Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The three Democrats who voted with all ten GOPers to send the smooth but shifty lawyer towards his Supreme Goal were Senators Leahy, Kohl and–surprise, surprise–Feingold. Among Democrats outside the committee announcing their position today was Sen. Hillary Clinton, who said she’d vote “no.” Some Democratic activists and bloggers sort of went medieval on Pat Leahy yesterday for announcing his support for Roberts. The reaction to Feingold–a probable presidential candidate in 2008 who has earned a fair amount of blogospheric support due to his perfectly timed call for a fixed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq–was more muted, though occasionally shocked and saddened. One common interpretation has been that 2008 wannabees are treating this vote as an opportunity to reach out beyond their natural political bases. Thus, according to this theory, “centrists” Biden and Clinton are building credibility with activists and the netroots, while Feingold is moving in the other direction to avoid typecasting as the candidate of the Left. My favorite take, by Daily Kos diarist LarryInNYC, goes well beyond the “keep your powder dry” theory that Democratic Senators voting “yea” are making sure they have maximum credibility to go after Bush’s nominee to replace O’Connor, which will almost certainly change the overall balance of the Court. Actually, suggests Larry, some “yes” voters (presumably Leahy and Feingold) are actually planning to lead a filibuster against said nominee, and thus have signalled by their support for Roberts that they are in truth the shrewd, fighting Dems that disappointed activists had hoped they would be, while some of the “no” voters are probably unprincipled trimmers.Those of you who have studied Karl Marx or Karl Barth will recognize this as a fine example of dialectical reasoning. Is Larry right? Beats me. But I think we should all be open to the possibility that Democratic Senators voting for or against Roberts are actually doing so for the reasons they publicly state, just like all us bloggers and activists who have weighed in on the subject in recent days.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I’m certainly old enough to remember lots of these pre-election “agenda” documents, and couldn’t help but mock the latest one at New York:
In Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 cult novel The Crying of Lot 49, a character who has taken too much LSD decides that if everyone on earth repeats the marketing phrase “rich, chocolatey goodness,” it will represent the voice of God. With or without drugs, a lot of people in politics have a similar delusion that getting candidates to make the same noises like chirping cicadas will produce electoral victories. It’s a particularly strong belief among congressional Republicans, who share the dubious conviction that Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” is what flipped control of Congress in 1994.
With the assistance of Gingrich and former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the House Republican Conference has released a new “agenda” document, entitled “Commitment to America.” The document, clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his “Democrat” Party. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot of specificity, unlike the unfortunate “agenda” that Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott released earlier this year to the near-universal horror of his colleagues, who don’t want to be identified with the proposed sunsetting of Social Security and Medicare.
The relatively anodyne character of Kevin McCarthy’s pet project doesn’t mean it is entirely useless. Candidates mouthing the approved pieties will presumably not be expressing their pithy views on Jewish space lasers or repeating QAnon slogans.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously an agenda for the nation that does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy — or one that suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut “wasteful government spending” without explaining what that means (in the indictment of Democrats that accompanies the agenda, there is much criticism of direct stimulus payments, which Donald Trump preferred to virtually every other form of government spending).
Most interesting was how House Republicans handled a red-hot issue they dare not ignore completely, given the obsession it commands among a very big chunk of the GOP party base: abortion. You have to look pretty hard to find it, nestled as it is under the unlikely heading of “A Government That’s Accountable,” and the downright misleading subheading of “a plan to defend America’s rights under the Constitution.” And it simply says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” So they checked off a box for anti-abortion activists in the manner least likely to draw curious or unfriendly attention to the extreme abortion views so many of them have expressed, which don’t poll well. Perhaps voters will be too mesmerized by the overall party message to notice. Repeat after me: rich, chocolatey goodness.