Extremism in defense of moderation

The grown-ups take charge

Even as the Senate housekeepers were setting up cots under the watchful eye of Strom Thurmond's bust, the "Gang of Twelve to Fourteen" reached an agreement to avert the nuclear blast about to be set off by Senator Dr Bill Frist in the battle over judicial appointments and the filibuster.

beds near bust of Strom Thurmond
Staffers prepare cots for Senate sleep-over, ironically near the bust of Strom Thurmond who holds the record for the longest individual filibuster

The fourteen senators who ultimately signed the agreement — seven Republicans, seven Democrats — will receive no bouquets from the hardcore on the left and right who were just itching for a fight.

James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, issued a statement that said the "agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats." He went on to note, "We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

This guy obviously thinks he's the Grand Ayatollah. Religious people have the same right as everyone else to be involved in political affairs. They should be. But they also have to understand that they cannot impose their religious view on everyone else.

Gary Bauer, president of American Values, claimed the deal was a "travesty" and would make it "more likely that radical social change will continue to be forced on the American people by liberal courts committed to same-sex marriage, abortion on demand and hostility to religious expression."

Hello! Our courts are not liberal. A majority of federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents! They only became "liberal" when they refused to rule the way the Right wanted them to rule. Quick! Somebody rush off to the afterlife and tell Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan they appointed a passel of liberal judges.

Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Mike DeWine (R-OH)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Olympia Snow (R-ME)
John Warner (R-VA)
Robert C. Byrd (D-WV)
Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI)
Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA)
Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Ken Salazar (D-CO)

Who knows how long this new-found comity will last. It will surely be tested when the first Supreme Court nomination comes along, if not before then. But what I find remarkable about the agreement is the composition of the group that reached it. They've been called "moderates" but Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is surely more firebrand than moderate. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has probably never been called moderate in his life!

Senators Byrd and Warner

It was certainly an act of extremism for these fourteen to go against their party leadership and the interest groups pressuring them. The far right and the far left are gnashing their teeth and rending their hair because their thirst for blood remains unslaked — at least for now. Bravo!

According to the New York Times, it was the efforts of "two old bulls of the Senate," Robert Byrd (D-WV) and John Warner (R-VA), who came up with the formulation that enabled the agreement. They reportedly came to this meeting of the minds by poring over the Federalist Papers to channel the Founding Fathers' meaning of "advice and consent." It may be time to read those Federalist Papers.

In the aftermath of the agreement, there was a lot of glib talk about "victory for the Senate" and "victory for the American people" and so on. I say it was the triumph of the grown-ups. I am so relieved to find that there are still fourteen people in the Senate who have a grain of common sense.

The lesson should be clear: If a group as disparate as the Group of Fourteen — or cabal, if you prefer — could agree on something as sensitive as judicial nominations, there is no reason the other 86 Senators can't be reasonable too!