Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

At James Dobson's Democrats versus believers in God rally tonight, Sen. Frist had this passage in his speech ...

Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the “nuclear option.” Only in the United States Senate could it be considered a devastating option to allow a vote. Most places call that democracy.

As you can see, Frist is pushing <$Ad$> the bogus argument that "nuclear option" is a phrase coined by Democrats whereas in fact, as he certainly knows, it is a phrase coined by Republicans.

In isolation, it doesn't much matter whether we call this the 'nuclear option' or simply abolishing the filibuster. But it's worth taking note of Frist's knowing falsehood because it is quite evidently part of a larger RNC push over the course of the last week.

I've been made privy to the internal communications of a number of national news organizations at which there are now running arguments over whether to go along with the Republican claim that 'nuclear option' is a Democratic epithet or term of abuse which should be banned except in cases where Democrats are directly quoted using it.

So, as you're reading the coverage in the coming days, watch to see which news outfits have fallen in line with the RNC-directives.

Late Update: Good Catch! Atrios finds two recent instances where Frist himself calls what they're trying to do the 'nuclear option'. And lest there be any question, the issue here is not so much what phrase we use to describe the abolition of the senate filibuster, it is to shine a bright light on members of the press, to see if they will accurately report that it is Republicans who are breaking precedent here, not the Democrats. Whether they fall in line on this 'nuclear option' mumbojumbo is just one element of the story.

Frist tries to get on both sides of the threats against members of the judiciary debate.

See his speech before James Dobson's Sunday night rally for the claim that Democrats are against believers in God.

You'll note that in coverage of Frist's speech many reporters have bought into his spinners' claim that Frist is coming out against threats against the judiciary. But of course he's giving a speech at a pep rally for the people orchestrating the most extreme attacks on the judiciary. And he's doing nothing but dishing out praise for them. So as I said, Frist is trying to position himself on both sides of the threats against members of the judiciary debate. But actions speak louder than words.

One TPM Reader stepped far enough back to pose what should be an obvious question: Why did David Broder think only to suggest a 'compromise' to the Democrats on judicial nominations?

Not only does his suggested 'compromise' come almost wholly out of the Democrats' collective hide, he also puts it entirely to the Democrats to give way, rather than the Majority Republicans.

I think the answer is obvious.

Like most of Washington's permanent class (perhaps we might call it, The Permanency), Broder has a soft spot for power. Or perhaps just, force.

As noted earlier, Broder could make an argument on the merits in the Republicans' favor: one on the basis of simple majoritarianism (a not insubstantial argument). But this point only holds his attention for two sentences before he wades into a longer discussion of the Democrats' need to trust and the Republicans' ability to retaliate.

I think Broder sees the Republicans as strong and assertive and the Democrats as weak and conciliating (not an altogether unrealistic perception). And power counts to these folks because it's attractive, admirable, alluring.

Seems harsh, I know. Even to me. But I think it's true.

From a TPM Reader: "Another reason Broder is Wrong ... Another reason the Newt-powered gov't shutdown was not popular was that the public perceived it as Republicans trying to bypass process to force Clinton's hand. In the current situation, it is the Republicans, again, who are tying to bypass process to force the Democrats hand. In the current situation as in the past, it is the Republicans who are forcing the issue. I think the Republicans will be seen as the creators of situation, not the Democrats. Most Americans don't like bullies."

Just a note for those of you looking for the latest news on the Valerie Plame story. Murray Waas's new blog 'Whatever Already' has been the source for the latest updates, all based on his extensive and continued original reporting on the subject.

David Broder and various other DC mandarins say that Democrats are asking for trouble if they bring the senate to a standstill over the nuclear option. They point to the fact that Newt Gingrich's Republicans took the blame for the government shutdowns in 1995-96, not Bill Clinton.

I should say first that I worry about the politics of the Democrats doing this too. But there's not nearly as much cause for worry as these worthies' imagine.

Some of their confusion stems from the fact that few of them could ever quite get their heads around the idea that the Republicans took the hit for Gingrich's government shutdown -- in part because most of them were secretly enraptured with Newt at the time.

Broder's reference to the power of the president's bully pulpit as the lever that will shift public opinion against the Democrats is just another example of his inability to grasp that the public turn against the Republicans in late 1995 and early 1996 was a reaction, on the merits, to Republican excesses, not the result of some inscrutable black magic Bill Clinton managed to pull off with a few press availabilities.

The more obvious flaw in Broder's reasoning stems from another bit of Washington myopia. What killed the Republicans on the government shutdown, in addition to the pure recklessness of the stunt, was that the government did shut down. National parks closed. Various government services and functions stopped operating. It had an immediate and direct effect on people's lives.

Shutting down the senate does nothing of the sort. The government and all its essential services will go right on functioning as usual. All that will change is that some not-particularly-popular Republican legislation might not pass. Or perhaps James Dobson won't be able to get an anti-SpongeBob bill shepherded through Congress by one of his favored legislators. To imagine that that will have an impact equal to that of shutting down the government's non-emergency services can only be called a uniquely Washingtonian view.

Don't get me wrong: shutting down the senate over judicial nominations is risky business. But parallels drawn by Broder and others show mainly how out of touch they are with what happens outside of the DC region.

David Broder's suggested compromise on the nuclear <$NoAd$> option ...

The Democratic Senate leadership should agree voluntarily to set aside the continued threat of filibustering the seven Bush appointees to the federal appeals courts who were blocked in the last Congress and whose names have been resubmitted. In return, they should get a renewed promise from the president that he will not bypass the Senate by offering any more recess appointments to the bench and a pledge from Republican Senate leaders to consider each such nominee individually, carefully and with a guarantee of extensive debate in coming months.

Why can't Broder just bite the bullet and make an argument on pure majoritarianism (a reasonable argument) rather than suggesting, as he does here, that the Democrats give up the lever of power represented by the filibuster in exchange for an unenforceable promise from the Republicans to be nice?

Perhaps we can all come together on a bipartisan basis and ask what Broder is smoking -- and whatever it is, that he at least smoke it in Washington, so he'll have some clue of what's been happening in the capital for the last five years.

TPM Reader DS chimes in: "All we need for ultimate confirmation is for Russert to call it the "constitutional nuclear option" tomorrow on MTP as he did with 'personal private accounts.'"

A unified Times theory of GOP bamboozlement!

The LA Times gets hoodwinked too. From yesterday's paper: "Frist is expected to try as early as next week to push the Senate to ban filibusters on judicial nominations — a move so explosive that Democrats are calling it the 'nuclear option.'"

(ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader DW for catching the West Coast bamboozlement.)

As long as prestige press outfits like the Times and others are willing to embrace whichever self-serving phrase either political party demands as the debate on judges debate continues, certainly Democrats need to get into the act.

And TPM Reader RR makes an inspired suggestion which, I think, more faithfully captures what's in play than either 'nuclear' or 'constitutional'.

It's the Crybaby Option.

As he puts it, "Oh, boo-hoo, we only got 95% of what we wanted so we're changing the rules. Waaaaah!"

Sort of like at a seven-year-old's birthday party where they want the parent to change the rules of Pin the Tail on the Donkey because they're not winning every time.

They really are babies. So call them on it.