Charlie Don't Surf

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Senate deal on judicial nominations

to Bill Shein

I was actually looking forward to the Dems' slowing everything to molasses for months. But how long could that have gone on, realistically? Every week, the news stories about the Democratic obstruction. Every week, Bush going on TV to demand that the Ds allow Congress to do the people's business, yada yada. Over and over, "the Dems must stop this." I think eventually they would have lost the opinion war and people would have just tired of it. And the Ds would ultimately have relented, plus they wouldn't have filibusters. If you thought the Ds would have stopped everything after the "nuclear" vote, and then the Senate GOP leadership would have just tossed their hands up and said "Oh all right, well, you got us, just give us a list of what we can do, then," I don't think that would've happened. Nor do I think the GOP would ever have agreed to retract the rule change in exchange for the D's relenting on the business of the Senate weeks down the road. The idea of righteously bringing the Senate to a halt was satisfying in theory but mostly worked as a bluff, I think, and the Rs called it, calculating that the Ds just would not have the will to stick with that on a long-term basis.

The 10-second analysis on the news shows is that the Ds blinked. Nan Aron doesn't like it. If the Rs now bring up a succession of awful circuit court nominees who all pass, yeah, it will look like a bad deal. If, on the other hand, Bush starts to consult more with the minority on the nominations -- as Lindsey Graham suggested he should last night -- maybe some form of comity will return to this issue. And maybe pigs will fly through the air too. Look, there's one now!

You talk about how some of the moderate Republicans might have voted against the rule change anyway -- you're missing the point that Warner, DeWine and the other Rs in play were leaving themselves in play precisely to negotiate an agreement, and I very much doubt they would have defied the leadership if negotiations with the other mods had broken down. I think there are probably quite a few Dems who were happy not to make this deal, but the Ds who were negotiating weren't listening to them, so it's hard to attibute responsibility for this agreement to Reid or the Ds generally.. it was 7 Democrats.

Once again, the idea that they could have slowed the Senate to a crawl on a long-term basis, or that the Senate would have figured out a way to fiunction to do basic things under that scenario, is ridiculous, I'm afraid... the Rs would not have consented to allowing the minority to dictate the agenda every day, it would just have been war every day of the week. It would not have helped the Democrats, even if they are powerless in the alternative. It's just not a strategy with any legs, it offers no way out. It presumes, again, that the Ds would have been willing to get things moving again if the Rs had reversed themselves on the rule -- but the Rs would NEVER HAVE DONE THAT, and in any event the Senate precedent on filibustering nominations, the ruling from the chair, would already have been set.

Anyway, I'm not convinced the Ds got rolled; I guess we'll see. Those seven Rs might stand up. I'm also not convinced, as you seem to be, that the Ds could have sustained 40 votes for a filibuster against Scalia as chief justice, or even Scalia's replacement, unless he is a notoriously Borkian wack job, which he is unlikely to be.. the assessment among Dems at my office is that nominees will now still be very conservative, but without the radioactively evil paper trail needed to sustain filibusters against them..

The sad reality is that the Ds actually did not have anything to bring to bear against the Rs once Frist decided to risk the war of the nuclear option.

I sympathize with how Ds feel, but there is this fantasy-land idea around the country that Harry Reid and Dick Durbin had this big gun their pocket that they could whip out after the rule change, and it would make everything better again.. Like it would give the Democrats some sort of political cover for the all-out obstruction we want, and we'd really stick it to those Republicans... dude, it just wasn't there. There was nothing viable there, beyond a few weeks of posturing that would have made people feel better: "Oooh we're sticking to our principles, we're running the show now! Here's the list of crucial spending bills that we will allow to come to the floor, Bill! We'll let you know what else can happen!"

It just does not stand up to the reality test.. it was a bluff, for the reasons elaborated previously. PLUS, after they changed the rule, they woul dhave simply lined up Pryor, Brown and Owens, plus the other two, and CONFIRMED THEM ALL, even if the Ds were in their all-out obstruction -- they couldn't stop them by filibustering, remember? and even if they had objected to every procedural motion, made them read the text of everything, etc. etc., it would have taken less than a week to confirm EVERY ONE of the nominees under the new rule.. so remind me again what the Ds gained in the nuclear scenario re: judges?? Think about it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Wedding Present @ the Black Cat

To John Scheinman and Tom Mullins

So, herewith and without further delay, is the promised recap of the gig by my beloved Weddoes a few sundays ago at Black Cat.

The touring band is Gedge, original WP guitarist Simon Cleave (who collaborated on Take Fountain, the new record), Cinerama bassist Terry DeCastro and a young fellow named John Maiden on drums who is new to the band because Kaari Paavola, who drummed for Cinerama, didn't want to tour that long. They opened with "Interstate 5," the thrumming 8-minute single from the new record. (They're selling souvenir buttons in the shape of an interstate highway sign.) The show surveyed much of their catalog; the other Take Fountain tunes they played were the pounding "It's For You," which I have already come to love, "Queen Anne" near the top, "Ringway to Seatac" near the end, and "I'm From Further North Than You," Gedge's great breakup song, whose cheeky chorus goes:

Yes, we're the same, in many ways
And I admit we had some memorable days...
But just not very many

Regrettably for me the only song they played from Hit Parade 1 was "Go-Go Dancer." I had this fantasy they might play "Come Play With Me," a favorite of mine, and I had half a mind to shout it out -- even though I know that Gedge, being a severe-minded sort on stage, never takes requests and seems to find them rude, along with almost anything else that fans yell at him. That night was no different; he was pleased to have a good crowd and said the turnout at the Black Cat was better than in New York, and bantered a bit with people, but always with a mix of amusement and befuddlement. At one point, when one very enthusiastic person continued to shout things at the stage, a slightly irritated Gedge listened then cut him off with, "Right, so we've had that bit, and this is where I do the introducing-the-next song thing."

From Watusi they played "Spangle. They played a Cinerama song, "Health & Efficiency." From Hit Parade 2 they bypassed their usual choice from that album, "Flying Saucer," and played "Queen of Outer Space," which I've never heard on tour. They got an excellent workout with two top-flight songs from Seamonsters: "Dare" and "Dalliance." Dare is another of my favorites, and Dalliance gave Gedge and Cleave the chance to engage in a prolonged high-speed strum-off at the end, something they repeated with a few other songs, in a show that was very often very loud and furious, with Terry flailing her hair back and forth while she played. Gedge is definitely working something out of his system on the tour; I guess it has something to do with breaking up with Sally Murrell after 14 years. That must hurt like hell, but if that was what moved him to reassemble the Wedding Present after eight years, well -- bad for him, good for us.

They reached back into the very early stuff to play their second single from the '80s, "Once More," which I hadn't even heard before, and a song from George Best, I think -- maybe "My Favourite Dress"? I don't have that record either. They pleased the crowd with a raucous version of "Kennedy" from Bizarro, a song familiar to any WP veteran (and the crowd included many of them). Gedge definitely wanted to sample the whole discography: they played "Drive" from Mini, and "Venus" from Saturnalia, which is perhaps not what I'd have chosen from that underrated record (in their the last Cinerama show at the same club they played "Kansas" and "Montreal" from Saturnalia, and both sounded great then).

I was worried Christina wouldn't enjoy it but we both arrived well lubricated and she had a great time, pushing us up near the front and dancing to the fast tunes. After the show I chatted with Gedge a bit, got a singles/B-sides CD I hadn't seen before, and... yes.. a T-shirt. I couldn't restrain myself, quivering fanboy that I am. He's a comics reader and gets a stack of comics from Greg at Big Planet in Georgetown whenever they roll through D.C., so we talked a bit about new stuff. And then C. I wandered off into the night.