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Tilting at Windmills

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December 30, 2010

THE PREDICTABLE RECESS-APPOINTMENT COMPLAINTS.... With the White House announcing six new recess appointments late yesterday, it was only a matter of time before Republicans began complaining. What I was curious to see, however, is what they came up with.

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin took a crack at it this morning. (via Memeorandum)

On Wednesday, Obama shed any pretense of bipartisanship in making six recess appointments. As were his previous recess appointments, this batch included two individuals whose records are so controversial that they could not obtain confirmation even with 59 Democratic senators.

Hmm. Let's unpack this a bit.

President Obama nominated six qualified officials to fill a variety of executive branch vacancies. These nominations were considered in the respective Senate committees, and approved by committee members. If brought to the floor, each of the six would have been confirmed, most with more than 60 votes. (When Rubin claims they were too "controversial" to "obtain confirmation," this has no relation to reality. She's simply wrong.)

Knowing this, conservative Republicans, who've engaged in obstructionist tactics unseen in American history, placed anonymous holds on the nominees. They could have simply voted against the nominees and urged their colleagues to follow suit, but that wasn't good enough -- Republicans had to shut down the advise-and-consent process altogether.

This, in turn, left the president with a choice: (a) leave the positions vacant until a Senate minority agreed to let the chamber vote up or down; or (b) fill the vacancies with qualified nominees who enjoyed the support of a Senate majority. He wisely chose the latter.

I am intrigued, though, by the notion of "partisanship" as a criticism from a partisan. Let me see if I have this straight -- when Republicans engage in obstructionism, breaking down the confirmation process, that's fine. When the president exercises the power available to him to circumvent this obstructionism, that's "shedding any pretense of bipartisanship"?

It's almost as if Obama is allowed to be affected by institutional abuses, but he's not allowed to respond. There's nothing wrong with political pugilism, just so long as Obama realizes he's not supposed to punch back.

That's quite a standard.

Rubin's piece goes on to make arguments against some of the six officials to receive recess appointments -- again, opponents could have made these arguments on the floor and tried to defeat the nominations as part of the traditional confirmation process -- before wrapping up with an especially interesting point.

What, if anything, can be done by the imperious recess appointments of such controversial nominees? Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation emails me, "The real threat (which Robert C. Byrd famously did once) is for the entire GOP caucus" to refuse to consent to any further nominees unless Obama agrees to refrain from issuing more recess appointments. Gaziano says that Republicans "could refuse to confirm another judge, diplomat, etc. until they extract their promise."

Fascinating. Note Rubin's use of the word "imperious" to describe a legal process used by George W. Bush more than 170 times.

Let's appreciate exactly what's being proposed here.

Every president since George Washington has used recess appointments; it's a power explicitly given to the president in the Constitution. Rubin and Gaziano, however, envision yet another hostage scenario -- the White House would have to commit to the Republican Senate minority that the president won't exercise his own authority or the GOP will simply refuse allow any nominees to receive any votes to any office for any reason.

The president might not be inclined to pay such a ransom. Of course, if he resists, I'm sure conservative bloggers will be there to insist the White House has "shed any pretense of bipartisanship."

Steve Benen 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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She's simply wrong.

Correction: She's simply lying.

Posted by: martin on December 30, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"...that they could not obtain confirmation even with 59 Democratic senators."

Here I thought it only too 51 votes to confirm an appointment. It's this concept that needs to put to rest, permanently.

Posted by: Jerry on December 30, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

"When Rubin claims they were too "controversial" to "obtain confirmation," this has no relation to reality. She's simply wrong."

I am fed up with being polite. Jennifer Rubin is LYING.

She is prostituting her paltry few journalist credentials and lying. Just say it.

Posted by: OKDem on December 30, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

This woman writes for the Washington Post? Can we assume she lives in Virginia, and is quite possibly a product of Virginia schools. If so there is no need to blame her for not understanding Senate rules.

The Senate never put the nominees to an up or down vote. They were denied that opportunity by the minority who abused the Senate's rules for political purposes. If they had been given an up or down vote all would have easily won confirmation.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 30, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

It would seem Rubin is focusing on the second part of that age-old practice among journalists:

news-STORY! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 30, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

lying might be too harsh. Making shit up is probably more

Posted by: jak on December 30, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

You forget that inside the beltway "bipartisan" typically means "Democrats do what Republicans want".

Republicans always want Democrats to do what the Republicans want, so they are ALWAYS bipartisan. It's only Democrats who can abandon bipartisanship, by foolishly insisting on NOT doing what Republicans want.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 30, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

My rant for the week:
Bush recessing the odious and unqualified John, “The Great Mustache of Xenophobia” Bolton onto the poor, unsuspecting UN, who thought maybe that kind of lunacy stopped at the border with Little Kim in N. Korea, Muammar of the same in Libya, and Ahmadoinsomethingtopissyaoff-good! in Iran.
And Little Boots recessed thousands of war-loving Christianista imbeciles, here and abroad, into positions that make the Peter Principle seem quaint, because that role model Peter had to have had some level of competence in the first fucking place before rising to his position of ultimate incompetence. That level was step 1 for our Bush’s appointee’s. And those positions were pretty high up the food chain to start someone who needed to study “An Imbecile’s Guide to Knives, Forks, and Spoons,” followed by “The Idiot’s Guide to Mealtime 1st Aid.”
This is all reminicent of Little Boots himself, who failed at everything except waving pom-pom’s as a male cheerleader (without breaking his clavical), and branding the naked asscheeks of his Skull & Bones boy pals (while successfully hiding his boner); though, to his credit, he WAS a Governor - of the state where the Governor has the least signifigance and the least to do. Kind of like the jock-washer on the girls volleyball team.
But, let the Black guy Democratic President recess someone, a person(s) perfectly well qualified for the position(s), and Holy Shit, everyone in the Amen-chorus on the right gets the vapors, does its ‘Ah don’ know nuffin’ ’bout Preznit’s recessin’s no appointments!’ to mock him, then go on Radio Rushwanda, and Unibrow on FOX, then in celebration, pop a few carefully hidden Four Loco’s (just to piss off the Liberals) and chase them with double-bourbons, before they pass out in “The Peggy Noonan Upholstered Drunk Tank & Vomatorium” they created in her honor, and that is deep in the bowels of Murder-och’s Media’s basement - created for great days just like this one.
Did I mention the President’s a Democrat? And he’s black, too? Or is it the other way around? In their world, if Colin Powell was the RepubliConfederate President (how better to hide their racism), something tells me recessing would be A-OK. We’d hear, ‘Ah knows evrythin’s ’bout Preznit’s recessin’ appointments, ‘n iss Okay-dokay!’ to mock what they perceive to be the racist’s that pervade Liberal media, and who in their minds can’t stand that there’s a RepubliKlan black man who’s President. This is the thinking that bouces around only in the heads of the Nihilist FOX-viewing true-believers, where the next original thought will also be the first.

Ooops, it’s after noon! I almost missed my decaf, double vodka and Thorazine snack for the day.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 30, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Daily Kos spells out one reason for Republicans' faux outrage: Cole, [then] 44, was chosen for the sensitive post of outside counsel to the ethics subcommittee investigating Gingrich after assuring Republicans that he would be unafraid to go easy on the speaker if the evidence warranted.

But as the months went by, he found evidence of a distinctly different kind. It was he who collected and first analyzed enough of it, in documents and interviews, to force Gingrich last month to take the painful and long-resisted step of publicly admitting that he had brought discredit on the House. And Friday it was he who recommended what penalties should be imposed.

Given the political stakes, it was not surprising that the committee, made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, would resort to bitter partisanship at the hearing. But even as the members hurled accusations at one another, no one -- notably no Republicans -- suggested that Cole's approach had been unfair.

Posted by: jjm on December 30, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, evidently the Devil finds work for idle hands, in the Gulag.

I'm gonna print that rant out, and share it with my GuanoNutz Conservative relatives. Because Everybody Knows that if it is printed on paper, It Must Be True. . .

Posted by: DAY on December 30, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

The arguments, logic and language being used by today's right wing conservatives increasingly resemble that used by the old Soviets to rationalize their positions.

Like today's right wing ideologues, Soviet logic made no sense either outside communist ideology itself. Thus "peace" was not the absence of war but the condition when all countries are communist. A "war-monger" is thus not necessarily someone who advocates violence but a freedom-lover who doesn't ant "peace."

Rubin's argument about the "imperious" president trying to get around the secret hold of a single senator who has unilaterally thwarted the will of a Senate majority is incomprehensible outside the context of a far right ideology that has banished the word "compromise" and sees everything from its own narrow point of view.

Posted by: Ted Frier on December 30, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

hmmm...if Republicans threaten to block all nominations unless Obama gives up recess appointments, how about he counters with: allow all appointees and nominees to come up for a vote within 30 days of being approved by committee, or I'll recess appoint every blocked nomination.

Posted by: jsj on December 30, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

So Fucking what? The President has a job to do and attending to the sensibilities of Washington courtiers is or should be very far down the list. Complying with the desires of those who wish your political destruction shouldn't even be on the list.

Posted by: SW on December 30, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with martin and OKDem, Steve. You have to add the word "lying" to your vocabulary. You've utilized every possible way to dance around the word, but to what end? I can understand avoiding it if you aren't sure it's a lie, but in so many cases you know damn well that it is, so just tell it like it is. If more commentators did that we'd all be better off. Otherwise it just sounds like more "he said/she said." Or worse, it makes it sound like the person may actually be intellectually honest and just misguided or mistaken when what they actually are is a liar, plain and simple.

Posted by: President Lindsay on December 30, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Where did that socialist-marxist-communist-Nazi-Kenyan-fascist-Hawaiian usurper get the idea that he could make those recess appointments? Why, it's right there in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Isn't that the document that right-wingers fetishize -- I mean, claim is the last word on everything?

Damned strikethrough tag doesn't work.

Posted by: navamske on December 30, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is why conservatives question whether Obama is a Christian. The Christian model for responding to being slapped in the face is to turn the other cheek.

The GOP is slapping Obama in the face by refusing to consider his nominees. But it's for his own good. Obama's response, making recess appointments, is a very aggressive (or even Muslim-like) response. Obama must repent or suffer further consequences.

Obviously you haven't been reading your Bibles and don't understand the pure intentions of the GOP in blocking the nominees.

It all makes sense if you're conservative.


Posted by: danimal on December 30, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

She is neither lying or making shit up

SHE IS LAZY just like all the other beltway reporters

She woke up this AM with no idea she was going to write this story.

Basically her Heritage Foundaiton buddy CALLED HER to frame the recess appointments as some sort of imperial overreach and she ran with it.

Just like every other beltway journalist she did not even spend the 5 minutes using lexis or even google to verify the information.

Regurgitation is NOT journalism.

Posted by: lib4 on December 30, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure Ms. Rubin and her conservative colleagues were equally outraged when President George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments, including deeply controversial ones like John Bolton.

Posted by: Tired Liberal on December 30, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Printing my rant for your GuanoNutz Conservative relatives - that is a high compliment indeed.
I'm honored!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 30, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

what gulag said.

Posted by: mellowjohn on December 30, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure Ms. Rubin and her conservative colleagues were equally outraged when President George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments, including deeply controversial ones like John Bolton.

Of course not. IOKIYAR!

Posted by: "Fair and Balanced" Dave on December 30, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Always nice to watch a wingnut Jew working so hard to disprove the ancient anti-Semitic slur that "all Jews are really smart."

Posted by: TCinLA on December 30, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

When Rubin started she declared her beliefs . . .

[see my comment below]

Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 11/30/2010
Welcome to Right Turn
By Jennifer Rubin

. . .
What do I believe in? For starters: American exceptionalism, limited government, free markets, a secure and thriving Jewish state, defense of freedom and human rights around the world, enforced borders with a generous legal immigration policy, calling things by their proper names (e.g. Islamic fundamentalism), and recapturing vocabulary (a "feminist" is not the same as a pro-choice activist). Nearly all wisdom is found in the Godfather movies (no, not Part 3!) and the Torah. I'm a dog nut, so I'm a sucker for any dog story. (And for the record, I think Bo is adorable.) I'm a harsh critic of racial preferences, the Middle East "peace process" (which is short on peace-production), Keynesian economics, judicial imperialism and liberal statism.

MY COMMENT: How can any serious person begin her list of what she "believe[s] in?" by stating "For starters: American exceptionalism"

TOTALLY INANE - Rubin is obviously not a clear thinker.


Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 30, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

this post about Rubin is interesting (see excerpt)


"The fact that Rubin is intended as a counterpart to Sargent is also revealing about the way that “balance” is understood in the mainstream media. Sargent certainly leans liberal, but he is also a very good reporter who breaks stories and is willing to criticize the Democrats; Rubin, by contrast, has no real experience as a reporter (as opposed to commentator) and has never met a Republican or Likud talking point she didn’t like."

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 30, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's almost as if Obama is allowed to be affected by institutional abuses, but he's not allowed to respond. -- Steve Benen

There's no "as if" about it. In Rubin's world, Obama is but a punchbag in the gym, for real fighters to improve their technique upon. The idea that he might be an opponent in the ring, with equal rights of punching back is abhorrent and therefore unacceptable.

Posted by: exlibra on December 30, 2010 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

We should expect more crap from Rubin; see below more text quoted from http://www.lobelog.com/will-pamela-geller-be-next/ [NOTE THE COMMENT ABOUT HER SLOPPINESS]
{Due to Rubin's (at least) obvious inability to do her homework and think clearly thinking, I've added her to my list of fellow Jews in the public sphere that I'm ashamed of.}

"The dominant feature of Rubin’s politics, of course, is her ultra-hawkish Greater Israel Zionism.
. . .
While she is quick to accuse Israel’s critics of anti-Semitism, Rubin is not so fond of actually existing American Jews, whom she views as unpatriotic and insufficiently supportive of Israel.

These aspects of Rubin’s thought came to a head in her Commentary piece “Why the Jews Hate Palin,” which was almost universally denounced across the political spectrum for sloppy argumentation and trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes. (To briefly summarize Rubin’s arguments, The Jews hate Palin because they are a bunch of effete, overeducated, rootless cosmopolitans, averse to manual labor and military service, who therefore despise Real Americans like Palin.) “In a strikingly unified response from liberals as well as conservatives,” the Atlantic noted in a rundown of the various demolitions of Rubin’s piece, “most commentators are trashing the piece as illogical, poorly-argued, and anti-Semitic.”

Along with Israel, Rubin’s abiding passion is her hatred of Obama, whose “sympathies for the Muslim World,” she argues, “take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens.” Ever since Obama came to prominence, she has spent several posts a day prophesying impending doom for his political fortunes. I actually came to enjoy reading her analysis during the 2008 presidential campaign — every time the McCain-Palin campaign hit another pothole, Rubin would invariably come forward with a strained explanation for why this was only an insignificant setback, and the collapse of the Obama campaign was surely right around the corner. (Like Bill Kristol, I’ve often thought that Rubin would have made an excellent Soviet agitprop officer.) Of course, in recent months Obama’s popularity has indeed sagged — a stopped clock is right twice a day and all that. But even if Obama recovers and successfully serves another six years in office, we can expect Rubin to use her perch at the Post to offer daily predictions of Obama’s impending collapse until the moment he leaves office in 2017."

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 30, 2010 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

OOPS . . .
obvious inability to do her homework and think clearly thinking

obvious inability to do her homework and think clearly

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 30, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK
Note Rubin's use of the word "imperious" to describe a legal process used by George W. Bush more than 170 times.

Hey, Bush was white.

Posted by: Steve (Not that one) on December 30, 2010 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Republican behavior is typical of any abusive partner in a relationship.

Posted by: JWK on December 30, 2010 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Can't we cut her some slack? I mean, at least the article was on the Opinion Page! Which, I imagine, explains the complete lack of facts.
Doesn't excuse them, however...

Posted by: Doug on December 30, 2010 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK
Note Rubin's use of the word "imperious" to describe a legal process used by George W. Bush more than 170 times.

Imagine if Obama used one of them "signing statements" of which Bush was so fond. The right-wingers' heads would explode.

Posted by: navamske on December 30, 2010 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Two things worth noting: 1) at least three of those appointed are career bureaucrats rather than political appointees; 2) one of those appointed was being blocked by Democratic senators rather than by Republicans. So this is a bit more complicated than just "partisanship."

Posted by: JC on December 30, 2010 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, JC, your comment might have some persuasive value if you told us who you think the three 'career bureaucrats' are, who you think was blocked by a democratic senator and which senator that was. That way with a reasonable amount of googling we could easily check the veracity of your assertions. Without that specificity it just sounds like a baseless retort made up from whole cloth.

Posted by: exgop on December 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

There's nothing special about these 6.

NONE of the judges Obama has picked can get confirmed by 59 Democratic Senators without major concessions being made to the minority. (e.g. throw 4 under the bus to get 12 to be confirmed by those 59 Democrats)

It would be nice if the president pointed out that the Senate had been given X number of months to vote on them but sat on their behinds. If they were so horrible, they could have said "No" but they couldn't be bothered to vote.

Meanwhile the courts are becoming badly backlogged and criminals walk the streets on bail because Republicans are soft on crime and are breaking the back of the rule of law.

Can we get statistics on how many crimes could have been prevented if the Republicans weren't preventing judges from sentencing arrested perps?

Before November, I was sure Obama had these stats and was ready to beat Republican Senators over the head with them. Now, I have no idea if they have any good plays on their clipboard.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on December 31, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK



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