"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I was anxious to watch the season finale of 24 last night, if only to bring closure to this profoundly disappointing season. I mean, really - I'm all for suspending disbelief when necessary and appropriate to advance the narrative, but I balk at taking disbelief out into the alley and beating it senseless with a tire iron. Anyway, as my fellow fans know, the season's principal plot arc was brought to a predictable conclusion when the nuclear missile (or, as Jack Bauer has taken to calling it, the "nookular missile") was neutralized at the last possible moment, and democracy was saved.

Which, coincidentally, is precisely what was happening at that very moment (more or less) in the Senate cloakroom.

As near as I can tell, here's the essence of the deal struck by the middle-of-the-roaders from both parties: The Democrats agree to allow confirmation votes for Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, and Janice Rogers Brown - three of the worst nominees to the federal appellate bench in recent memory - and, in return, the Republicans agree to preserve the filibuster (provided that no one ever actually uses it). Or words to that effect.

As with any compromise, this one creates winners and losers. The biggest losers, of course, are the poor suckers who will have their cases decided by the Three Stooges - provided, of course, that all three are actually confirmed. There is much rumbling about "secret codicils" to the formal deal, which (it is rumored) call for one of the three to be rejected by the full Senate. Other losers include the nominees thrown to the wolves by the Republican dealmakers - Henry Saad and William Myers, and perhaps (the agreement is unclear on this point) Brett Kavanaugh and William J. Haynes II, as well. The obvious winner, at least in the short term, is Senator John McCain, who emerges from the rubble looking like a kingmaker, or at least like a grownup.

Beyond that, it is hard to say how this will shake out. There will be considerable posturing and bloviating over the days and weeks to come, but most likely, no one will really know the practical effect of the deal until there is an opening on the Supreme Court. Assuming that the Naked Emperor nominates a philosophically repugnant, ethically challenged mouthbreather (and, rest assured, he will), we will quickly discover what the agreement means when it says that the Democrats will invoke the filibuster only in "extraordinary circumstances." My guess is that there may be some disagreement on this point.

For today, however, I will take my cheap yuks where I can get them. Which of course brings me to James Dobson:

Wait - that's not James Dobson; at least, I don't think it is. We'll try to get the correct picture up as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, here's what Dobson has to say:
This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U.S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

I think we're ready with that graphic now:
Phil Spector, displaying his new hairdo.

Damn! While we try one more time to get that James Dobson photo for you, let's consider how he might have handled this situation: He might have taken comfort in the likely confirmation of three judges who will do his bidding. He might have gloated about the Democrats agreeing to have their testicles held in trust by a handful of Republican "moderates." Hell, he might even have pointed out that the Democrats would never have agreed to such a deal unless they had good reason to believe they were going to lose a "nuclear option" vote. Instead, he seems to have settled upon characterizing the whole affair as a terrible defeat - thus increasing the likelihood that it would be generally seen as such. It's like he tried to shoot himself in the foot, but missed and shattered his own kneecap, instead. And this guy is a power broker?
Spongebob Squarepants, ready to rumble

I guess we don't have that photo, after all.

So let's wrap this up by mentioning the biggest loser of all: Bill Frist. He lost control of his caucus, he looks like a fool, and he got completely blindsided. The wingnuts will abandon him in droves, because he has the stink of defeat all over him. John McCain will be asking Frist to shine his shoes from this day forward. No one trusts him anymore, and - even worse - no one will fear him. The mighty "President Frist in '08!" bandwagon has four flat tires and no spare. Stick a fork in him. But - cry no tears for the good Senator, because by bizarre coincidence, it just so happens that today I learned (via Cosmic Iguana) of a career option so well suited to Frist's special skills, it's almost eerie:
The warriors of Iraq's new army excel at wearing balaclavas, eating raw cat and driving into battle at hair-raising speeds....

"We go fast, they not hit us. No need to be worried. Iraqi soldiers are very brave," boasted Capt Haidar, although not brave enough himself to give anything other than his first name. "I am special forces," he said. "To finish training we must catch a wild rabbit or cat with our hands, kill it with our hands and then eat it raw. I have eaten five cats. See how strong is the Iraqi soldier."

Thus, with a little creative thinking, Bill Frist may yet (as they say) land on his feet.




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