Are things going even worse for the GOP on judges than I thought?
If you’re conversant with the Republican national political debate taxonomy, you know that there is a point at roughly 15 to 16 days after the GOP starts losing a debate that crack teams of specially trained GOP spinmeisters are sent out to bamboozle gullible newspaper editors and TV producers into changing their vocabulary to make it conform to the latest findings of GOP focus groups.
And it seems they’ve found their first easy mark.
At the tail end of David Kirkpatrick’s piece in Saturday’s Times is this graf (emphasis added) …
Current Senate rules require 60 votes to close debate on a confirmation, allowing Democrats to thwart the action by mustering 41 votes. Republicans want to lower the threshold for closing debate on all nominations to a simple majority. Democrats call this the nuclear option, while Republicans call this a constitutional option.
Now, maybe I’m just selective in my memory. But I seem to remember Republicans and Democrats using this phrase all the $%*#%&@ time. Needless to say, what’s <$Ad$> happened now is that Republicans are getting bad results in the polls. So they’ve come up with a new smiley-face vocabulary and they’re hitting all the newsrooms telling editors that it’s an example of bias to use the phrase ‘nuclear option’ since that’s a slur devised by Democrats.
So is it really true that only Democrats use this phrase?
Well, setting aside that everyone who’s listened to this debate for more than ten seconds knows that most Republicans used this phrase as their preferred one until about ten days ago, I still wanted to go back to the records and check. And I needed some way to narrow down the search. So I tried searching the Weekly Standard for any articles which included the word ‘filibuster’ and ‘nuclear option’.
I came up with four hits, the first of which was from September 2004.
In the first article you don’t have to go too far beyond the title: “Full Court Press; Will Senate Republicans ‘go nuclear’ over judges?”
Down into the article, author Duncan Currie writes, “With 10 nominations now blocked by filibuster, many GOP senators say it’s time to use the ‘nuclear option’–or, as they prefer to call it, the ‘constitutional option.'” But even Currie seemed unable to keep a straight face for this early example of GOP word game bamboozlement since he continued to use the ‘nuclear option’ phrase through the rest of the article.
In December of last year, Currie was again writing about the subject and again using the phrase “nuclear option.”
Then less than two weeks ago, on April 7th, Currie used this as the third line of yet another judges article: “Republicans talk of a ‘nuclear option’ to break the impasse.”
The fourth example seems particularly apt since it actually takes place in the future — the publication date is April 25th. In an editorial penned for the editors Philip Terzian, the first graf reads …
THE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, Bill Frist, and his Republican colleagues, face a momentous decision: Do they allow the Democratic minority to prevent the Senate from voting on judicial nominees, or do they invoke the “nuclear option”–that is, change the rules so a simple majority of 51 can force a vote?
Now, let’s be frank. There’s no intrinsic reason why banning filibusters for judicial nominations should be called the ‘nuclear option’. And if Republicans want to start referring to it as the ‘judicial act of love’ they can do that. But one side in a debate shouldn’t be able to order the refs in the game to rewrite the lexicon just because people don’t like what’s happening. And yet that’s just what’s happening. Republicans are now making a concerted push at a whole slew of news organizations, trying to convince them to stop using the term in their coverage, on the argument that it’s an attack phrase concocted by the Democrats. And it would seem the editors and producers are either too ignorant or too lily-livered not to let them have their way.
Perhaps we can just call ending filibusters ‘privatization’.