NUCLEAR UPDATE….David Brooks has some interesting reporting today. He says that in addition to trading off a few nominees, the filibuster deal that Harry Reid offered Bill Frist had an unwritten and non-public postscript:
I’ve been reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush’s pick, he’d come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush’s nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed.
That’s interesting, isn’t it? Brooks thinks Frist should have taken the deal for a number of reasons, including this one:
Frist should have grabbed this offer because it’s time for senators to re-establish the principle that they, not the outside interest groups, run the Senate. Right now, most senators want to avoid a meltdown. It’s the outside interest groups that are goading them into the fight.
Of course the groups want a fight. The activists get up every morning hoping to change the judiciary, dreaming of total victory. Of course they’re willing to sacrifice everything else for that cause. But senators are supposed to know that serving the interest groups is not the same as serving the people: it is serving a passionate but unrepresentative minority of the people. At some point, leaders are supposed to stand up to maximalists, even the ones they mostly agree with.
I don’t often agree with Brooks these days, but I think he’s on target here. This is not a symmetrical situation ? conservative activist groups are way farther off the deep end these days than liberal ones ? but it’s still a good thought for both sides. Making every fight into a game of nuclear chicken isn’t the right way to run a country.