans are accusing the Party of Obama of planting the seeds for the end of Democracy as we know it. Everyone, it would seem, has an unerring crystal ball which shows scenes of utter destruction and devastation -- all caused by the other guy.
When it comes to hypocrisy, hyperbole and flip-flopping, both parties are equally guilty, guilty guilty. Need proof? Check out the following statements and see if you can determine who the speakers are/were First, three speaking out in favor of the nuclear option:
- To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.
- The Senate is a living thing, and to survive it must change, as it has over the history of this great country. To the average American, adapting the rules to make the Senate work again is just common sense. This is not about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about making Washington work — regardless of who is in the White House or who controls the Senate.
- I support the step a majority of senators today took to change the way that Washington is doing business — more specifically, the way the Senate does business. What a majority of senators determined … is that they would restore the longstanding tradition of considering judicial and public service nominations on a more routine basis.
Next, three speaking out against the option:
- Let me say we are not interested in having a gun put to our head any longer. If you think this is in the best interests of the Senate and the American people to make advise and consent, in effect, mean nothing—obviously you can break the rules to change the rules to achieve that. But some of us have been around here long enough to know that the shoe is sometimes on the other foot.
- What they are attempting to do in this instance is really too bad. It will change this body forever. We will be an extension of the House of Representatives, where a simple majority there can determine everything.
- What (the American people) don't expect is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.
Stumped? The three speaking in favor of the nuclear option are:
- Then-Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, May 19, 2005.
- Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, November 21, 2013
- President Barack Obama, November 21, 2013
And as for the three speaking against the option, mirabile dictu, they are the same gentlemen:
- Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, November 21, 2013
- Then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, May 23, 2005
- Then-Senator Barack Obama, April 13, 2005.
In other words, when one is in the minority, the mere threat of employing the "Nuclear Option" is horrifyingly unpatriotic, the worst thing since the birth of Benedict Arnold. However, when one finally becomes the majority, talking up that option is more than acceptable -- it is the right thing to do. Of course up until last week, it was never more than a threat; this week, it is a reality and terms like "naked power grab," "bullying," and "an act of utter treason" are being bandied about ad nauseam. I even heard conservative radio talker Michael Savage warn his listeners "You just watch: Obama is going to unilaterally repeal the 22nd Amendment (which limits presidents to two terms) and declare himself president for life . . . Obama is a 'Junior Doc Duvalier' but will soon become a 'Papa Doc' with one unconstitutional move at a time with virtually no opposition." (To be honest, this is nothing new for Dr. Savage . . . he began spouting this "Obama-as-Duvalier" bilge nearly two years ago.)
Make no mistake about it: reducing the number of votes required for the senate to pass a resolution of cloture from 60 to 51 is both dramatic and historic. Those who aver that Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues "simply had no choice" -- that it was the Tea Party Republicans' repeated filibustering of presidential appointments and nearly every other piece of legislation that finally forced them to take this step -- they are correct . . . up to a point.
Much attention has been paid to the new face of the Republican Party; to Tea Party favorites like Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Rand Paul (KY), Mike Lee (UT) and Marco Rubio (FL) -- people who have done much to reshape their party by pushing it further and further out of the mainstream. What has not received nearly as much attention is the evolving face of the Democratic Party; to a new generation of senators such as Mark Udall and Michael Bennett (CO), Chris Murphey (CT), Brian Shatz and Maisie Hirono (HI) Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Jeff Merkley (OR) who played just as pivotal a role in forcing Harry Reid's hand as did the actions of the opposing party's young Turks. Unlike the Democratic party's old guard -- viz. Senators Schumer, Feinstein, Wyden, Leahy and Murray to name but a few -- these newer members have never been part of the minority. Since day one they have, in the words of Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Memoli, been ". . . nudging the old guard to adopt more aggressive tactics in pursuit of legislative goals and brushing aside Republican threats of retaliation and obstruction."
To a great extent, Democrats are going through as many political, tactical and personnel changes as are the Republicans. And just as the Tea Party Republicans, armed with a strong commitment to their ideals and goals have done everything in their power to stifle the president's agenda, these new -- and as yet unlabeled -- Democrats see their goal as doing everything in their power to implement it. If these young Democrats are to gain as much shaping power within their caucus, their party and this nation as the Tea Party already has, they will need both a name and a handful of audacious spokespeople -- men and women who are ready, willing and able to make a clear and audible case for the politics of compassion and inclusiveness even while standing up to the politics of fear, greed and innuendo.
©2013 Kurt F. Stone