Monday, March 07, 2005

Robert Byrd, free speech and empty political phrases

Here is what you need to read from a CNN article about senator Robert Byrd:

In his comments Tuesday, Byrd had defended the right senators have to use filibusters -- procedural delays that can kill an item unless 60 of the 100 senators vote to move ahead. He is a long-standing defender of the chamber's rules and traditions, many of which help the Senate's minority party. Byrd cited Hitler's 1930s rise to power by, in part, pushing legislation through the German parliament that seemed to legitimize his ascension. "We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men," Byrd said. "But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends." Byrd then quoted historian Alan Bullock, saying Hitler "turned the law inside out and made illegality legal." Byrd added, "That is what the 'nuclear option' seeks to do." The nuclear option is the nickname for the proposal to end filibusters of judicial nominations because of the devastating effect the plan, if enacted, would have on relations between Democrats and Republicans.

I think Byrd got hammered for these remarks because it's easier to criticize someone with empty rhetoric than to prove their position wrong. Ironically enough, Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called Byrd's remarks "poisonous rhetoric" that are "reprehensible and beyond the pale." Beyond the pale? So, Byrd finally crossed that line where he said something so offensive that his head will probably explode in the next several days? I don't think so. I want to know why it would be good to end the use of the filibuster. How many reasons are there? Which is the most important? What is the historical reason for its use? Won't Republicans want it back if they ever become the minority party? I would think so, and I would want them to have it. Byrd was right--eliminating powers of the minority to block and stall is a dangerous game.

The other funny thing about this is that no one can help bringing up Byrd's KKK membership. It's like how John Kerry brought up Mary Cheney in the debates. That was awful--I could see it coming, and I thought to myself NO, JOHN, NO! DON'T DO IT! But he did.

John Kerry: You know, I'm a friend of lesbians, like Mary Cheney, for example, the lesbian daughter of our vice president. As a lesbian, Mary Cheney, who is a lesbian, has to live life with all of the trials and tribulations that come from being a lesbian, which she is.

Are we ever allowed to say that some person or organization is using Nazi tactics, or is that a comparison now frozen in time? I understand that it's offensive to some, but I didn't think that Byrd's remarks were like arranging flowers as swastikas for a Jewish festival--I think he was right, and if he was wrong, I want to know why, instead of hearing people who were not offended bloviate about how offended they were.


At 1:10 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I don't think we can ever responsibly associate someone's practices or policies with the Nazi's. The Nazi's have become a catch-all party for "bad" and everyone compares everyone else to the Nazi's in weak attempts to associate their opposition with evil.

In this case, I don't even understand the comparison. The Nazi's were completely wrong, but that doesn't make their judicial practices absolutely backward. Hitler was an evil man, and Hitler didn't allow fillabustering. Therefor we should allow fillabustering, or else we'll be like Hitler. His point is a little bit better than that, but still - come on.

Nazis aside, I think fillabustering is good and ought to be kept alive, but at the same time I think that the democrats are abusing it. They've been blocking nominees and stalling the process for years. Something needs to change - we can't let presidental nominations hang in limbo for years just because the minority party doesn't want to play nice. Not that it makes them a better party, but the republicans have never used fillabustering like this, even when they WERE a minority party. I don't like their solution, but I think it's a real problem that needs addressing.


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