The Spitfire's Grill
Regular Rants from a Pragmatic Liberal
Sunday, May 01, 2005
David Brooks
This seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. I just finished reading today's David Brooks column. I'm somewhat skeptical that his version of the "deal" is exactly as Reid put it, but I could definitely see that so long as Bush nominates a moderate, Dems shouldn't filibuster. I've been saying that there are three groups in the Senate right now: Democrats, New-Guard Republicans, and Tradionalist Republicans. Traditionalists, such as Warner and Hagel, don't want to see the Senate melt down into the inefficient body that the House has become. The Senate is the body of moderation and respect.

I think that, if it came down to a vote, Warner and Hagel would side with their own party so long as they are convinced that the Democrats were unwilling to compromise. That's why Frist is making it look like he's working for a compromise: he doesn't want one, he wants to make it look like he wants one. I just don't think Frist is the type of person who'd appeal to Republicans: he's too clean cut, professional, well-educated, and smart. But maybe he doesn't know that. Or maybe far-right interest groups are convincing him that he could be President in order to get this through.

Brooks seems to blame all of this on special interests and the Senate's refusal to stand up to them:

Of course the groups want a fight. The activists get up every morning hoping to change the judiciary, dreaming of total victory. Of course they're willing to sacrifice everything else for that cause. But senators are supposed to know that serving the interest groups is not the same as serving the people: it is serving a passionate but unrepresentative minority of the people. At some point, leaders are supposed to stand up to maximalists, even the ones they mostly agree with. (emphasis mine)

It's ridiculous to think that these groups are willing to compromise. After all, they are on a mission from [Evangelical Christian] God himself. Brooks continues:

Finally, it's time to rediscover the art of the backroom deal. There are two ways the Senate can work. The Senate could be a legal battleground in which the two parties waged all-out struggles to rig the procedures so they got what they want. In this model, the Democrats would go on abusing the filibuster until the Republicans muscled through procedural changes.

Or the Senate could be the home of informal arrangements. In this model, leaders of the two parties would get together - yes, often in secret - and make reasonable bargains. They would rarely settle things on pure principle, but they'd hope for agreements in which each side achieved a portion of its goals. They wouldn't try to decide once and for all whether the filibuster was good or evil. They'd allow it, within reason. This backroom deal-making model went out of fashion after Watergate, but it is much better than what's come since.

Can I get an Amen?

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