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May 24, 2005

The Filibuster Deal: Compromise Isn’t Always a Bad Word

I was late in coming to the position that the nuclear option should be used to coerce Democrats into playing fair on judicial nominees. My fear all along has been that the Republicans would regret the day that the power of the filibuster was weakened; on that day when they need it. This assumes that the Republicans will not always be the majority in the Senate, a bet I’d be willing to make. There is an arrogance that comes with victory, and with having the strong arm in the all three Houses—Senate, Representative, and White.

I came around during the Terri Schiavo case, when an unresponsive and irresponsible judiciary irked me.

So, my approval of The Deal may be suspect. Perhaps I am a Moderate. Oh, my. But on most issues I am probably a moderate only in comparison to a very hard right.

Although we'll hear a lot about how The Deal solves nothing and about how the weak-kneed Republican leadership failed, it appears that the potential downsides of the deal are much greater for the Democrats. Although the Republicans may have to fight the same battles again, it is more likely that the Democrats will have to go along with an up/down vote for candidates that they would have otherwise threatened to filibuster. They will look disingenuous if candidates they filibuster meet the Owen/Brown/Pryor standard.

I believe it was wise to compromise, that it is a good deal for the Republicans, and that there some progress on assuring fairness in the President’s appointment of his own judges. If we can continue on that track without messing with Senate rules, that is preferable.

Posted by Jim at May 24, 2005 02:00 PM

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Tracked on May 24, 2005 03:49 PM


Wow! A bright side. Perhaps there is, but it still tastes like we're eating an excrement sandwich every time sound clips of Byrd and Ried are played. My primary concern is this... what message does it send to good candidates when they spend 5 years subjected to humiliating persecution, only to be discarded. The pool of good men and woman will run dry quickly, I fear.

Posted by: Mr.Atos at May 24, 2005 03:38 PM

And what message does it send that Republicans do not have to support party leadership and the President?

Posted by: Ralph at May 24, 2005 05:49 PM

Your theory that there are greater downsides for the Democrats is flawed. It's based on the notion of a politician - a Democratic politician at that- being overly concerned about looking disingenuous. I don't think that is a concern that has ever had too great an impact on their decision making.

There were a lot of quotes floating around from the Congressional Record from Democrats arguing in the late 90s that nominees deserved an up or down vote on the floor. The same people who were staunchly defending the filibuster.

The held the cloture vote on the Priscilla Owens nomination and only 18 members of the party who thought her too extreme to deserve a vote last week voted no.

Looking Disingenuous? I don't think they care.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at May 24, 2005 08:05 PM

I’m a liberal, and I don’t understand conservatives, especially evangelicals. So I started reading some of their blogs. I stumbled on this one during the Terri Schiavo controversy and posted a comment because as a scientist I thought a lot of misinformation was being spread - and accepted - because it supported a point of view that conservatives seemed to want to believe. Recently here I got into the most intelligent debate I have ever had with someone who opposed my point of view. He also did me the good service of pointing out inadequacies in my etiquette. I hope I am not perpetuating those in what I am about to say.

Your continued attacks on the so-called “liberal press” bother me. It is the press’s job to criticize those in power, and right now the Republicans control the executive and legislative branches. The press was also very critical of Clinton during his presidency. This includes the Op-Ed page of the NYT and the writer whose story was retracted in Newsweek. If the mainstream press is weakened too much, where will we get our news? Certainly not from bloggers, who usually comment on the news that others report, rather than gather news themselves. The loss of mainstream media will lead to more partisanship if people rely entirely on blogs, since blogs usually overtly express one opinion and don’t give those they attack the option to rebut inflammatory charges. And I don’t think this country can withstand much more widening of the partisan divide without cracking in half.

Another thing that bothers me is your constant cheerleading for the Republican party. I came here to find out what evangelicals value. I came here to find out what we have in common so that we can focus on those goals. I had hoped that the traditional calling of Christians to do good works for the less fortunate would be reflected here and I could say to myself, “yes, we agree on this; together secular liberals and evangelical Christians can agree to work together on these problems.” In that respect, I applaud Jim’s post about Darfur. However, nearly every post that touches on politics is unapologetically pro-Republican or anti-Democrat. Is that really necessary? It is certainly within your right, but if your mission is to carry out your calling to Christ, is this really the best way to do it? I’m sorry if I’m out of line here, but in my effort to learn about what’s important to you, I cannot often distinguish between what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a Republican. From your former postings, I know that this so-called misconception is a concern to you:

April 27
“Conversely, I think it is legitimate to worry that non-Christians, or at least the unchurched, may percieve that traditional evangelicals and, I suppose in some cases, Catholics, are the religion of the GOP... As with the GOP itself, I don't think it's an entirely fair stereotype. Nevertheless we must be aware of public perception, however skewed it might be.” -Matt
“Likewise with the Church. I know good and well that Al Mohler cares more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ than about the programs of the Republican Party. I do my best to explain this to others when the topic comes up. But what about the guy down the street who can't tell the difference? If the lines are blurred too often, I think it's a serious concern that the church will lose its effectiveness as the Body of Christ.” -Matt
“But I am… concerned with… Christian leaders who make it seem that being Christian equals being Republican. They are allowing Republican ideology to run the Church! …But there is simply no way to say that being a Christian means that one must be a conservative or a Republican.”-Mark

By constantly framing Christian values in terms of Republican politics, I think you do yourself a disservice.

Posted by: dem at May 25, 2005 12:13 AM


As always (and to all readers/commenters), thank you for your comment above. I don't think anybody would suggest that your above comment is anything other than polite and gracious.

You make some good points, some of which are beyond my ability to respond to fully in a comment. Your main point is fair, which I think I can summarize as follows: "For people who spill a lot of words saying they are Christians first and Republicans second, you sure do seem to talk about being Republicans a lot." Certainly a fair point, if for no other reason than it reflects your observations--it's not necessarily even an opinion in that sense.

My response: At least as to the filibuster/Senate deal issue, I have not yet done a good job at outlining the principles behind why I am not happy with the Republicans on this. I need to do so in a longer post that I hoped to get to tonight, but it's not looking likely. In short, I think Republicans are betraying evangelicals. Every other November, Republicans are more than happy to take my money, time and votes. More than happy. Unfortunately, after that, they are then more than happy to take me, and other evangelicals, for granted. I had hoped it would be different after this past election cycle. It's not. I'm not happy. So, I am an evangelical Christian first, and a Republican because the beliefs that tend to characterize those who call themselves Republicans tend to characterize my beliefs as well. At least for now. Again, more on the principles in another post, but I do agree that there is reason for confusion in my case.

As to the media. I think we will need to agree to disagree. First, I don't believe that it's the job of the media to "criticize those in power." I think that's the job of pundits, some of which work for media companies and can/should be found on editorial pages, and the party not in power. I think the main job of the media is to try to report on facts, as best they can. I'm the son of a newspaper reporter and editor, so I hope I have some perspective on this, although certainly not the only valid one. You can assume it's something I have thought about for a good portion of my life.

As to media bias, that's probably a can of worms that need not be opened at the moment. I think there is a pro-liberal bias in the mainstream media. You may not. One thing that I try not to do is to complain too much about it. If you read my posts, I'm usually saying something to the following effect: "Conservatives, the media is biased against us. It won't change anytime soon, so get over it and get on with business." For a sample, I refer you to my post on Congressional Republicans on May 2.

My bottom line: I am an evangelical Christian first and a Republican third (Conservative is a more accurate label for me--more so than Republican). The Republican is a current marriage of convenience. I am worried that my partner is ignoring me and I feel like a spouse scorned. More to come on that point.

I'd be very interested in your thoughts in response.

Posted by: Mark Sides at May 25, 2005 12:42 AM


Minor additional point: The "Mark" whom you quote above is Pastor Mark Daniels, who blogs at

Although I do not disagree with his comment, I thought I should clarify that he and I are not the same person. Among other things, he's an actual Lutheran Pastor and I am a humble country lawyer. Don't worry, you are only about the 200th person to make that mistake (which is a mistake that flatters me beyond actual merit).

My post from yesterday, "Hope and its Daughters," probably provides a good example of me saying something similar and actually being my words.

Posted by: Mark Sides at May 25, 2005 12:49 AM