Monday, December 02, 2013

Brought on Themselves

We had another little bear encounter last week. I don't mean the bears were small. They didn't seem fully grown, but couldn't be described as "little", either. What was little was the length of the encounter, in which I saw four of them (from inside the car, I would add) run across the street near our house, heading back into the enormous gully we have instead of a back yard.
That's pretty much it. No damages or threats of any kind. Still, how many Americans ever get the chance to see bears anywhere outside a zoo? I'm thinking - not many.

On Saturday evening, I was sure that it would be wonderful bragging in this space about the stupendous weekend enjoyed by my Iowa Hawkeyes. The football team had already beaten Nebraska at Lincoln (something not done by anybody too often), and the basketball team seemed on their way to their third victory in as many nights at the tournament they were playing in the Bahamas.
Alas, the big lead they had on the Villanova Wildcats petered out in the second half, and the game was finally lost in overtime. So we'll have to downgrade the weekend to merely "terrific". The football team finished the regular season at 8-4, which isn't eye-popping, but the four losses were to teams with a collective record of 44-4. Yikes!  

People you know are now whining about what happened in the U.S. Senate. How dare Harry Reid and his band of (majority) Democrats change the Senate rules on filibusters! It's a power grab! It's unconstitutional! It calls for vituperative revenge when Republicans regain control of the Senate, at which time there will be HELL to pay for this act of treachery! And that's how the GOP moderates (if there still is such a thing) express it.
Needless to say, I don't see it that way. Although the term "nuclear option" gets thrown around, this measure by Senate Democrats actually only changes the rules on filibusters for individual presidential appointments outside of Supreme Court and Cabinet appointments. This isn't a constitutional matter, because it falls under the Senate's authority to make and revise its own rules.
More important than the nuts and bolts of Senate operation is the reason behind the change. It boils down to this: Republicans started to use the filibuster, actual or threatened, in a way never before used in order to oppose all Obama appointees, even those they would normally have ratified without difficulty. How bad has it gotten? The filibuster's use to oppose Obama judicial appointments constitutes one half of ALL such uses in the nation's history, all in the less than five years.
So, what was Harry Reid to do? He had extracted a promise from Senate GOP leaders that the filibuster would be only used for good reason, but this promise was easily ignored, and was. The choice came down to: keep things the same with the understanding that real power, the power to block things from happening, would stay on the other side, OR re-tilt the playing field just to get judicial vacancies filled, which is part of the Senate's duties. Reid and the Democrats finally concluded that the downside risk on doing something was so low that a change was justified. The hubris of Senate Republicans caused this defeat when they underestimated the Democrats' willingness to finally act. Their only option now is nasty threats, something that we should be quite used to by now. They brought all this, absolutely, on themselves. 


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