Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2010

SHELBY'S BLASE OBSTRUCTIONISM.... In a Congress when Republicans' obstructionist tactics have become scandalous, and a discredited GOP minority has effectively shut down the American policymaking process, Sen. Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama still stands out for his brazenness.

Shelby, you'll recall, placed a blanket hold on several dozen administration nominees, holding them hostage until the senator was paid off in earmarked pork. He eventually backed off, at least in part, though he continues to block Senate votes on three top positions in the Air Force.

CNN's Dana Bash asked the right-wing senator yesterday whether his actions are justified.

BASH: I spoke with Geoff Morrell over at the Pentagon and just asked him what the impact is of not having these three people in place -- one of whom, as you know, is the number two at the Air Force. He said, "Without these people, we're not firing on all cylinders." And he also said, "It does adversely affect the organization."

Are you worried about that? This is a time of war --

SHELBY: The Pentagon is a big place. I don't think one or two will affect anything except on the margins.

BASH: Do you think that the nominees you have holds on are qualified?

SHELBY: Oh, I don't have any idea.

In a sane political world, this would put Shelby in an impossible-to-defend position. In the midst of two wars, the Pentagon wants to fill key Air Force vacancies, and the Commander in Chief has sent two qualified nominees to the Senate for confirmation. If given a vote, the nominees would be easily approved and could get to work.

A Republican senator (1) doesn't care what the Pentagon wants in the midst of two wars; (2) believes vacancies in the Air Force leadership aren't important; and (3) has no idea whether the nominees he's blocking deserve consideration.

I'm trying to imagine the political world's reaction if a Democratic senator had done this in, say, 2002. If the Pentagon said a Democratic block is "adversely affecting" operations during a war, and the Dem said he didn't care, wouldn't that be considered pretty scandalous?

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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If Democrats won't engage in a coordinated campaign to blast this sort of thing, no one will cover it. Why the Democrats seem to lack any communications infrastructure is a great mystery.

Posted by: Amy on February 27, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

The lack of accountablity for repubs is sometimes astonishing. It's so flagrant that someone like Shelby doesn't even have to go through the usual kabuki steps. Instead of the usual double talk about reservations with the nominees, he flat out tells us he hasn't even bothered to check their qualifications.
If you're from the far right, that's good enough, and apparantly, entirely reasonable. From anywhere else on the political spectrum, you'd have some serious splainin to do.

Posted by: JoeW on February 27, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Shelby is an enemy of the state.

Posted by: Bill on February 27, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Richard Shelby is another great argument for abolishing the US Senate.

Posted by: freelunch on February 27, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

The genius of the Right is to create a narrative that is immune to analysis and critique. Only Republicans can be taken seriously on security issues. Therefore, a story that undermines the narrative creates cognitive dissonance. Americans want short, crisp answers about who's to blame, and Shelby's gambit is too confusing. Nancy Pelosi? The she-devil!

Posted by: walt on February 27, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Many conservatives are happy to fling around the label of "traitor" when applying to people who merely don't think republican ideas are the best for the nation, but, as Bill just said, Shelby really is acting as an enemy of the state here.

Posted by: N.Wells on February 27, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many of the corpses coming back from Iran and Afghanistan are "on the margins."

Posted by: martin on February 27, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

What's the big deal?

Richard Shelby believes that his constituents hate the United States government, and only tolerate it if the Repugnants are in power. Given that he is from Alabama, he is largely correct about most of them.

Shelby is not a loyal American citizen. He is a thug and a thief. He is an American equivalent to a tribal chief in Afghanistan.

Posted by: neill on February 27, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

"If the Pentagon said a Democratic block is "adversely affecting" operations during a war, and the Dem said he didn't care, wouldn't that be considered pretty scandalous?"

wouldn't that be considered pretty treasonus?

There, fixed it forya.

Posted by: Dave on February 27, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

When god and the media declared republicans as the rightful rulers of the U.S. he gave them carte blanche to do what ever they would.

the sooner democrats realize this and cede their usurpacious control of the government the sooner god will smile and reward our corporate masters with more largess.

/sarcasm off

Posted by: dontcallmefrancis on February 27, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

The left needs to play hard ball and launch a media campaign against him as anti-military and acting in ways that do not fully support our troops.

Posted by: bakho on February 27, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"He is an American equivalent to a tribal chief in Afghanistan." neill

Spot on!

Posted by: DAY on February 27, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

It seems not unreasonable to imagine that since we're talking about the military in a time of war that "at the margins" one the effects Shelby dismisses could possibly be the loss of a soldier's life? Sure, it's not likely, the Pentagon *is* a big place after all. One or two fewer top-level people wouldn't impact much probably. But, y'know, butterfly wings and hurricanes and all that. "At the margins"? Jeebus...

Posted by: LumpBlockClod on February 27, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

However, why didn't you mention that bit of "fair and balance" by Bash in showing a blockage by then Senator Obama. This was not the finest work by Bash, but, then, when does she ever do such?

I believe after saying he had no idea, Shelby said this was the way the game was played in DC. It is all about Power.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 27, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Let's hear it for minority rule!! And, no, I don't think that's a wonderful state of affairs, but I do think we should call it what it is. A minority of one, in this case, has been granted inordinate power. There should be some Senate rule for overriding such willful, and unproductive behavior.

Posted by: Bobbi on February 27, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

It is time to start to roll back the Senate role in confirmations, given that the Republicans are using for extortion. Surely there is nothing in the Constitution that says their role has to be as large as it is?

Posted by: bob h on February 27, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

If the Pentagon said a Democratic block is "adversely affecting" operations during a war, and the Dem said he didn't care, wouldn't that be considered pretty scandalous?

Yes, it would...by the Democrats. IOW, the GOP would have screamed bloody murder and the
Dems would have run for the hills. This is a perfect example of why people have no respect for D.C. Dems.

Is the GOP hypocritical? Sure. But at least you can blame it on politics. The Dems lack the courage of their convictions and take their cues on when to be outraged from the opposition party. It is beyond pathetic.

Posted by: square1 on February 27, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The difference is that the Republicans would have made a big deal out of it. What is happening in this case? Are the Democrats making a big deal out of it constantly on the Senate floor and on the cable news nets 24/7? If so, I haven't heard it. Therefore, it is not a failure of the news media, it is not a some twisted double standard, it is simply another failure in leadership messaging and strategy on the part of the Democratic Party which truly acts as though it doesn't know how to play this game or simply can't be bothered.

Posted by: SW on February 27, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Indeed it is these sorts of issues time and time again that lead to the undeniable conclusion that the Democratic Party as a POLITICAL organization is an abject failure. Unworthy or support. The people who are responsible for planning strategy and setting the agenda are utterly incompetent. Nothing short of a complete housecleaning of the upper levels of the organization will redeem them. George Bush was the worst thing that could have happened to them.

Posted by: SW on February 27, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

"Why the Democrats seem to lack any communications infrastructure is a great mystery."

I think you're absolutely right. And it's going to cost them dearly in November unless they get off their clueless asses and start to fight fire with fire. And this definitely includes Obama.

For God's sake, how hard can it be to call outrageous lies exactly that?

I can't think of any two less inspirational "leaders" than Reid and Pelosi.

Posted by: Bluecrab on February 27, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

What SW said - in spades. I read this stuff and I get more and more furious at the neutered Donkeys. Until such time as they find their voice (if ever), they will find zero sympathy from me for their fate. The world is full of bullies. I want an intelligent force to body slam them. Righteous anger is a GOOD THING. Call Shelby out for the traitor he is. And when the MSM comes calling for an apology, tell them if they would do their fucking job, they wouldn't be viewed as the traitor enablers they are. Then tell them their mother is Tiger's ho. Must it take a registered Rethug to explain this stuff to a Donkey?

Posted by: Chopin on February 27, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

The republicans have a get out of jail free card: it's called the MSM.

Posted by: rbe1 on February 27, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Shelby is not pro-military. He is a militarist. There is a difference. Someone who is pro military cares about whether our troops are getting all the material they need when they are in harms way, and all the care they need when they return injured or crippled. Shelby's only interest is in using the America's support of the military to funnel taxpayer dollars to the military industrial complex in his state.

A militarist like Shelby is someone who tries to steal vicariously the honors that others have won for their service in battle, prizing the military because it reflects well on them, makes them feel strong and tough, is the instrument through which their thuggish and bullying and authoritarian personality is given free expression.

It is no surpise at all that Shelby is behaving like the thuggish authoritarian that he is, even if in order to do so he is damaging the effectiveness of the very military by holding it hostage to advance his own selfish gain.

Shelby is no patriot. He is your garden variety, war-mongering, right wing Southern nationalist.

Posted by: Ted Frier on February 27, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Ehhh, how many commenters here have started off blaming the feebleness of Dems for Shelby's dickheadedness? Sorry if I put them behind Shelby, the GOP and Alabama in my venting priorities.

Posted by: beejeez on February 27, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

The point is, are you going to whine or do something about it. In a two party system the Democrats are the only ones who are in a position to do anything about it. You can whine about the media but unless the Democrats MAKE it an issue they are just going to follow the football.

Posted by: SW on February 27, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I am thinking, increasingly, that the whole strategy here, including the idiocy from Bunning on Friday, is to make the Democrats so fed up that they change all the Senate rules, something that will come back to haunt us if/when the Republicans become a majority again. The potential to abuse the system has always existed, but we, of course, would never have done it. There has to be a way to get enough attention to turn this against the Republicans in November. With the mainstream media playing from the Republican songsheet, I don't know what the heck will work. The AP Bunning story had a headline that blamed the whole Senate, and the Bunning info was sort of casually mentioned 2/3 into the story. (And I had to look around a lot to even find the article.)

Posted by: Grammy Pat on February 27, 2010 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK
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