The Nuclear Option
April 25, 2005 12:48 PM   Subscribe

The Nuclear Option is a tool Sen. Frist would like you to believe is a plan of the Democrat Party to bring chaos to the Senate. In fact, it is a tool coined by Republicans. Republicans are, as we speak, pressuring news media to claim that “the nuclear option” is a Democrat term. Some have already fallen in line. Some Republicans are pissed. Nearly all Dems are as well. Luckily, the Republicans plan, won’t work.
posted by futureproof (26 comments total)
Frist is a such a panties-in-a-wad weasle.
I can't really bring much to the discussion except to say I really despise him.

Ahhh, that feels nice.
posted by Peter H at 12:57 PM on April 25, 2005

Kind of like the difference between "private" accounts and personal accounts. The Republican wordsmiths have determined that "privatization" evokes all kinds of bad things with people, therefore that was stricken and replaced with the rainbows and unicorns that "personal accounts" bring. The problem isn't the phrase change. The problem is that the "media" obediently adopts to the new phraseology (real word) without asking the questions behind the switch.

On a separate note, the bad internal polls might mean that people may run from the fillibuster issue.
posted by rzklkng at 1:01 PM on April 25, 2005

The problem is that the "media" obediently adopts to the new phraseology

Exactly. The media is choosing whether to report a lie or whether to obey the Republican party. It's quite fun to watch in near real time who falls in line and who doesn't.
posted by futureproof at 1:04 PM on April 25, 2005

The "Some Republicans are pissed" and "Nearly all Dems are as well" links, for me, report "sorry, that story can't be found" - presumably due to the superfluous characters at the end of the links...
posted by kaemaril at 1:14 PM on April 25, 2005

Peter H,

how can you begrudge a man who produced such a selfless work of prose?
posted by slapshot57 at 1:14 PM on April 25, 2005


Unless you're the sort who can't bring himself to utter the proper name of the opposition party.
posted by breezeway at 1:14 PM on April 25, 2005

Yes, it's interesting to see "Democrat party" used in a post about Republican manipulations of language.
posted by uosuaq at 1:17 PM on April 25, 2005

My apologies.
Some Republicans are pissed
Nearly all Dems are as well

And yes, it's Democratic Party. Sorry.
posted by futureproof at 1:21 PM on April 25, 2005

Don't throw me into the briar patch, br'er Reid, with your scary filibuster. Either we get strong principled judges (win) or we get to go back to the voters who, without social issues to consider would vote 60% Democrat, and show them how, once again, Democrats are committed to the tyrany of the liberal elite over decent folks like them (needless to say, win).
posted by MattD at 1:21 PM on April 25, 2005

Who cares who coined the term? It's just words. Meanwhile, we've got all the fundies congregating for a nationally-televised mediathon ("Justice Sunday") where nutjobs like Dobson are giving us civics lessons on checks and balances, and then contradicting themselves in front of an adoring audience. And then our wonderful Sen. Frist joins them in a gigantic money/God/power circle jerk. How scary is that?

At least Frank Rich is paying attention.
posted by fungible at 1:43 PM on April 25, 2005

We think the philibuster is pretty damn neat.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:34 PM on April 25, 2005

It matters who coined terms like that because they're using it as a weapon against Democratic Senators. They coined it, and they were the ones who actually did shut down the entire government in Newt's era. This "nuclear option" would only shut the Congress down, and the Government would continue to function. The Republicans are trying to make it seem like the world will stop and that it's all a Democratic idea. (Filibusters are a small-d democratic idea that they hate now that they're the majority--they loved them when they needed them, and used them against Clinton, and before that.)
posted by amberglow at 2:40 PM on April 25, 2005

and their intimidation of the "liberal media" (another term they coined and have successfully made people believe in) about this shit proves that it's not--yet again.
posted by amberglow at 2:52 PM on April 25, 2005

Wait. There are two things being confused here. The main issue is that the Republicans are saying that the phrase "nuclear option" originated with the Dems when in fact it originated from the Republican think tanks and was used by the Republicans until someone realized it sounded morose and dangerous. Hence, "constitutional option." The Republicans are attempting to distance themselves and their nefarious plan from the implication of nuclear, world-shattering collapse.

When it comes down to it, except for the fact that it represents another instance of bald-faced lying, I don't think this distinction is all that important.

Indeed it is accurate to say that, presently, "nuclear option" is the Democrats' phrase for the Republican's potential filibuster rule change. The Bill Frist quote in the like you to believe link doesn't really show him overstepping that line:
Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the “nuclear option.”
This isn't quite the lie that the phrase originated with the Dems, though other Republicans have clearly taken it further into lying territory.

The reason the further lie is significant is just that the truth of the phrase's origins lets on that the Republicans know and have always known that the filibuster rule change is a potentially disastrous big deal and not a simple, intuitive change to close a silly loophole in our democracy, as they would like the voters to believe.

The issue to really worry about is brought up by the "some" link from the FPP which refers to an NBC reporter who took the tomfoolery further, using "nuclear option" to refer to the Democrats' response to the filibuster rule change. I'm not sure that this isn't an isolated case, but if one or two more reporters perform the same linguistic shift (presumably at the Republicans' behest) then there will be something to really write a FPP home about.
posted by nobody at 3:38 PM on April 25, 2005

I don't really care who said it. It's not like they're opting to blow up Washington. (At least not literally.) So whether it's "nuclear" or not isn't the point. Whether Frist said it or not doesn't matter --- so you caught him in a small lie, what else is new?

What does matter is that Frist & Co. are trying to change an 80-year-old Senate rule to give themselves absolute power. Anyone with half a brain can see that, and that's what opponents should focus on.
posted by fungible at 3:50 PM on April 25, 2005

I don't really care who said it. It's not like they're opting to blow up Washington. (At least not literally.) So whether it's "nuclear" or not isn't the point. Whether Frist said it or not doesn't matter --- so you caught him in a small lie, what else is new?

I think this is the wrong way to think about it. As amberglow points out, words do matter, and the GOP has done a great job of using a kind of double speak to really lie to people. The little lie here can be turned into a big lie if the different way of talking about it begins to convince people that it's not such a bad idea after all.
posted by OmieWise at 4:39 PM on April 25, 2005

... In 1996 Clinton nominated Judge Richard Paez to the 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Conservatives in Congress held up Paez's nomination for more than four years, culminating in an attempted filibuster on March 8, 2000. Bill Frist was among those who voted to filibuster Paez. ...--American Prospect-- 1/05

... Though Frist is not truthful when he suggests that the filibustering of a judicial nominee is unprecedented; in 1968, Senate Republicans filibustered President Lyndon Johnson's nomination of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas for Chief Justice.)

The Christian right has long entertained the fantasy that it represents a "moral majority," to borrow the name of Jerry Falwell's former group, but it's well-documented that most Americans do not share its views. ...
--Slate: Filibuster on the Cross--Why the Christian right would be nuts to eliminate the filibuster
posted by amberglow at 4:45 PM on April 25, 2005

and Trent Lott apparently first spoke it in public: From the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi, 5/23/03:
"I'm for the nuclear option, absolutely," Lott has said. "The filibuster of federal district and circuit judges cannot stand. ... It's bad for the institution. It's wrong. It's not supportable under the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I'm perfectly prepared to blow the place up. No problem."

posted by amberglow at 4:54 PM on April 25, 2005

and this is well worth a read, from the floor of the Senate, May 09, 2002: ...These are people President Clinton nominated who never ever got a hearing--not 2 days later, 2 weeks later, 2 months later, 2 years later. They never got a hearing. Fine people. In Illinois, Wenona Whitfield; in Missouri, Leland Shurin; in Pennsylvania, John Bingler; in South Dakota, Bruce Greer; in California, Sue Ellen Myerscough; Texas, Cheryl Wattley; in Texas, Michael Schaffman.

Circuit judges in the Fourth Circuit, James Beaty; Richard Leonard, never got hearings; Annabelle Rodriquez. In the 105th Congress, Helene White, Ohio; Jorge Rangel in Texas; Jeffrey Coleman, North Dakota; James Klein, District of Columbia; Robert Freedberg, Pennsylvania; Cheryl Wattley, Texas; Lynette Norton, Pennsylvania; Robert Raymar, Third Circuit; Legrome Davis, Pennsylvania; Lynne Lasry, California; Barry Goode, California. No hearings.

In the 106th Congress, 33 never get a hearing: H. Alston Johnson, Louisiana; James Duffy, Hawaii; Elana Kagan, District of Columbia; James Wynn, North Carolina; Kathleen McCree-Lewis, Ohio; Enrique Moreno, Texas; James Lyons, Colorado;

Kent Markus, Ohio; Robert Cindeich, Pennsylvania; Stephen Orlofsky, New Jersey; Roger Gregory, Virginia; Christine Arguello, Colorado; Elizabeth Gibson, North Carolina; J. Rich Leonard, District of Columbia; Patricia Coan, Colorado; Dolly Gee, California; Steve Bell, Ohio; Rhonda Fields, District of Columbia; S. David Fineman, Pennsylvania; Linda Riegle, Nevada; Ricardo Morado, Texas; Gary Sebelius, Kansas; Ken Simon, Hawaii; David Cercone, Pennsylvania; Harry Litman, Oklahoma; Valerie Couch, Oklahoma; Marion Johnston, California; Steve Achelphol, Nebraska; Richard Anderson, Montana; Stephen Liberman, Pennsylvania; Melvin Hall, Oklahoma.

Before I sit down, they talk about Hispanic nominees. There is a Hispanic nominee they say has not moved quickly enough.

Jorge Rangel, who was nominated in July of 1997, never got anything. Enrique Moreno, Fifth Circuit, nominated in 1999, didn't get anything. Christine Arguello, July of 2000--nothing happened. Ricardo Morado, south Texas--nothing happened. Anabelle Rodriguez--these are just some of the names.

I suggest before the tears run too heavily down the cheeks of my Republican friends, they should go back and read their own statements given by their own Senators, and find out the States where people who were nominated by President Clinton never got a hearing. ...

posted by amberglow at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2005

And The Family Research Council (sponsor of Justice Sunday yesterday) loved filibustering against James Hormel, Clinton's pick for Ambassador : ...But several years ago, a senior Family Research Council official defended a Senate filibuster against gay ambassadorial nominee James Hormel, who was viciously attacked by radical right groups. ...
posted by amberglow at 5:14 PM on April 25, 2005

Either we get strong principled judges (win)

"strong principled" <> "activist"
posted by Space Coyote at 5:28 PM on April 25, 2005

Dear mattd: who are the liberal elite? Is it the gays and the jews and the university professors that are giving you nightmares? Or some other group of scary individuals who have no power in Washington yet still seem to be acting tyranically?

Are you a parody of yourself?
posted by Space Coyote at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2005

Didn't somebody coin the term "nuclear option" some time in the 1960's? I don't think they mean "coined the term." Of course, they're political bloggers; they don't really know what they're talking about.

Oh, by the way, crap post. We don't need more of what we already know.

posted by koeselitz at 6:45 PM on April 25, 2005

I think a post loses something when the links-to-unique-domains ratio is anything greater than one. so, um. a raftful of kos and friends? no thanks.

also, learn how to use the apostrophe and the comma.
posted by blacklite at 6:13 PM on April 26, 2005

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