I’ve just watched about all I could stand of George W. Bush’s press conference announcing the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Not surprisingly, he got a lot of questions about the implications of yesterday’s elections, and started yammering about his desire to work with Democrats.Yeah, right. Next thing he’ll be telling us he wants to be “a uniter, not a divider,” and usher in a “responsibility era.” Day before yesterday, he was finishing up a campaign swing that focused on the argument that the Democratic Party was basically a terrorist front organization. And even in today’s remarks, he couldn’t stop himself from suggesting that anyone who questions his and Rumsfeld’s sorry record on Iraq is undermining the troops and frightening the Iraqis.As for the timing of the decision to finally let Rummy go, a couple of years too late, I’m sure we’ll hear from right-wing chatterers that it couldn’t happen before Election Day because it would have discouraged the conservative “base.” If, God forbid, I were a conservative base voter, I’d be pretty damn insulted by the idea that Rumsfeld, who has done more to discredit Republican national security bona fides than anyone not named Dick Cheney, was one of my heroes. The real issue is that the administration needs to pretend it’s rethinking Iraq before Democrats ride into Washington, take over congressional committee gavels, and start asking questions about Iraq that should have been asked by Congress a long time ago.Rumsfeld’s proposed replacement, former CIA chief Bob Gates, is currently president of Texas A&M University. Let me be the very first to suggest his replacement in College Station: my colleague The Moose. He’d love to return to his native Texas; his original strategy of joining the staff of Governor Kinky Friedman hasn’t exactly worked out. And the timing’s perfect: he could get out of the political arena on a high note, just after the humiliation of Karl Rove and the apotheosis of Joe Lieberman, and before John McCain has a chance to break his heart. Despite his yankeefied higher education in New York and Ann Arbor, the Moose is totally an Aggie Wannabee. I can attest to the fact that he knows every word of the Aggie War Hymn, and can sing it at a considerable decibal level.So if anything really good is to come of the latest Bush maneuver, maybe this is it: A&M President Marshall Wittmann. To paraphrase the War Hymn:Rummy’s horns are sawed offRummy’s horns are sawed offRummy’s horns are sawed offShort! A!
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:
There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:
“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.
Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.
Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.
At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.
Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.