In case you still think John F. Kennedy was a good president, Dylan Matthews has a good run-down of how he was so overrated. It’s the basic case–major foreign policy blunders including nearly blowing up the world, escalating in Vietnam, reticence on civil rights, the lack of any meaningful legislation. I did find this a bit rich though:
• He created the Peace Corps, famously. While that organization played a valuable role in improving foreign attitudes toward the United States during the Cold War, it’s far too small to be a significant development agency, and the work it does is not especially conducive to that goal either. As Gal Beckerman put it in a good profile of the agency in the Boston Globe recently, “The agency has never been structured to do development effectively. In fact, if you were trying to design an organization to avoid having a lasting impact, it might look a lot like the Peace Corps: inexperienced volunteers sent to work in near-total isolation from one another, with time limits guaranteed to make their impact only short term.” And as Robert Strauss has pointed out, its placements are rarely based on where volunteers would provide the most help. The corps was probably a net good, but was much too small and inefficient to justify the extent to which it’s burnished Kennedy’s reputation.
Let’s look at that again:
“The agency has never been structured to do development effectively. In fact, if you were trying to design an organization to avoid having a lasting impact, it might look a lot like the Peace Corps: inexperienced volunteers sent to work in near-total isolation from one another, with time limits guaranteed to make their impact only short term.”
Oh you mean like Teach for America? Good thing Matthews has connected this lesson to that program to show how throwing inexperienced kids into American schools for a short-term lark isn’t effective. Oh wait. On that issue and Matthews’ predilections around these matters, Diane Ravitch has weighed in.
While we can all be happy that the filibuster is finally dead, let’s also pay attention to just who Obama is nominating to these judgeships. Such as Patricia Millet, designer of Starbucks anti-union campaign:
“I find it troubling, because Ms. Millett and her firm Akin Gump went well beyond what I consider the bounds of decency and morality in the very aggressive anti-union campaign they really designed and helped Starbucks carry out,” Daniel Gross, a founding member of the Starbucks Workers Union, told Salon. “The campaign that Ms. Millett and her firm architected and really co-led, and continues to co-lead with Starbucks, involved all of the scorched earth tactics which are starting to come to light more and more.” The White House, the AFL-CIO and Starbucks did not provide comment on Millett’s Starbucks work in response to Thursday inquiries. Akin Gump declined to comment.
After 11 years as an assistant to the solicitor general at the federal Department of Justice, Millett joined the top-flight firm Akin Gump, whose website describes its “Labor Relations Strategic Advice and Counseling” practice as including “union avoidance” and “the defense of unfair labor practice charges …” Millett’s clients there included the coffee giant Starbucks, which faced a union campaign by the Starbucks Workers Union, an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the Wobblies).
You know, it shouldn’t be hard to find Democratic candidates for the federal judiciary who haven’t actually designed anti-union campaigns.
For spearheading this filibuster reform effort, Jeff Merkley rises into the upper echelon of Oregon senators, along with people like Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield.
Shorter Dana Milbank: Since American political history started in 2013, it is clear that the United States Senate is a much more effective and functional legislative body than the House of Representatives.
Shorter William Jacobson: My only quibble with Milbank’s astute analysis is his claim that Republicans have abused the filibuster. Why, 70% of the Senate’s cloture motions have been filed without Mitch McConnell as minority leader! And almost half of the filibusters of executive branch nominees occurred in the 220 years before Barack Obama took office! Why won’t Milbank accept my bare assertion that by definition only the Democrat Party can abuse the filibuster?
…McCarter has more. And, yes, “Establishmentarians…are against fires and fire hoses alike.” And, even better, “The threat to nominate more Scalias is about as frightening as Iran threatening to cut off its donations to the Jewish National Fund.”
Johnathan Adler is the latest Republican to threaten to do things that Republicans have already been doing and will continue to do:
On the bright side, the era of super-majority votes for judicial nominees is over, and I look forward to seeing the slate of nominees put forward by the next GOP President nominates. Judge Volokh? Justice Barnett? Hmmmm.
Or here are some even more terrifying possibilities: Judge Owen! Judge Rogers Brown! Justice Altio! Justice Thomas! Without the filubuster, who knows, any of those might have happened!
I actually suspect this represents a pretty widespread belief among Republicans, a variant of point #3 in my explanation of why the Republicans screwed up so badly. While in the real world Obama wouldn’t even consider appointing the left-wing equivalent of Rogers Brown or Alito to any federal court, there really do seem to be Republicans who believe that Republican presidents have countered fire-breathing Democratic radicals like Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan with quiescent moderates. If you believe this — and I suppose it makes more sense if you evaluate judges according to the baseline of constitutional law in 1905 rather than 2005 — then you might think that Republicans will benefit more from blowing up the filibuster.
I will grant that Barnett would be pretty radical even for a contemporary Republican nominee. But this brings us to another point. No conservative nominee to the Supreme Court has ever been successfully filibustered, including Alito and Thomas (the latter in a Democratic-controlled Senate!) So, first of all, getting Barnett confirmed would require Republican control of the Senate, or he could be defeated by a straight up-or-down vote just like Bork was. And if a Republican White House and Senate want to nominate and confirm Barnett, they’d better hope that 3 or 4 more non-Alito/Thomas vacancies come up before the end of that term, because if they nominate a Supreme Court justice explicitly committed to the proposition that Social Security, Medicare, and most of the rest of the 20th century regulatory state is unconstitutional, that will be the last national election they’ll win for a long time. The idea that the filibuster represents the only political constraint on a president’s Supreme Court nominations is bizarre.
I had just turned four, didn’t speak any English at the time, and my parents didn’t own a TV (although my father went out and rented one from the corner drug store that afternoon). So I don’t have any memory of the event, although I’m told I was on a swing-set on the outskirts of Washington DC when my father came running up and said in Spanish to my grandmother “they’ve killed Kennedy.”
And I suppose “they” did, if one takes a appropriately sociological perspective on the event.
(1) For today’s college freshmen, 9/11 is pretty much what the JFK assassination was to me: a historical event that occurred after we were born, but could have just as well happened 50 years before. This is one reason why the concept of the baby boom “generation” is not very useful: for people born toward the end of it, “the Sixties” — which as many people have said began that day — mostly happened for us later, when we saw the decade replayed on TV and in movies and (endlessly) on the radio.
(2) It’s also an endlessly repeated truism that the public’s eventual rejection of the official story told by the Warren Commission reflected a fundamental shift in the America people’s willingness to trust the federal government in particular and authorities in general. I wonder how much actual evidence there is for this claim?
(3) I’ve never waded into the controversy over the assassination itself, so I have no opinion regarding it, but having just watched a couple of documentaries on the subject, I’m reminded of a story about Sir Walter Raleigh. Sir Walter, it’s said, proposed during his imprisonment in the Tower of London to write a history of the world. One day after he began this project, a fight broke out between two workmen in the courtyard below, which resulted in the death of one of them. Sir Walter tried to find out what the fight was about, and found he was unable to do so. Thereupon he abandoned his history.
(4) I will say that the Jim Garrison story ought to shake the faith of those who believe that it’s not possible for literal lunatics to ascend to important public positions inside the iron cage of bureaucracy.
(5) Oswald bought his rifle via mail order for $12.65 ($96.55 in current dollars).
Apparently, this past summer an “original documentary” aired somewhere in the depths of cable pushing a TWA 800 conspiracy, and this article critiques this “three missile theory”. Conspiracy theories, by their nature, can be comforting to those who need to make sense of the world and seemingly irrational, random events. However, the overwhelming majority simply boggle the mind — to believe, you much conduct a very careful selection of the evidence to fit the theory while disregarding any evidence that supports the null hypothesis, and you have to have faith that of the sheer number of people involved in the conspiracy, not one credible source stepped forward and provided any evidence bringing it out into the open.
Ever since TWA 800, I’ve used it as an illustration of the iron triangle in American politics (dating back to when I taught policy for one quarter while a grad student in Seattle). Ultimately, what near certainly brought that 747 down was its age. Wiring associated with the fuel gauge for the main center fuel tank had frayed to the point where a short circuit occurred, thus igniting the center fuel tank. If I recall correctly (and correct me if I’m wrong), this problem was known to Boeing, the airlines, and the FAA, but as it was considered a minimal risk, it was not acted upon with haste. While five months following TWA 800, the NTSB issued a series of recommendations on this issue (as they do), the Department of Transportation only finally got around to acting on it 2008. Furthermore, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the Civil Aeronautics Board issued a similar recommendation in December 1963 following the crash of Pan Am 214 (a Boeing 707). (Ironically, as one who is technically afraid of flying, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of airline disasters. It won’t be comforting me as I fly to the US again in a little over three weeks. Airport bars, on the other hand, will.)
If there’s a conspiracy here, it’s the iron triangle in American governance, not a three missile theory.
Speaking of the anniversary in question, back in university, I was fascinated by that particular case, and bought every book I could get my hands on, including the Warren Report itself.
On further reflection, I still see this as a massive win. I’m amused by the Republican counter-threats to nominate…exactly the same kind of judges they’ve been nominating and getting confirmed since the Reagan administration when they’re in charge. I’ll take that risk!
The interesting question, to me, is how the Republicans got rolled so badly. I have three theories:
Focusing on potential primarily challengers and unable to think strategically past their immediate goals, Senate Republicans didn’t stop to consider that eliminating the filibuster (potentially for everything) would hurt their long-term interests. If this was true, they got routed both in the short- and long-term, and the behavior of the Republican conference was essentially irrational.
Misunderestimating Harry Reid
Senate Republicans—like many liberals—may have assumed that Reid’s threats were empty. But Reid is sometimes mistaken for a weak leader precisely because like all competent political leaders he doesn’t make broad threats he doesn’t have the votes to back up. When he does make threats the underrated, very savvy Reid is likely to have the support to back it up. If they didn’t grasp this, Republicans found out the hard way.
Some Senate Republicans may have convinced themselves that liberals will be more ruthless in their use the filibuster than conservatives. That is quite clearly false. The filibuster has almost always favored opponents of social reform, and since progressives generally want to do things and conservatives generally want to stop things this will almost certainly be true going forward. But never underestimate someone’s ability to stop believing their own guff.
I’m guessing #2 is the most common reason, but who knows?
…and one more thing: many thanks to the Republican primary voters of Delaware, Missouri, Indiana, and Nevada. May more and more states learn from your fine example of Tea Party principle!
…steadfast foe of the filibuster Hendrik Hertzberg has more.
The filibuster for circuit and district court nominees and executive branch appointments is gone. Never thought I’d see the day, and this will almost certainly be the most important vote of Obama’s second term. Luckily, 1)the GOP seems to have the same evaluation of Reid as the typical liberal blog commenter, and 2)they’re both wrong.
More later today. Meanwhile, surely someone has the chops to do a good photoshop of Dick Smothers in Casino…
As you hear the reactions, remember the the GOP’s opposition to majority rule in the Senate is a matter of Deep Principle.
Earlier in the month we discussed the phenomenon of Republican judges citing each other’s dicta as if they constituted some kind of meaningful precedent. Well, this winger chain mail now has another signatory — Justice Antonin Scalia:
What makes Owen’s opinion remarkable, however, is her justification for the conclusion that temporarily preventing the law from going into effect would constitute “irreparable harm” to the state of Texas. Circuit Court judges are bound by Supreme Court precedent; they cannot create new legal standards on their own. But as one lawblogger notes, the basis for Owen’s conclusion would be embarrassingly feeble if there was any evidence that she was capable of embarrassment. The following is a comprehensive list of the precedents cited by Owen to justify her conclusion:
- A bare assertion from a 1977 solo opinion—not speaking for the court—by then-Associate Justice Rehnquist that “[i]t also seems to me that any time a State is enjoined by a court from effectuating statutes enacted by representatives of its people, it suffers a form of irreparable injury.” (“It seems”—well, I’m convinced!)
- A solo opinion—again, not speaking for the Court—by Chief Justice Roberts citing the Rehnqiuist opinion without any further defense.
- That’s it.
This precedential basis would need a lot more heft to merit being called “threadbare.” And it’s even worse than it appears at first glance. First of all, Rehnquist’s opinion applied to a case where the at least the statute had already gone into effect, making the argument of “irreparable harm” to the state even weaker as applied to the Texas abortion case, where it had not. And second, there’s a reason that this dictum has never appeared in an actual Supreme Court majority opinion—it doesn’t make any sense. If this “principle” were taken seriously, states would have an unlimited right to enforce unconstitutional laws for as long as the legal challenges take to wend their way through the courts, irrespective of the harm caused to those who rights were violated. This simply cannot be right.
How does Scalia’s counter to Breyer—typically long on belligerence and short on logic—reply to these obvious objections? Why, by merely citing the Rehnquist and Roberts opinions again. So now, the next time a hack Republican judge wants to make a politically expedient decision to deny or vacate an injunction preventing the enforcement of potentially unconstitutional legislation, he or she can now cite four precedents endorsing the same erroneous tautology without any attempt to defend it. It’s a nice con if you can pull it off.
So now we have four judges (or six, if you count Thomas and Alito, who joined Scalia’s opinion) who have endorsed the same silly theory, without anybody bothering to actually defend it. Perhaps there’s an Infinite Jest problem, in that they can’t find a clerk who can write the second sentence without dying of laughter. Between this and Shelby County, I think we need a fancy Latin term for this form of legal argument — stare circulus jerkus?
Of course, for Scalia this kind of thing is old hat. As his opinion this week inadvertently reminds us, it was his stay opinion in Bush v. Gore that made the partisan subtext of the final opinion just text.
Could this really be happening?
Senate Democrats are on the verge of moving to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, aides and senior party leaders said Wednesday, a move that would deprive Republicans of their ability to block President Obama’s picks for cabinet posts and the federal judiciary and further erode what little bipartisanship still exists in the Senate.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option,” several Democrats said. Mr. Reid and the senators who have been the most vocal on stopping the Republican blockade of White House nominees are now confident they have the votes to make the change.
I would think that the Republicans would try to peel off some marginal Dems by letting at least one nominee to the D.C. Circuit through, but there’s also the possibility that Republicans have just completely lost any capacity for strategic thought, or may have convinced themselves that the filibuster doesn’t massively favor reactionary interests.
A couple of Thursday links…
- Thers does a great job of pointing out the authoritarianism lurking beneath David French’s act of charity. But I think there’s a lot more going on here. Or, rather, much less going on here. In other words, this seems to be merely a new way of saying the same old thing wingnuts like to say. That is that since poverty is a problem that won’t be solved with a quick, easy fix (in many cases) that we shouldn’t do anything at all to try and fix it. I mean, really, if David French can’t adopt you and give you gruel when you’re being good, is it really wise to help you at all? David French thinks “no.” So, really, I think this goes beyond authoritarianism and well into sociopathy.
- GoldieBlox is a company that is encouraging building and engineering play in girls. Neat! But it’s not all good news. A lot commenters have decided that because some of the pieces-parts are pink and there’s ribbon involved that it’s time to scrap the whole thing and also why do we have to worry about this stuff anyway omg can’t we just let girls be girls? Seriously, don’t read the comments if your sanity–or what’s left of it– is something you value.
I lose my temper…
These comments are so astute. Yes. If someone who has good intentions tries to do something new and doesn’t get it exactly right the first time, she should scrap it and forget it. *eyeroll* “But, but the skirts are pink! The toys are purple!” Jesus Christ…talk about missing the big picture.
The commercial’s cool. If you don’t think so, you’re probably an idiot.
Also, it’s possible to like both “girly” things and things are not demonstrably girly. The idea that girls must give up tutus and pink in order to play with toys that encourage engineering play is irretrievably stupid.
The idea is good and well-intentioned. So is the ad. End of story. Debate over.