Why, in this blog, am I taking such an interest in the nuclear option, which isn't exactly a tax, budgetary, or entitlements topic?
Well, if I plug the Go-Betweens and Fiery Furnaces here, then why not the nuclear option. But there is another reason, bringing it closer to home professionally.
I'm currently writing a book, tentatively entitled "The Use and Abuse of Fiscal Language," that discusses the often poor relationship between fiscal terminology (taxes, spending, deficits, etc.) and underlying substance, such as the allocative and distributional effects of policies however labeled. One of my interests in the book is the long-term fiscal problem we face - in part how to think about it and devise measures for various distinct considerations (such as effects on generational distribution as opposed to policy sustainability), but also just how bad the problem may get and why our political system is letting it potentially get so bad.
Rightly or wrongly, I have discerned that a very important cause is the crazy, and in a historical sense un-American (just as Bin Ladenism and fascism are alien to our best traditions) ideology of the radical right that has taken over first the Republican Party and then, more tenuously, the country. Other instances of seeing these guys at work - lying and twisting language, insisting on total victory, turning on cue like a flock of birds, shredding any notion of cooperation with political rivals or of valuing legal and institutional norms, etc. - are therefore of professional interest, you see. There, I've explained it.
If there's one thing I look forward to, by the way, it's the day (if it comes) when I get to return to being a plague-on-both-your-houses-style political observer, rather than being so appalled by one side that I am forced to sound like I am on the other team however out of place I would actually feel there.
Anyway, after this lengthy windup, here's the pitch, a delightful excerpt from today's Senate floor debate, courtesy of the "Think Progress" website:
SEN. SCHUMER: Isn’t it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?
SEN. FRIST: The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination - we’ll come back and discuss this further. … Actually I’d like to, and it really brings to what I believe - a point - and it really brings to, oddly, a point, what is the issue. The issue is we have leadership-led partisan filibusters that have, um, obstructed, not one nominee, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, in a routine way.
Gee, that Frist is one smooth talker. Silver-tongued devil ...