hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, November 05, 2004
Matt Yglesias has pointed out that the deep-red state senators will not be able to filibuster Bush's judges, so expecting to block Bush on his judges and other stuff is a pipe dream.

I agree with that. I think there is one vital thing we must do, though. The red state Democrats will not be able to filibuster judges based on ideology (or character), but they can, and *must*, insist that all judges must answer, on threat of filibuster, some simple, no-bullshit questions on their judicial philosophy. Do you agree with Roe v. Wade? Why or why not? Do you agree with Bush v. Gore? Why or why not? How, in detail, would you interpret labor, environmental and civil rights law?

We *have* to do this. We have to nail their trousers to the mast. At this time, we cannot stop them from getting their agenda through, but we can *not* allow them to do it without public scrutiny and public exposure.

Also, it would be a good idea for Senate Democrats to assert that President Bush is entitled to appoint Republicans as judges, and he is entitled to appoint conservative Republicans, if he so wishes, but he is*not* entitled to appoint GOP partisans to federal judgeships. The difference is between a judge with consistent principles, even if you disagree with some of those principles, versus a hack who just does what is best for his friends & family. Then the democrats should make a long list of acceptable Republicans, and make an effort to promote and praise them.

Just blindly opposing Larry Thompson or Priscilla Owens or Miguel Estrada or Al Gonzales is a recipe for disastrous PR. But opposing these judges because they refuse to answer specific *questions* is another matter entirely. We can even turn it into a political advantage for us: eg. What have are they hiding? Whywon't Larry Thompson tell us his opinions on key civil-rights judicial rulings? Why won't he tell us, point-blank, how he would have ruled on these cases if he had been the judge? etc. etc. And we can also probably get away with opposing specific judges in the context of proposing much better alternative *Republican* choices for the same judgeship.

Re: Terry McCaulliffe as the DNC head, it seems to me that one of the key mistakes was the *pragmatic* decision to front-load the primary system. In retrospect, what we seem to have done is trade a few months extra fund-raising in place of giving more time and attention to ordinary voters across the country during the primary season, to find out what rhetoric and candidates they found appealing. IMO, two of the most important "goo-goo" reforms we need to push through is 1) a "back-loaded" primary system, which spreads the primaries out and pushes the big states to april, may & june. 2) Instant Runoff Voting, which would give Green & Libertarian candidates a chance to support their candidates without playing spoiler, if they so chose. Both of these reforms would be many times more important than the rather silly and ineffectual "McCain-Feingold reform"

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