Campaigns/Elections

Republicans Drank Whiskey Neat

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While some Republicans rehearse their blame-the-liberal-media oratoria for John McCain's likely loss next Tuesday, and others set their scope rifles on fashion-chasing Obamacons (or, in the Weekly Standard's case, uh, analogize John McCain to the Tianenman Square guy facing down a tank full of elitists?) … there remains one stubbornly unhelpful figure contradicting all those narratives while consistently scoring the deepest blows against the Republican candidate: Conservative syndicated columnist George Will. Who, from what I understand, is still planning to vote for the guy about whom he writes stuff like this:

From the invasion of Iraq to the selection of Sarah Palin, carelessness has characterized recent episodes of faux conservatism. Tuesday's probable repudiation of the Republican Party will punish characteristics displayed in the campaign's closing days.

Some polls show that Palin has become an even heavier weight in John McCain's saddle than his association with George W. Bush. Did McCain, who seems to think that Palin's never having attended a "Georgetown cocktail party" is sufficient qualification for the vice presidency, lift an eyebrow when she said that vice presidents "are in charge of the United States Senate"? […]

Perhaps Palin's confusion about the office for which she is auditioning comes from listening to its current occupant. Dick Cheney, the foremost practitioner of this administration's constitutional carelessness in aggrandizing executive power […]

Palin may be an inveterate simplifier; McCain has a history of reducing controversies to cartoons. A Republican financial expert recalls attending a dinner with McCain for the purpose of discussing with him domestic and international financial complexities that clearly did not fascinate the senator. As the dinner ended, McCain's question for his briefer was: "So, who is the villain?" […]

McCain revived a familiar villain—"huge amounts" of political money—when Barack Obama announced that he had received contributions of $150 million in September. "The dam is broken," said McCain, whose constitutional carelessness involves wanting to multiply impediments to people who want to participate in politics by contributing to candidates—people such as the 632,000 first-time givers to Obama in September.

Why is it virtuous to erect a dam of laws to impede the flow of contributions by which citizens exercise their First Amendment right to political expression? "We're now going to see," McCain warned, "huge amounts of money coming into political campaigns, and we know history tells us that always leads to scandal." The supposedly inevitable scandal, which supposedly justifies preemptive government restrictions on Americans' freedom to fund the dissemination of political ideas they favor, presumably is that Obama will be pressured to give favors to his September givers. The contributions by the new givers that month averaged $86.

Whole thing here. My take in May about the GOP coalition dissolving here.

NEXT: Obama's Economic Mythology

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  1. Did McCain, who seems to think that Palin’s never having attended a “Georgetown cocktail party” is sufficient qualification for the vice presidency, lift an eyebrow when she said that vice presidents “are in charge of the United States Senate”?

    In answering a question from a kid? Considering that the only Constitutional job of the Vice-President is to the be the President of the Senate, and that when the Constitution was ratified, people expected that that was what the Vice-President would do?

    The possibly unConstitutional part is the current Executive Branch responsibilities of the Vice-President, depending on whether you feel that the President can delegate such power. But the Constitution assigns the Vice-President no Executive Branch powers at all; it is only in recent years that Presidents have come to delegate so many powers to the Vice-President.

  2. Kind of working off of Thacker’s point, I’ve always kind of wondered why the VPOTUS didn’t hold on to the President of the Senate powers instead of delegating them away to the Senate itself. Wouldn’t having the power to control the debate and bill schedule be kinda useful and important?

  3. The “lessons” our Republican friends glean from this election will be wrong, and after a spasm of recriminations and self-doubt, they will embark pell-mell down the same road they have been on for the past decade; I say this with complete confidence.

  4. The “lessons” our Republican friends glean from this election will be wrong, and after a spasm of recriminations and self-doubt, they will embark pell-mell down the same road they have been on for the past decade; I say this with complete confidence.

    You are probably right, which means that they have a remaining life-span of eight years, tops.

    It wouldn’t be the first time.

  5. Agree about the President of the Senate thing. Palin’s answer was both scholarly and correct. One has to be extremely steeped in beltway bigotry to believe that John F’ing McCain (or Joe Biden or Barack Obama for that matter) is any smarter than Sarah Palin.

  6. As a libertarian, I think I could live with a George Will-thinking-type president: Anti-“aggrandizing executive power” and pro-1st Amendment/anti-McCain-Feingold. That would be a much better option than the two major-party candidates.

  7. Um, no, the Vice President does not, has never, and connot “get all in there and influence legislation.”

    People will defend anything that comes out of that woman’s mouth. This is turning into “There is no Bush Doctrine, and there never was!” all over again.

    Scholarly. Yeah, that’s it.

  8. The “lessons” our Republican friends glean from this election will be wrong, and after a spasm of recriminations and self-doubt, they will embark pell-mell down the same road they have been on for the past decade; I say this with complete confidence.

    You are probably right, which means that they have a remaining life-span of eight years, tops.

    Don’t bet on it, alphabet dude. I have a feeling the retards in the GOP will be happy to continue existing in their current state as a minority party rather than make any kind of wrenching change. They had a chance in 1994, took power, and then proceeded to blow it. The desire to remain in office makes any kind of libertarian change impossible in the long run.

  9. George Will, 2012!

    I’ll be starting the draft petitions next Wednesday.

  10. Epi —

    I never said they’d turn libertarian. That’s not what *most* people out there in the wide wild world are objecting to. It’s a more primal distaste for their attitude concerning social issues (hateful is the word I’d personally use) combined with the feeling that the GOP tends to disdain evidence and inquiry when the answer might not be something they like.

    I really don’t think it’s a policy beef. It’s an attitude and bearing beef, along the lines of “I just can’t bring myself to stand next to these assholes”.

    It’s gonna kill ’em, and quick, if they double down on their “base”.

  11. joe,

    This is why I ask “why?”. Because her answer was not by any stretch scholarly, but it was on a technical level *correct*. The VPOTUS *is* the President of the Senate. Exactly at what point (and why, and how) did this become a ceremonial rather than a functional role?

  12. It’s the Waukesha Effect, Elemenope.

  13. Q: Why is it virtuous to erect a dam of laws to impede the flow of contributions by which citizens exercise their First Amendment right to political expression?

    A: Because “citizens” who individually give huge amounts to politicians usually want something in return, something that is at best a conflict of interest against the electorate (and just grounds for dismissal in employment) and at worst thinly disguised bribery, which is a crime and specifically enumerated in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment.

  14. Agree about the President of the Senate thing. Palin’s answer was both scholarly and correct.

    The President of the Senate can has only two duties, break ties and certify the electoral college votes. There’s no influencing policy or anything like that. In fact, Senate rule 19 does not authorize the VP to participate in debate and limits people that can address the Senate to Senate members and the POTUS. So this was neither scholarly nor correct.

  15. It’s gonna kill ’em, and quick, if they double down on their “base”.

    This is where I disagree. I don’t think it will kill them, I think it will just keep them minority party. And I think the incumbents who know they will get re-elected by that “base” are perfectly willing to stay minority party as long as they themselves keep getting re-elected. To be successful requires change that will probably result in said incumbents being replaced by new blood. Why would they risk that?

  16. Matt,

    Sounds like you have found your intern candidate, perhaps the highest profile and most published intern ever. He is even following the same ‘logic’ displayed by the current staff!

    Can check off that “ideological diversity” requirement block as soon as you hand him his notebook too. 🙂

  17. I am pretty sure that the 600,000+ “first time givers” will get back way more than the average $86 per giver that they are giving.

    Way more.

    CB

  18. Episiarch, if you’re right, we’re even more doomed than I thought. SHTF in 20.

  19. Exactly at what point (and why, and how) did this become a ceremonial rather than a functional role?

    What a great question. From the Senate website Senate website:

    Several framers ultimately refused to sign the Constitution, in part because they viewed the vice president’s legislative role as a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. Elbridge Gerry, who would later serve as vice president, declared that the framers “might as well put the President himself as head of the legislature.” Others thought the office unnecessary but agreed with Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman that “if the vice-President were not to be President of the Senate, he would be without employment, and some member [of the Senate, acting as presiding officer] must be deprived of his vote.”

    Under the original code of Senate rules, the presiding officer exercised great power over the conduct of the body’s proceedings. Rule XVI provided that “every question of order shall be decided by the President [of the Senate], without debate; but if there be a doubt in his mind, he may call for a sense of the Senate.” Thus, contrary to later practice, the presiding officer was the sole judge of proper procedure and his rulings could not be turned aside by the full Senate without his assent.

    The first two vice presidents, Adams and Jefferson, did much to shape the nature of the office, setting precedents that were followed by others. During most of the nineteenth century, the degree of influence and the role played within the Senate depended chiefly on the personality and inclinations of the individual involved. Some had great parliamentary skill and presided well, while others found the task boring, were incapable of maintaining order, or chose to spend most of their time away from Washington, leaving the duty to a president pro tempore. Some made an effort to preside fairly, while others used their position to promote the political agenda of the administration.

    Apparently, the full exercise of Constitutional authority withered away more or less because the VPs back when this was a Constitutional republic found the limited authority exercisable by the Senate not worth putting up with the Senators.

  20. Episiarch, if you’re right, we’re even more doomed than I thought. SHTF in 20.

    The shit is already hitting the fan, Nigel. I guess you picked the wrong day to stop doing amphetamines.

  21. Thanks, RCD. That was quite informative.

  22. RCD,

    Excellent info!

    Also, for those wondering when the VP became a filter and a “muscle guy” for the Pres., one has to go back before VP Cheney. All the way back to VP Walter Mondale.

    VP Mondale had his office moved into the West Wing, from whatever remote location it had been before. He also drafted a paper suggesting the expansion of VP duties to the President that has continued through today.

    Somehow, in this era of how the 1970s and 1980s were “so much better” than today, the amnesia of the press has forgotten these facts too.

  23. It’s the Waukesha Effect, Elemenope.

    I always knew that the GOP would be brought down by cheeseheads.

  24. lmnop,

    You are needed back on the other thread to acknowledge the pwnage* you took.

    *Im pretending to be 20 years younger than I am. Probably not pulling it off either.

  25. You are needed back on the other thread to acknowledge the pwnage* you took.

    *Im pretending to be 20 years younger than I am. Probably not pulling it off either.

    I’ll take a look. 😉

  26. lmnop,

    I’ve always kind of wondered why the VPOTUS didn’t hold on to the President of the Senate powers instead of delegating them away to the Senate itself.

    Did you see the Adams mini-series on HBO? Or read the biography it was based on? I think Adams was the last VP who tried to really be President of the Senate. It didnt work out so well for him. The Senators made it clear that they would ignore him if necessary. If a tie happened, they would let him do something useful. Otherwise, STFU.

  27. Palin as intelligent as McCain and Obama? YAWN!!! Don’t care all that much. Someone link to that porn spoof of Palin, please.

  28. Did you see the Adams mini-series on HBO?

    It’s on the list. Seriously, my list is fucking long. I just finished up Rome.

  29. If a tie happened, they would let him do something useful. Otherwise, STFU.

    …as the Constitutional language “shall only have a vote” when they be evenly divided specifies.

  30. Ah, the good old days of the Senate where old men were free to brawl and club each other. No, the Democrats of South Carolina did not put up with any crap from those nasty Massachusetts folk smelling up the chamber. Those were the days!

  31. Will is pissed off, and has been for some time. He is not some partisan hack (see Kristol, etc.) who feels the need to sell a load of bullshit. He will vote GOP I suspect, but if they get steamrolled, he’ll be just as happy because it is the only way to get them to change.

    Of course whether they change to some form of modified Reaganism (dropping the hate component that has arisen within the GOP) or go for Palinism (embrace the hate) remains to be seen.

  32. Um, no, the Vice President does not, has never, and connot “get all in there and influence legislation.”

    The VP has an informal role in doing this, even if not an official role. One of the reasons Cheney was picked as a VP was because his former senatorial experience was thought to be helpful in influencing legislative affairs.

    Regrettably, cheney’s display of senatorial experience probably reached it’s zenith when he told Sen. Patrick Leahy to f*ck himself during a Senate photo session. But I’m sure the idea of getting a former senator as VP seemed like a better idea at the time.

  33. Guy,

    Thanks for the flashback. I didn’t know that Charleston gave him a new cane with that inscription.

  34. henry,

    I am an advocate of killing the haters.

  35. Being a underdog minority is, I think, a very comfortable position for the Republicans and their legion of media mouths. Remember, these folks are the ones who’ve been raging a culture war for decades that has never really gone their way.

    The question is, what happens to the moderates and fiscal conservatives? I honestly don’t see a viable third party rising up. Do they reluctantly infiltrate Democratic politics? Trickle back into the GOP? Sit out politics?

  36. Abdul,

    Sen. Lehey has not been given that instruction enough through life.

  37. Sen. Leahy*

  38. Abdul,

    The VP has an informal role in doing this, even if not an official role. I suppose so, but by that standard, so does every other executive branch officer (cabinet, subcabinet, civil service) that the President decides to send up to the Hill.

    Lyndon Johnson thought he was going to play a meaningful role in the legislative process when he was sworn in as VP, and he ended up attending one Democratic Senate Caucus meeting and never going back, because the Senators made it clear that he wasn’t going to play the role of a legislator.

    Also, Cheney was a Rep. Never a Senator.

  39. joe,

    …as the Constitutional language “shall only have a vote” when they be evenly divided specifies.

    That wasnt at all clear to the 1st congress. While it was clear the VEEP could only vote when their was a tie, Adams assumed that his President of the Senate dutie were similar to the Speaker of the House duties. He, early on, proposed bills, tried to control debate, etc and etc, before the Senate let him know that they werent interested in what he had to say.

  40. joe,

    Did VP Lyndon Johnson ever “bulldog” legislators the way he bulldogged people when he was a president? Because that’s some pretty serious legislative influence.

  41. That wasnt at all clear to the 1st congress.

    Was anything clear during the 1st Congress. It’s the same principle that guides never buying the first version of electronics or software. The bugs still need to be worked out.

  42. Mo,

    How come taxes are higher now? Arent the early adopters supposed to pay more?

  43. Mo,

    Also, the constitution was a 2.0 product. The 1.0 (Articles of Confederation) was a miserable release, that like Windows ME, they would like to have us forget ever existed.

  44. Was anything clear during the 1st Congress. It’s the same principle that guides never buying the first version of electronics or software. The bugs still need to be worked out.

    Mo, point is that things like this, where there is apparent or actual ambiguity, got resolved by the weight of time and tradition.

    There is no *inherent* reason why things must be the way they are.

  45. How come taxes are higher now? Aren’t the early adopters supposed to pay more?

    I really liked this line.

  46. Following the theme, I guess we are technically on Constitution 2.27, although like with Linux releases, we went from 2.0 to 2.10 in a hurry.

    2.21 was a major bug fix that was created in 2.18.

  47. lmnop,

    I really liked this line.

    Thanks. Says something about our government that they cant become more efficient with time. They cant even make economy of scale work for them. More states, more people and they still cant make the price per person go down.

  48. And so the US Code…

    Device drivers?

  49. I have always believed that law-making would benefit from engineering principles and coding metaphors.

  50. I have always believed that law-making would benefit from engineering principles and coding metaphors.

    The two prezes w/ the most experience and background in engineering:

    Hoover and Carter

    just sayin’

  51. Also, the constitution was a 2.0 product. The 1.0 (Articles of Confederation) was a miserable release, that like Windows ME, they would like to have us forget ever existed.

    Yeah, but just like XP, you needed a couple of service packs, after the new version, to get the kinks worked out.

    Mo, point is that things like this, where there is apparent or actual ambiguity, got resolved by the weight of time and tradition.

    Totally agree. You have to see how it works and is effective in the real world. But that makes the defense of, “But that’s what people thought during the debates,” even more ridiculous. We have over 230 years of practice and precedent to look back on and the VP pretty much never worked with the Senate and was rebuffed every time he tried.

  52. Kolohe —

    That would (anecdotally) indicate that engineers make poor *executives*.

    Does not speak to the notion of what affect it might have on them as legislators.

  53. Yeah, Engineers typically do not make for good management. Just sayin’.

  54. Kolohe,

    Hoover and Carter

    Interesting that they are probably the two most praised for their work outside of politics.

  55. Joe,

    The Vice President if President of the Senate. That is his only Constitutionally proscribed duty. So Palin was absolutely correct in what she said. If she wants to, she will be able to Preside over the Senate each and every day it is in session if her heart so desires, and nobody, not even the President, can stop her. As far as “getting in there” and influencing legislation and such, there is no formal role for that, but she can certainly try if she wants to. Cheney obviously had a massive role in the Energy Bill, which Democrats claim was written entirely in his office. Would Palin be as influential as Cheney? Probably not. But she could try. And she could absolutely maintain a higher profile by availing herself of her ability to preside over the Senate in person, which Cheney rarely bothered to do.

    The criticisms of Palin have reached the stage of pure obnoxiousness. When she makes a practically correct comment about the futility of the office by quipping, “what does a Vice President even do?” she gets attacked for being stupid. When she makes a technically accurate comment about the VP’s technical job (something I seriously doubt any of the other three candidates could have correctly answered without first looking it up), she gets attacked for being too technical.

  56. The VP does have another constitutional duty, under the 25th Amendment, the VP along with the majority of the cabinet are reasonable for informing the House and Senate of an incapacitation of the President to exercise his duties, along with the end of such as well.

  57. After the Palinistas seize total power, George Will is going to regret that column. The Palinista Revolutionary Peoples Army will make sure of that.

  58. The VP is president of the Senate. That much is very true-Palin got one answer right, IMHO. But she got approximately 12,391 other answers wrong.

    I’ve always wondered if a VP would ever again take their Senate Presidency seriously, being present most of the time when it is in session, etc. Palin might do that. Not that that would be a good thing in her case.

  59. The VP does have another constitutional duty, under the 25th Amendment, the VP along with the majority of the cabinet are responsible for informing the House and Senate of an incapacitation of the President to exercise his duties, along with the end of such as well.

    Excellent catch FTW.

    Nobody expects the 25th Amendment!

  60. “The Vice President if President of the Senate. That is his only Constitutionally proscribed duty. So Palin was absolutely correct in what she said. If she wants to, she will be able to Preside over the Senate each and every day it is in session if her heart so desires, and nobody, not even the President, can stop her.”

    But she went further than just stating that the VP is the president of the Senate. She stated that VP’s are “in charge of the U.S Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes”. That is plainly untrue. The VP is not in charge of the Senate, the Senators are and make their own rules as to how things are done.
    And this is on top of her statement during the debate that “I’m thankful that the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate”. And then later on she said this “Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president.”
    Again, she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
    Now I know that she knows more than anybody else on the planet when it comes to energy issues, but she’s just confused about the job she agreed to campaign for.

  61. Who, from what I understand, is still planning to vote for the guy about whom he writes stuff like this

    Matt — got a link to a recent statement by George Will that he intends to vote for McCain? Because, while Will may not (yet) be ready,in the privacy of the voting booth, to pull the lever for the LP party candidate, his steady disdain for McCain would lead me to believe that he might pull a NOTA and leave that race unvoted on — like millions of other conservative-leaning-libertarian voters who yanked their support right after McCain pimped for the bailout.

  62. FatDrunkandStupid,

    The Vice President if President of the Senate. Yes, a role whose sole duty is to break ties, and which has now lawmaking or policy-creating duties otherwise.

    So Palin was absolutely correct in what she said. That’s not what Palin said. She said that the Vice President was “in charge of” the Senate – he’s not, but that could be forgiven as a simplification for a child – but then goes on to talk about gettin’ all up in the Senate’s airspace and creatin’ all kinds of good policy to benefit people like little Billy.

    That’s where she does wrong. The Vice President does nothing of the sort, and it is a misstatement, a misreading of the term “Presiding Officer of the Senate,” to assert that the VP does that.

    BTW, I thought the flack she took for “Somebody needs to tell me what the Vice President does every day” was unfair, too. The day-to-day responsibilities of the VP vary widely from administration to administration, and it was perfectly appropriate for her to question what her role would be. Had she not made so many blunders, I doubt that statement would have been read the same way.

  63. Or, what gmatts said, much better.

  64. Although the Vice-Presidency was pretty useless from the beginning, I wonder if part of the problem with them presiding over the Senate was the frequent vacancies in the office. Both of Madison’s VPs died, as did Pierce’s, Calhoun resigned, and Tyler and Fillmore succeeded, all before the Civil War.

  65. Guy,

    I agree. I’m ashamed to have the letters VT anywhere near his title.

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