John Podhoretz suggests that the deal is really just a smokescreen to give both sides (mainly Democrats) political cover and avoid the Consitutional option being forced on the Dems. OK, that's not exactly what Podhoretz says but that's the inescapable conclusion if he's right:
This deal is therefore effectively about the judges it mentions -- and about them only. Every future nomination will be decided as follows. If the Democrats insist that the next nominee(s) are bad enough to invoke the "extraordinary" right to filibuster, the Republicans have the right to say the Democrats are full of it, kill the deal and go to the nuclear option immediately.I hope so. As a legal eagle, I know that sometimes when both sides in a dispute have battled themselves into a corner and they both want out, they'll agree to fuzzy language in some kind of settlement agreement, declare victory, and move on. That may well be what McCain and Co. wanted to do here.
Why would they do that? Well, experienced negotiators go into discussions only when they know what they want to come out with. I believe McCain, as mercurial and self-absorbed as he is, had a goal: To get out of a box.
What box? As Hugh Hewitt suggested on his radio show today, McCain had taken a big and irreversible step by siding with the Democrats on a key issue. His future as a Republican was consequently in great doubt, and yet he couldn't back out without looking like a flip-flopper. He desperately needed to avoid the Senate rules confrontation the Republicans had threatened, because the GOP likely would have triumphed. Imagine McCain's position then: He sides with the Democrats who are obstructing judicial confirmation votes on qualified nominees-- a "red meat" issue for center-right Republicans (not "extremists;" McCain knows better than to call them that). Then he and the Democrats lose when push comes to shove. McCain's presidential ambitions are then toast.
So McCain engineers the "extraordinary circumstances" fuzz-over, and his little group gets to claim they resolved the impasse and still cry "foul" if the Democrats resort to filibustering any nominee who's not a certifiable wing-nut. To a lesser extent, Democrats Lieberman, Nelson, and perhaps others also can distance themselves from their fellow Democrats by claiming disagreement with the rest of their caucus on the "extraordinary circumstances" issue.
Assuming I'm right, my problem with this agreement is that it is utterly self-serving for the gang that assembled it, especially McCain. It's not in the best interests of the Constitution or any overly-treasured Senate comity. After all, the agreement recognizes filibustering of judicial nominees as a legitimate tactic. But it does save John McCain's hide, and I guess it does ingratiate Lindsey Graham with John McCain. (Hugh thinks Graham wants to run for VP on McCain's ticket. Good luck, boys!)
Profiles in Courage? No, more like Profiles in Egotism. But if this unnecessary, unprincipled compromise gets us where we need to go we can be happy about that, at least.
UPDATE: The comments to this post, below, are very much worth reading.