Filibuster Hypocrisy Is One Sided

Republican FilibusterThe way that the Republicans have behaved for the last five years in Congress has greatly limited their options in terms of voicing their disapproval of anything—according to them, they disapprove of everything. While the Senate Democrats were in the process of eliminating the filibuster, many on the right claimed that they would retaliate. They could, it was said, stop the Senate from getting normal work done. There was even concern that Ted Cruz would again act as Speaker of the House and get the Republicans there to misbehave. There was just one problem: Congressional Republicans were already doing everything they could to stop the the Democrats from doing anything.

As it was, the only action in Congress was appointments. The House acted as though they were the only branch of Congress and passed law after law that had no chance of passing the Senate. And Speaker Boehner refused to allow votes on popular bipartisan laws coming from the Senate—even ones that had been jointly negotiated. In the Senate itself, the Republicans filibustered any and every nominee as though Obama were offering them nothing but major figures in the Nation of Islam. So what exactly did the Republicans have up their sleeves to make Congress work even less? Other than some post offices not getting named, I don’t see anything.

That left the reaction to the Democrats’ filibuster change to a lot of finger pointing from the mainstream press. It has portrayed those on both sides of the political divide as hypocritical. The story goes something like this: in 2005, the Democrats wanted to keep the filibuster because they were in the minority, whereas the Republicans wanted to get rid of it then because they were in the majority; but now thing have flipped. Hypocrisy! I don’t see it that way at all. Yes, the Republicans are a bunch of hypocrites—at least publicly, because secretly, I think they are thrilled. The filibuster was not that bad back in 2005 when they thought they had to get rid of it. Now that it is far, far worse, they think it is important to keep.

The Democratic situation is not hypocritical at all. They wanted to keep it in 2005. They even made a deal to keep it that effectively meant that there was no filibuster except in name. Then, in 2009, when ending the filibuster would have been the most politically expedient things to do, the Democrats did nothing. As far as I’m concerned, that was a major mistake and I knew it at the time. But maybe I’m just cynical. I knew that the Republicans would do everything to stop the Democrats from enacting their policies. But the Democrats hoped for the best. Remember the administration thinking they would get 20 Republican Senators to vote for the Affordable Care Act? They ended up getting zero.

FilibusterDuring the years of the Bush Jr administration, the Democrats had actually brought the number filibusters down, all the way until 2007 when the Republicans became the minority party. Even though the Republicans still controlled the White House, Senate (Republican) filibusters doubled from the 2005 Senate (when Democrats were in the minority) to 2007 (when Republicans were in the minority). So there is no hypocrisy on the part of the Democrats.

Consider an analogy. It’s sunny outside, so you don’t use an umbrella. The weather gets worse and it starts to drizzle. Still you use no umbrella. The weather gets worse and it starts to pour. So you get out your umbrella and use it. That just makes sense. But the way the Republicans have acted, they use their umbrella when it is clear and drizzling. But when it is pouring, they put the umbrella away. These two approaches to rain protection cause many in the media to claim that both Democrats and Republicans are hypocrites because they changed their minds about umbrella usage. It’s just a silly way to look at things.

As Republicans have made the filibuster a worse and worse policy, the Democrats have come to think it is a bad thing. It is only the Republicans who seem to think the filibuster is a bad thing only when they are in the majority. I have no problem calling the Republicans hypocrites. But the Democrats are not—at least not on this one issue.

Two Great Humorists

Mark TwainOn this day in 1667, the great satirist Jonathan Swift was born. Based upon his great works A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels, one would think that he was a flaming liberal. But he was actually a Tory. I’ll try to forget that going forward because his writing was mostly really great.

Winston Churchill was born in 1874. He may well be the most overrated man in the history of the 20th century. He was a war monger from way back. He is kind of like John McCain if Iraq suddenly attacked us. Everyone would be saying that he was right all along. But he wasn’t and neither was Churchill. I’ve been meaning to write about Neville Chamberlain. He is seen as this wimpy guy who appeased Hitler. But the truth is that at that time, the military itself said that they were not ready to go to war. They needed another year. So he gave it to them. Did Churchill do a decent job of running the war? Sure, but not really any better than anyone else would have. So we shouldn’t hold him up as a great hero.

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in 1874. She is the writer of Anne of Green Gables, and its many sequels. I really liked them when I was younger. But in retrospect, only the first book was any good. Still, it is a classic. And she is a very important children’s author.

The comedy writer and songwriter Allan Sherman was born in 1924. He was a very funny guy, but everyone knows him from this great song:

Other birthdays: Enlightenment philsopher John Toland (1670); composer Carl Loewe (1796); political activist Abbie Hoffman (1936); director Ridley Scott (76); playwright David Mamet (66); and actor Mandy Patinkin (61).

The day, however, belongs to the great American humorist and novelist Mark Twain who was born in 1835. When I was a kid, I loved his work. His stories were genuinely funny and Tom Sawyer was a great adventure story that I read a number of time. It never seemed like his work was old fashioned. I tend to think of him as that Cervantes of his day. The voice that comes across is very much the same. I’m sure a dinner party with them would be a very amusing experience. Since there is no video of Twain talking, the closest we can get is Hal Holbrook’s one-man show, which I loved listening to when I was kid, but got to see live about a decade ago. I brought my wife with me. She loved it, but she admitted that going in she thought it was going to be the most boring thing in the world. Here is the great man doing the greater man:

Mark Twain was also an atheist—or at most a Deist. He clearly didn’t buy into the silliness of the Christian faith. Here is a great quote from him about The Fall:

He was an unfair God; he was a God of unsound judgment; he was a God of failures and miscalculations; he was given to odd ideas and fantastic devices…

He commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; To disobey could not be a sin, because Adam could not comprehend a sin until the eating the fruit should reveal to him the difference between right and wrong. So he was unfair in punishing Adam for doing wrong when he could not know it was wrong.

Happy birthday Mark Twain!