Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Swinging the Big Stick

"Today, I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent: to make this nation stronger and better I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation." - President Bush

In the month since George Bush's acceptance speech, the following things have happened. The president has replaced a third of his cabinet, tightening White House control over government departments still further. In the House of Representatives, the Republican Speaker, Dennis Hastert, has pulled a bill on intelligence reform that would have passed with Democratic votes because it did not have majority support in his own party. In the Senate, Republicans have increased the power of their party leader to dole out plum jobs, and threatened to change the procedural rules that allow Democrats to filibuster judicial nominations. If this is bipartisanship, heaven help America when the Republicans play rough. - The Economist
Yeah, I'm looking forward to it.
Later in the article, The Economist seems to hold on to some hope that Bush will reach out or at least not try to exert so much control. I often think that The Economist doesn't quite understand some political realities. They are pragmatic, which I like, but people aren't always pragmatic, and leaders especially are often driven by interests outside of pragmatism.
The more worrying changes have come in the Senate, traditionally more resistant to party discipline.
To start with, conservatives mounted a ferocious campaign to stop Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, from becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee . . . Mr. Specter had infuriated his colleagues by saying anti-abortion judges were unlikely to be confirmed. On this occasion, Senate traditions prevailed: Mr. Specter got the job based on seniority - but now before having to eat his words and kow-tow to all and sundry.
[. . .]
The Republican senators then gave their leader, Bill Frist, and instrument for enforcing party discipline: he may now fill some vacancies on committees himself, overriding traditions of seniority. More controversially, Republicans are talking about challenging what is arguably the most important rule in the Senate - the filibuster, a delaying tactic which means that to get anything done you need 60 votes, not a simple majority of 51. - The Economist