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Just to follow up

Just to follow up on the earlier post about whether there could be a court challenge to the nuclear option, here's what readers have said.

The overwhelming majority of readers who wrote in -- ranging from political junkies to con law profs (many of whom also seem to be political junkies) -- agree with what I've said earlier: absolutely no way this ever gets into court.

A pretty small minority see some arguments that might at least get a hearing. But even they see it as highly unlikely. So all of this suggests that as a practical matter there's no reason to think of this as a serious possibility in evaluating what's transpiring in the senate today.

And just to reaffirm the point, for my part, I think that it certainly should be that way. (I'll try to say more about this in a subsequent post.) This is, at root, a political question. And there's a political remedy: at the ballot box in 2006.

Indeed, if the Democrats' use of the filibuster is really such a bad thing, there's a political remedy for the Republicans too: take it to the voters.

If Republicans believe in their argument and have some confidence about their political future they should take this to the voters next year and ask the voters for the five more senators to confirm any judge they want.

Heres a question Id

Here's a question I'd be eager to hear your thoughts on.

Many readers have written in asking why it wouldn't either be possible or likely that Dick Cheney's expected ruling that the judicial filibuster is unconstitutional would not itself spawn a series of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality or legality of his opinion.

Presumably, how this would work, I guess, is that some party would file a suit or, I guess, an appeal challenging the legitimacy of the confirmation of one of the judges that will be seated in the wake of the nuclear option. And the aim would be to get a court, eventually the Supreme Court, no doubt, to review the legitimacy of the set of moves we've collectively dubbed 'the nuclear option'.

Now, my very strong assumption has been that courts would simply treat this as a non-justiciable question, that the senate is the final and sole arbiter of how it conducts its business and interprets its own rules. And I still think that.

But in the last few days I've had a number of people write in, who are far more versed in these matters than I am, who suggest that it may well happen. And in a post-Bush v. Gore world, when the Court muscled its way into a contested presidential election and assigned the presidency to the candidate whose party most of them affiliate with, perhaps it's foolish to put anything by them.

So to all you law profs, lawyers and sundry relevant experts: does this seem even remotely conceivable to you? Again, from my understanding of long-established practice, it doesn't to me. And as a separate matter, it seems like a very dangerous and ill-advised step to take.

But again, what do people think?

A number of readers

A number of readers wrote in yesterday about my morning post on the 'futility' of aggressively reporting on the secret British government memo (actually, minutes) which surfaced late in the British election and claimed that the White House was rigging the intelligence on Iraq to support a decision for war as far back as mid-2002.

I was less clear than I should have been. Because what I meant was not that there's no point in aggressively reporting on this issue. My point was rather how astonishing it is that such a revelation should even be news. It truly should be old news -- and thus worthy of little more than passing comment -- since it only provides some further level of support or confirmation for something we know or should know clearly did happen.

It was fairly clear when it was all happening. And after the fact the details have been reported in abundance, not just in obscure publications, but in many of the nation's leading newspapers and magazines, albeit usually shoved to the back pages. And yet the claim -- not the individual morsels of the story, but the whole narrative wrapped together -- still seems wildly controversial. And no one has been held to account, or rather only those who tried to stop the scam while it was afoot or put up some resistance to being coopted into it.

And with all that, why exactly did Sen. Rockefeller(D) of West Virginia roll over when Sen. Roberts (R) of Kansas pulled the plug on the rest of the inquiry into administration manipulation of intelligence on Iraqi WMD?

Yep just like Kevin

Yep, just like Kevin says: "This is like watching Darkness at Noon in real life. Newsweek made a small error in a 300-word blurb a couple of weeks ago, and since then the right-wing media hate machine, like a jackal sensing a rare opportunity for blood, has somehow managed to convince them they bear responsibility for riots in Afghanistan that were staged by extremists who obviously used the Newsweek article as nothing more than pretext."

Okay AP reporter Devlin

Okay, AP reporter Devlin Barret definitely wins at least an Honorable Mention in the Exceptional Snark in Social Security Reporting Contest.

From an article this morning on President Bush's Bamboozlepalooza event in Upstate New York on Tuesday ...

When President Bush makes his pitch for personal Social Security accounts at a town-hall meeting Tuesday in suburban Rochester, he may finally win over some key undecided voters: the three Republican congressmen representing the area.

The three reps are Reynolds, Walsh and Kuhl, phase-out hard-to-gets. But when the suitor comes calling in person, who knows?

Im sorry thereve been

I'm sorry there've been so comparatively few posts in the last couple days. I've been spending close to all of my time in the heavily-caffeinated world of TPMCafe, hollering at the foremen, poring over the diagrams and blueprints, hammering nails into the beams and what-have-you. In any case, we're about to launch and we'll have an announcement on that the beginning of this week.

Just this morning I saw this typically-splendid article by the Post's Walter Pincus about yet more evidence of how many questions the intelligence community had about pretty much all the evidence of Iraqi WMD during the lead-up to the war. Pincus also makes mention of the secret British memo, which came to light in the final days of the recent British election, which suggested that almost a year before the start of the war the US was shaping the available intelligence to make the case for war.

I've gotten a stack of emails from readers asking me why I haven't mentioned this or made a bigger deal out of it. Some of this is due to the distractions I mentioned above. But when I asked myself the question what I came up with was a sense of something akin to futility. I mean, how much more evidence do we need exactly to confirm the completely undeniable fact that the administration bent every rule and was reflexively dishonest in almost every way about the claims of Iraqi WMD?

Admittedly, the fact that something is obvious -- or that I perceive it as such -- is not usually a standard I apply before I start hammering on an issue. But it made me think back to an experience I had while working on the Niger uranium story last year, and one I wanted to share with you.

Much of the work I did on the Niger story, both before and after the report was released, gravitated around the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee report on Iraqi WMD. And we were working committee sources on both sides of the aisle before and after it was released.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me that such a report would be incomplete and in some ways misleading. Certain highly sensitive subjects might be passed over for legitimate national security reasons and even authors who, as a general matter, wanted to keep the public informed, might shade the truth in some particulars.

But when I read the report's treatment of the topics that I'd gotten to know about in some detail I was genuinely surprised at how much it was not only misleading but how much almost the entire presentation of the facts was quite consciously engineered to give the reader precisely the opposite impression of what actually happened.

The level of mendacity was even more surprising because the report was signed off on by both the committee Republicans and the committee Democrats. And, no, I'm not saying that Democrats are intrinsically any less capable of bamboozlement than Republicans. But in this case they very much did have antagonistc political interests. And it wasn't clear to me why those political interests if nothing else would not have made them less willing to go along with such a whitewash of what happened.

I guess it was probably the same reason the Dems let themselves get scammed by Sen. Roberts with the long-awaited second-half of the committee's investigation (the one set to look at how the administration politicized and manipulated the intelligence), which he blew off once the election was safely over.

If youre going to

If you're going to be anywhere near a TV on Sunday evening, don't miss 60 Minutes. They have a segment they're running about the millions of dollars the federal government is spending to convince children and adolescents that condoms arent' very effective at preventing STDs or pregnancy. You may be familiar with the general topic. But the interviews with Bush administration officials and those they're funding will really take your breath away.

Kevin Drum puts the

Kevin Drum puts the whole 'nuclear option' drama into perspective. This is really a post you must read. As Kevin says, the Republicans really brought this whole mess on all of us. For further discussion of the point, see this post by 'Hunter' at Dailykos.com.

The Associated Press finally

The Associated Press finally makes the connection in their reporting on the trial of accused election-tamperer James Tobin ...

At the time, Tobin was a high ranking official of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, whose job was to elect Republicans to the Senate. The 2002 race between Republican John E. Sununu and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, won by Sununu, was considered one of the closest in the country.

The committee was run by Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, now Senate majority leader.

Tobin conspires to deny New Hampshirites the right to vote, according to the new indictment brought today. And he did this while working for Bill Frist.

You'd think the Majority Leader would at least agree to answer what if anything he knew about it.

A reader from Texas

A reader from Texas checks in ...


I have been licensed to practice law in Texas since 1961. During that period we have seen the complete deterioration of the 5th Circuit in New Orleans from a beacon of reason during the civil rights battles (of course it then included more States including Alabama) to the a rubber stamp right-wing caricature of its former stature.

The court is particularly bad in precisely the areas in which Priscilla Owen is awful. Sure she is terrible on abortion issues. I think the other important areas of her reactionary views such as employee rights, civil rights, torts etc. are the ones she will do the most damage on. That is because most of those sorts of cases end at the Circuit Court level. Most abortion issues do make it to the Supreme Court, so the damage she could do on that issue is limited.

Here is my compromise, as much as it pains me: Let Owens go through. It will not make the 5th appreciably worse; the only more retrograde Circuit is the 4th. I know it will further imbalance the 5th and violate the dictum laid down by Sen. Schumer. The way I see it is that the 5th is a lost cause or sacrifice area already and for the foreseeable future. But, the DC Circuit to which Judge Brown has been nominated is both more important and more closely divided. Brown is so far out of the mainstream she almost makes Owens look moderate. Brown must be stopped. As must Myers. We need to preserve the independence of other Circuits such as the 9th and reluctantly let the 5th and 4th go even further, if such is possible, to the dark side. We have to depend on the fact that conflicts between circuits are often taken up by the Supreme Court.

Actually I do not think Frist can win a vote on the nuclear option. When crunch time comes I believe just enough Republicans will decide against violating both the rules of the Senate and permanently weakening the Senate vis a vis the Executive.

I think he may be right on that<$NoAd$> last count.