Truth in Announcing

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This morning, President George Bush performed a “recess appointment,” bypassing the Senate confirmation process and sending John Bolton to the United Nations. The politics of this could be discussed ad nauseum, and preferably not on Cross-Currents. It seems like it was a pretty typical partisan showdown.

The President’s announcement, though, was troubling. He said that a majority of the Senate was in favor of Bolton, whose appointment was obstructed by an extended filibuster. So far, so good. And that he’d waited for five months to let the Senate vote — also true. And that we need a permanent representative to the UN while there’s a war going on — and I can’t argue with that. Republicans are pointing to 160 recess appointments made by former President Bill Clinton, and — despite a number of Clinton’s appointments that seemed to have obvious urgency (replacing deceased Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, for example) — they are right that this game is apparently played on both sides.

But then President Bush referred to “a handful of Senators” blocking the appointment. If I understand things correctly (and please comment if I’m mistaken), that was untrue, and it was also unnecessary. Untrue, because ending a filibuster takes 60 votes. Over 40% had to participate — albeit under the control of party leadership — in order to block the nomination. Unnecessary, because of all the good arguments he made for the appointment, as above, and because he could have said “the Democratic party leadership has chosen to block” instead.

We’ve reached the point where dishonesty and half-truths are to be expected, and that’s sad. I’m not claiming the Democrats are doing any better — but we all should be.

The Talmud says (Sotah 49b) that at the end of the exile, Truth will be ne’ederes, banished. The verb used is that for hoeing or plucking weeds — it will be killed off like a weed, totally unnecessary, even ugly. Who wants to bother with the plain truth, when a falsehood is so much more elegant?

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6 Responses

  1. Sholom Simon says:

    baalhabayis, wadr, I think you are playing with words here.

    The motion to stop the fillibuster was 55-42. So, yes, I suppose you could technically say that it was only a handful of Senators who stopped it (just five, right?) . . . but it is more accurate to say that it was 42 Senators who stopped it.

  2. Josh Narins says:

    Not all the Republicans (certainly not G Voinovich of Ohio) were going to vote for J Bolton. Voinovich did not vote for cloture last time (neither did W Frist, but for procedural reasons).

    The filibuster (which actually would have been no filibuster at all, according to ranking Senator on the relevant committee, J Biden of Delaware, if only GW Bush would hand over the NSA intercepts Bolton repeatedly got, got so that he could spy on other members of the US Government) was enforced by at least 40 people. Only a “handful” of non-Repunlicans were needed to end the filibuster, and the GOP couldn’t get them.

    The relevant committee Chairperson, R Lugar of Indiana, also requested many documents from the State Department, and was simply told by C Rice that he would not get what he wanted. He voted for him anyway.

    The Constitution also clearly states that the Senate can set its own rules, and their rules currently allow for a limited form of extended debate (filibuster).

    The two parties are well entrenched, and see no serious opposition except from each other. The most mathematically sound way to end this situation is called Condorcet voting. Don’t be fooled by the idiot Green and Libertarian parties who want stupid Instant Runoff Voting.

  3. baalhabayis says:

    “But then President Bush referred to “a handful of Senators” blocking the appointment. If I understand things correctly (and please comment if I’m mistaken), that was untrue, and it was also unnecessary. Untrue, because ending a filibuster takes 60 votes. Over 40% had to participate—albeit under the control of party leadership—in order to block the nomination.”

    The President’s statement was not untrue. There are currently 55 Republican senators (all of which the President would expect to vote for cloture [i.e., to end the filibuster]), and it only takes 60 votes to end the filibuster. Thus, the filibuster was effectively enforced by just 5 votes [a “handful”] (the remaining 40 senators could abstain or be absent from the cloture vote). Moreover, even on matters that are generally split along party lines, there are often a “handful” of “moderate” senators on either side that do not necessarily follow party discipline.

    Thus, I think the President’s statement can be taken to emphasize the small margin by which the filibuster was upheld, and this in contrast to the fact that a majority of the senate would have voted to confirm the nomination (which is all that is required under the Constitution).

  4. Libertarian Yid says:

    Of course it’s obvious when they’re lying. Their mouths are moving. :)

    It truly disturbs me how much the frum community supports the Republican party. It’s as if al tisvadah l’rishus has no meaning. The Republicans just talk a better game to people of our stripe than the Democrats do. That’s the only difference between them. The rest is semantics.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Libertarian,

    You’re right. Politicians are expected to spin the facts, and can usually (unfortunately) be relied upon to be untruthful to help themselves when it isn’t obvious to everyone that they aren’t telling the truth. What is somewhat unusual about this one is that it was entirely gratuitous and unnecessary, as well as very obvious.

  6. Libertarian Yid says:

    “We’ve reached the point where dishonesty and half-truths are to be expected, and that’s sad.”

    That’s a rather naive statement. There is no “we’ve reached the point.” That’s the nature of politics itself, and it’s shameful to pretend otherwise.