Thursday, May 26, 2005

Thursday Reads

Article of the Day: This Jim VandeHei analysis in the Washington Post is more than worth a read. There's not all that much in here that we didn't know already, but this is a fairly succinct piece on the topic. Perhaps a bit exaggerated (but not much), VandeHei argues that the move toward the nuclear option was just the latest in a string of actions, "the common theme [of which] is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda."

VandeHei cites the end of the seniority system in the House as the method for determining committee chairs, as well as a recent reins-tightening that "limited the independence and prerogatives" of those chairpeople. "The result is a chamber effectively run by a handful of GOP leaders." At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president has "centraliz[ed] the most important decisions among a tight group of West Wing loyalists," and "moved to expand the amount of executive branch information that can be legally shielded from Congress, the courts and the public." Executive agents have become in effect "political arms of the White House.
And now, VandeHei says, this crowd sees the judiciary as due for its own bout of reins-tightening.

"Bush created a top-down system in the White House much like the one his colleagues have in Congress. He has constructed what many scholars said amounts to a virtual oligarchy with Cheney, Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., Joshua Bolton, himself and only a few others setting policy, while he looks to Congress and the agencies mostly to promote and institute his policies," VandeHei writes.

What a delightful thought.

Bolton: Charles Babington and Glenn Kessler have this in the WP; Douglas Jehl reports on how Dems may try to block the nomination temporarily as a way to get more information out of the administration. Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiles a new possible 'no' vote on Bolton from the Republican bench: South Dakota's John Thune, who is playing hardball with Bush & Co. over a proposed base closure.

The go-to blog for all things Bolton has been and remains The Washington Note, managed by the very capable Steve Clemons. Some recent posts here (on how Bolton fails Lugar's 'Tests of a Nominee'); here (discussing this Newsweek story on the NSA intercepts business); here (on Biden's floor statements yesterday); and here (on the information presented by Senator Rockefeller yesterday evening, which I discussed here). Laura Rosen at War and Piece is also a good Bolton resource. Senate consideration of Bolton resumes at 9:30 a.m. today, with the cloture vote still scheduled for 6 p.m.

[Update: DEMBloggers has posted video of Senator Voinovich's speech on the floor yesterday. Watch it. They also have videos of other speeches, and note they're planning to keep up with things today as well. -- 9:21 a.m.]

Stem Cells: This LA Times editorial is an excellent look at the tenuousness of President Bush's position on embyronic stem cell research. It ends:

"A bill approved by a wide (but not veto-proof) margin in the House on Tuesday would loosen restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research. The president is threatening to veto this bill. If he does, these embryos will either be destroyed or frozen forever. They will not develop into cuddly babies. Therefore a veto wouldn't actually save a single embryo. His threat is purely symbolic.

If you really believe that embryos are full human beings, this doesn't matter. But if you think the issue is uncertain or ambiguous at all, it's a powerful argument to say: It's not a choice between a human life and an embryo's life. It's a choice between real human lives and a symbolic statement about the value of an embryo. And it's a statement belied by the reality of in vitro fertilization and how it works."

The NYT also editorializes on stem cells today, taking their support a step beyond where I'm willing to go at the moment, but justly criticizing the president for his stance.

Mike Allen and Rick Weiss report in the WP that Bush is looking to oppose any compromise on this issue, continuing to threaten a veto of any bill relaxing limits on federal funding. Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the NYT writes that Senator Specter announced yesterday there are enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto of stem cell legislation. Not sure where they're going to get those they need in the House, but the Senate's got them.

McCain v. Frist: Margaret Carlson joins David Broder in handicapping a hypothetical 2008 primary fight between one of the "Gang of 14" and the "Justice Sunday" Doctor. Both need to read more Joe Gandelman (and Adam Nagourney). McCain knows that making this compromise did him no favors in a Republican primary: "I knew it would hurt me, I knew it could hurt me - I'm not dumb. I wouldn't have come out against the nuclear option if my political ambitions were playing a role in this," he told reporters Tuesday. The right wing of the GOP probably was never going to forgive McCain anyway, or give him a pass to the nomination in 2008 - this week's compromise makes that even less likely. If he were to pursue a third party bid, all bets would be off, of course ...


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