Monday, January 24, 2005

Oh, the humanity ...


Republicans are upset that Senate Democrats actually want a debate on the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. Quoth White House chief of staff Andrew Card: "Petty politics."

Beg to differ. The Constitution is not unclear on this. The president appoints cabinet officials with the advise and consent of the Senate. That was never intended to be a rubber stamp, and the balkanization of the GOP (with social conservatives, religious rightists, right-libertarians et al in uneasy coalition with the Republican Surrealists) makes it doubly important that cabinet appointments receive full debate.

While we don't have a full-blown parliamentary system where withdrawal of one or more factions from the majority coalition would force new elections, there is a legitimate public interest in giving the opposition its chance to attempt to pry some Republican Senators loose on any single vote. As a matter of fact, that lack of an ability to reframe the entire government on the fly is probably the most important reason for allowing full debate on any given appointment.

A Republican congressional majority is not a mandate for Republican Surrealist cabinet appointments. Neither is a Republican presidential victory. Full and open debate in the Senate is a poor substitute for a real parliamentary/democratic system, but it's the only substitute we have. And if the opposition is not there to oppose, then we might as well discard the fiction of multi-party politics and admit that the US is a one-party dictatorship.

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