The Broderite argument against politics in the United States Senate, at least when it comes to judicial confirmation hearings, has now been made by the man himself:
Both these senators decry the growing role of interest groups that lobby on judicial confirmations. Both have defied those pressures, Leahy in voting for Roberts and Graham in being the lone Republican to support Sotomayor in this week’s vote.
“I pointed out that Roberts was not someone I would have recommended to Bill Clinton or Barack Obama,” Leahy said, “but I did not want to see the chief justice of the United States confirmed on a party-line vote.”
Graham took the same stance on Sotomayor, saying he expected to disagree with many of her rulings, but gave great deference to Obama’s choice because “elections make a difference” and she is “clearly qualified.” He said he hoped it would serve as an example to Democrats the next time a Republican president makes a nomination.
If their examples spread, we might avert the ugly partisanship of recent confirmation fights.
What he doesn’t do is explain exactly why it’s a bad thing if Senators vote against judges who have a different constitutional philosophy. For those of us who don’t see “partisan” as a pejorative term, what exactly is the argument?
Like Neyer, and unlike the Daves Brockington and Cameron, I’m inclined to think that the Wilson/Snell trade is a good one for the Mariners. (In fairness, neither of them knew initially that the Pirates were picking up a lot of the salary):
- I don’t think the Mariners gave up much. As long as I’m vaguely competitive, I’ll give up 3 low-upside pitching prospects with no history of major league success for one high-upside pitcher with a little major league success any day. I also don’t see Clement as having much value — it’s always important to remember the distinction between “should be playing if your only alternative is Jose Vidro” and “good.” He’s 25, has no position, and his 173 ABs in Tacoma in 2008 are his only strong credential (and in the same year he was carved up by a similar sample of major league pitching.) Basically, aside from that he hits in the minors the way he’d have to hit in the majors to be interesting, and that’s not good enough. Cedeno, as Cameron concedes, is replacement level.
- Cameron says that “Adam Everett is a similar player and signed a 1 year, $1 million deal with the Tigers last winter.” But this is highly misleading. I suppose they’re the same “type” of player in broad terms, but Everett hits nothing. Since 2005 he hasn’t had an OPS+ within 15 points of Wilson’s career average. They’re the same kind of player but Wilson is a lot better.
- Relatedly, Cameron says that “the Mariners could still salvage this by moving Wilson before Friday’s deadline for a younger SS with more long term potential.” I don’t think this will happen, but that gets at the heart of the disagreement: I think Cameron is greatly understating how scarce talent is at shortstop. With one or two exceptions for taste, the class of shortstops who are significantly younger and substantially better than Wilson are among the most valuable properties in the game. If you have one, you’re not going to give him away. Put it this way: the Red Sox, an organization with huge resources and first-rate talent evaluation, haven’t had a shortstop nearly as good as Wilson since 2004. It’s a hard position to fill. If you go scavenging, you might get lucky and get a Jason Bartlett — but it strikes me as much more likely that you’ll get a Ronny Cedeno (or Tony Pena Jr. or whatever.)
- This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Pirates “lost” the trade; positive-sum trades may happen less than they should, bit not every trade has a winner and loser per se. I’m not sure about the Pirates’ “trade everybody whether premium prospects are available in return or not” strategy, but now that they’re this far along there’s not much point in going back. It would be a fine trade for the Pirates if they dumped most of the salary; since they didn’t I’m less sure, but Snell and Wilson aren’t going to be part of the next competitive Pirates team, so they don’t have much to lose. But it’s a good trade for the Mariners if they have any chance of being competitive next year, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t.
I now officially regret having voted for the President. First, no movement on DADT. Second, bailing out the very people who brought the global economy down. Third, criminally not pushing for an NHS style socialized medicine for the United States. (OK, I am angry about the first, moderately miffed about the second, and employing a sense of humor about the third — although one of the best things about living in the UK is the NHS.)
It’s been a while since a troll has advanced it at our site, but I’ve always had a morbid fascination with conservative attempts to portray doctors who perform abortions as profiteers and hence, somehow immoral. This gets at some of the idiocies with this line of “argument.” Most obviously, any ob-gyn who was concerned primarily with profits would tend to abjure abortions, given that just delivering babies is more lucrative and generally doesn’t require hiring security to protect you from terrorists.
Of all the absurd aspects of present panic over fat, the most absurd is the idea that it makes sense to spend scarce public health resources on trying to make people thinner. We have no idea how to make fat people thin. This overwhelmingly obvious empirical observation is routinely rejected by people who ought to know better.
Update: An interesting ideological aspect of this is the degree to which lefty folks who usually have no trouble understanding structural arguments turn into the offspring of Horatio Alger and Ayn Rand when it comes to fat. For instance, if you said to such people “We know how to end poverty. Just tell poor people to do X and Y, and as long as they do X and Y they won’t be poor,” and then it turned out that a social policy based on telling poor people to do X and Y resulted in failure 98% of the time, and in fact produced a net increase in the poverty rate, they would consider your opinion to be idiotic on its face.
I admire the work Andrew Sullivan has done keeping the torture scandal in the public eye, and I like some of his other work too. So I don’t particularly enjoy pointing out that this is a ridiculous question.
But since he asked, I suppose it may be worth pointing out that people who believe that it’s possible Obama wasn’t really born in Hawai’i aren’t the sort of people who will change their minds because they’re shown a photograph of a piece of paper. Such people have a certain cognitive style, which is a polite way of saying they’re prone to delusional bouts of hyper-rational craziness. By “hyper-rational” I mean their nuttiness is manifested in their belief that every little random piece of information can be assembled into a complex theoretical web — that it all “makes sense” if you just look for the hidden meanings that are everywhere, but remain invisible to the naive observer.
There are always plenty of such people around, and it should be fairly obvious why it’s not a good idea for the president of the United States to try to placate them. That commentators like Sullivan lend, however unwittingly, any legitimacy to their delusions is unfortunate.
(Unlike Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh, who I assume are merely running a scam when they ask similar questions, I’m assuming Sullivan is perfectly sincere. Perhaps he feels impelled to give credence to the birther lunacy because of his strange ongoing obsession with Trig Palin’s parentage).
I’m now no longer sure that Jack Z. can cure cancer, solve the Middle East, or work out how to properly run my university.
But it’s also worth offering a more general reality check here: The public option is not now, and has not ever, been the core of the argument for heath-care reform. It is the core of the fight in Washington, D.C. It is an important policy experiment. But it was not in Howard Dean or John Kerry or Dick Gephardt’s plans, and reformers supported those. It was not in Bill Clinton’s proposal, and most lament the death of that. It is not what politicians were using in their speeches five years ago. It is a recent addition to the debate, and a good one. But it is not the reason were are having this debate.
Rather, what has kept health-care reform at the forefront of liberal politics for decades is moral outrage that 47 million of our friends and neighbors are uninsured.
I certainly agree with this, as far as it goes. Obviously, the core of the argument for health care reform is universal coverage. And, indeed, there are better ways of achieving this than a public option and employer mandates, although they’re not on the table. My concern is whether or not a compromise bill will, in fact, provide politically sustainable universal coverage, or anything close to it. If Ezra (and Kevin) are right that even compromise legislation will, in fact accomplish a lot, then I agree that it’s worth supporting, and I guess we won’t know until we have actual legislation on the table, and I’m willing to keep an open mind.
Ezra also outlines a criteria we should use to evaluate whether a bill is worth passing:
If reformers cannot pass a strong health-care reform bill now, there is no reason to believe they will be able to do it later. The question is whether the knowledge that the system will not let you solve this problem should prevent you from doing what you can to improve it. Put more sharply, the question should be whether this bill is better or worse than another 19.5 years of the deteriorating status quo.
I agree with this, to a point. Anybody who’s read the many nasty things I’ve had to say about late-period Ralph Nader knows I’m not a heighten-the-contradictions guy. If the proposed bill represents a substantial improvement and is constructed in a way that it will be politically sustainable, I agree that it merits support. However, there also has to be a point in which the two premises start to contradict each other. It’s true that there may not be many more opportunities to pass a good health care reform bill. It is likely, however, that there will be plenty of chances to pass incremental reform that is far too expensive because of the need to buy off vested stakeholders. (The 2003 Medicare expansion, after all, passed with the Democrats holding none of the elected branches, and pretty much fits this description to a T.) If the bill gets bad enough, it’s not clear how much is being risked by trying again, perhaps after mid-term elections likely to be favorable to Senate Dems.
…and, yes, progressives are going to have to use threats if there’s any chance that the bill will be worth supporting. If only conservatives (in both party caucuses) are threatening to torpedo the bill it’s going to be bad.
[X-Posted at TAPPED.]
Ross Douthat gets the ball rolling:
These twists and turns make Iraq look less like either Vietnam or World War II — the analogies that politicians and pundits keep closest at hand — and more like an amalgamation of the Korean War and America’s McKinley-era counterinsurgency in the Philippines. Like Iraq, those were murky, bloody conflicts that generated long-term benefits but enormous short-term costs.
There is a certain vague similarity in that while I would say counterinsurgency in the Philippines “worked” it’s hard for me to see that it actually achieved anything. I mean, suppose the Philippines had obtained independence from the United States in the 1890s rather than the 1940s. How would my life be worse? How would any American’s life be worse? What “long-term benefits” actually accrued to us as a result of the counterinsurgency effort?
But the hinge point in U.S.-Philippine history — what yielded the friendship and closeness that the two nations presently enjoy — was the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. What the Japanese inflicted upon the Philippines and its people was by orders of magnitude far worse than anything the U.S. ever dared. You probably know the rest: MacArthur declares he Shall Return; he does; the battle of Leyte Gulf is one of the largest in the history of naval warfare; we drive the Japanese from the Philippines; the amount of gratitude is overwhelming; a partnership has been our inheritance ever since.
It’s really unclear what value Ross believes that the Philippines held for the United States. He could believe that they were a strategic asset for the US, or that the post-1946 relationship was an asset, or that the conquest and occupation was justified by the current Philippine democratic regime. All of these arguments are pretty unconvincing. On the strategic question, independence of the Philippines was threatened by actors other than the United States. Both Japan and Germany (yes, German Pacific imperialism [no pun intended] was to be taken seriously at the turn of the century) had an interest in the Philippines while it was held by Spain, and it’s not at all unlikely that either or both would have attempted to subjugate and independent Filipino state, or taken the Philippines away from Spain. This threat was understood to be serious by US policymakers. However, the conquest and occupation didn’t particularly help the US in World War II, as the archipelago was conquered in short order and at great cost to the US. David Silbey makes this point at greater length at Edge of the West; the islands ended up have virtually no strategic value to the United States. In this sense, Yglesias is quite correct; the brutal conquest of the Philippines earned the United States almost nothing in the long run.
It’s worth mentioning that US conquest and colonization was probably preferable from a Filipino point of view to either that of Japan or Germany, although this argument doesn’t take you very far. I don’t say this in order to justify US imperialism, or to suggest that the US was an altruistic, gentle conqueror. Germany and Japan were among the most brutal conquerors of the colonial period, and it does not justify US conduct to say that the Philippines probably fared better under US occupation than it would have under German or Japanese. This was not lost on the Filipinos; contra Ackerman, while there were some collaborators after the Japanese conquest of 1941-1942, resistance was more widespread in the Philippines (and better organized) than anywhere else in colonial Asia. The Filipino elite believed in US guarantees of independence, and behaved accordingly. However, and this needs to be made clear, ensuring the independence for the Philippines did not require its subjugation by the United States. There was considerable Filipino goodwill towards the United States in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, and there’s no question in my mind that some kind of defensive security arrangement between the United States and the First Philippine Republic would have been possible. Such an agreement could have secured some US economic and strategic interest while maintaining Philippine independence. I’m not convinced that the First Philippine Republic would have become a stable democracy, but then it’s not as if the regime created by the United States after 1946 stayed democratic.
On this last point, the idea that it was necessary for the United State to “tutor” the Filipinos in democracy for 46 years is insulting. First, any such argument runs aground on the name “Ferdinand Marcos.” US influence was hardly incidental to Marcos’ success. Second, as noted above, whatever positive effect the US wished to have over Filipino political institutions could have been achieved without the conquest and occupation. Taiwan and South Korea achieved relatively healthy, democratic political systems without suffering from US control over their domestic institutions.
So again, I’m mildly curious about just what Douthat seems to believe was the long term benefit of US brutality in the Philippines. If his point is the extremely modest “US imperialism was better than Japanese or German,” then fine, but that amounts to arguing that our torturers are more gentle than their torturers, so Go American!!! The US conquest of the Philippines was not, in my view, necessary to the accomplishment of any goal that reasonable people think nations should have.