Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Poor Dim Harry: Special Filibuster Version

The Minority Leader that just keeps on giving. I really am beginning to like this guy since he may, just may mind you, prove that Bill Frist isn't the dimmest bulb in the U.S. Senate.

Speaking today at the beginning of what may (!) be a lengthy debate on Bush's judicial appointments, Dim Harry was in the mood to tell a little story. Gosh I hope young Devan - remember the precoucios lad from Satelite who wants to be just like Harry - wasn't listening, because our Harry told another one, and we'd hate to see young Devan mess up on a future SAT question as a result. I paraphrase, since I don't have a direct link:

"Thomas Jefferson asked George Washington what the purpose of the Senate was. Washington looked at Jefferson and said, "see that coffee you've poured in your saucer? Why did you do that?" Jefferson responded, "To cool it". "Exactly", said Washington and that is the purpose of the Senate, to cool debate and partisanship."

Dim Harry went on to explain that the filibuster was just such a tool, and as such should not be changed.

I cannot prove this exchange never took place, and it really doesn't matter, since even if it did the conversation would have ocurred at a time when the filibuster did not exist. It was introduced approximately 50 years later, and certainly is not mentioned in the Constitution, which, by the way, specifically states that a simple majority is needed for judicial advice and consent. So if the Senate was providing sufficient cooling without the filibuster according to our founding fathers, then why should we have it now? But I digress.

It is tempting to point out some problems with Dim Harry's story, and to avoid being 100% Snark (hat tip to you PDS), I will justify this in a historical context. My first thought is that it is highly unlikely that the two were drinking coffee, since our founding fathers enjoyed tea as their designated caffenater. One tends to remember a little something called the Boston Tea Party at at times like this. Admittedly, this is just a quibble. There is a much bigger problem with our Harry's story.

More outlandish is the idea that Jefferson, of all people, would go to Washington for advice on what the role of the Senate is! It is well known that Jefferson thought Washington to be a bit of a plodding dolt, who was useful in leading the country because of his popularity with the people in it's early years. None-the-less, Jefferson despised Washington because of Washington's views on the need for a stong Executive Branch. In this view Washington was aligned with Jefferson's arch enemy Alexander Hamilton, with whom Jefferson carried on a lifelong feud that extended years after Hamilton actually died.

As a result, Jefferson clearly looked at Washington as the puppet of the master Alexander Hamilton, and no serious student of American History would ever take seriously the notion that Jefferson wanted Washington's input. If the conversation took place, it is more likely that Jefferson was attempting to mock Washington's view as a mean's of promoting his own. This, I'm quite sure is not the point Dim Harry would care to make.

None-of-this is to suggest an opinion on the filibuster issue today. Frankly, I think the Dems have abused this priviledge for scores of reasons that others have discussed. I just find it a bit shocking that out of all the Democratic members of the Senate, this is the guy that rose to the top of the heap. Inarticulate, apparently uninformed and prone to intemperate outbursts he is beginning to sound more like Tom Delay, without the bad hair!

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