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Monday, May 16, 2005

Bush: Going for broke

Andrew Sullivan offers a smart summary of the issues in the Senate filibuster controversy, including an incisive analysis of why Bush seems likely to bet the house on getting his judicial nominees approved. Sullivan argues: "Bush could risk a backlash and face losses in the mid-term elections. But so what? If he gets the judicial nominees he wants he will have shifted America towards the religious right for a generation." Money quote:
We know by now that he’s not a traditional conservative — he’s a revolutionary. And the revolution in the courts is the one his followers care most about. It’s the one obstacle left to hard-right domination of American government. Why would he not want to remove it?
I think Sullivan's analysis is spot on. Bush famously told the nation his reelection had earned him political capital. The president bet a large chunk of that capital on a Social Security package that hasn't captured the hearts and minds of his countrymen, to put it mildly. It's reasonable to speculate that the White House is aware of precisely how little political capital Bush has left to spend — surely not enough for big ticket items like major revisions of the tax code or focusing on the immigration crisis at the U.S. - Mexico border. Both sides are claiming to have the votes in the filibuster battle. That means both sides are probably doing their share of spinning. Look for the White House to pull out all the stops in their quest to transform the federal judiciary in the spirit of the Waren Court four decades ago — only in the opposite direction. Will Bush succeed? Yes, if he manages to cast the Democrats as obstructionists, hence winning the crucial PR war. No, if the Democrats convince America that getting rid of the filibuster is a power grab rather than a principled quest.