The Corner

Nothing to Do With Each Other

Here’s James Taranto in Best of the Web on Wednesday, praising the filibuster deal and explaining how it will help Bolton:

From where we sit, then, the actions of the Republican compromisers look like not a capitulation but a way of letting Democrats back down from a losing position without being humiliated.

Why not humiliate the Democrats? Well, here’s one reason: “Democrats agreed on Tuesday to clear the way for the Senate to vote on the controversial nomination of John Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which was expected to pass mainly on party lines,” Reuters reports. Had the Senate gone nuclear yesterday, Bolton’s nomination would be suffering from the fallout.

Now, since it seems to have become necessary to make this clear, let me premise this by saying I am second to no one in my admiration for John Podhoretz. I am a James Taranto fan, too. I just disagree with both of them on this one — which is admittedly perilous, but a little easier to do when they seem to be disagreeing with each other.

John is no doubt correct when he looks at the four corners of the deal struck Monday night, says the facts are the facts, and points out that the filibuster deal as a technical legal matter did not control the outcome of the Bolton fiasco. The problem with that line of thinking however is that the filibuster deal is not a technical legal matter; it is a political matter, and it has reverberations that go well beyond the four-corners of the agreement. Indeed, that is exactly the way it was sold by its proponents, who told us that the “fallout” from the nuclear option would be a general paralysis that would affect all senate business. I don’t think it is consistent to argue that the rule-change would have had this transcendent effect but that the deal to avert the rule change is somehow only about the judges and nothing else.

Taranto’s view, I suggest, was the more rational view among supporters of the deal, viz.: “If we do this crummy deal, it might help us with other things like Bolton.” It didn’t — or at least it hasn’t so far. That’s because, as the more pessimistic among us have been saying all along, it’s a bad deal, because the people with whom it was struck do not place much stock in consistency.

That is, it is unreasonable, based on past performance, for people on our side to believe that if the other side takes a certain position on Monday they will feel honor-bound to take the same position on Tuesday if the same facts arise. Since you can’t expect them to honor precedent or reciprocate reasonableness (since there has never been anything reasonable about the scandalous way they have tarred the Bush nominees), you have to try to win when something is important and when you have a good chance to win.

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