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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 19, 2005

 
Ricky In Paris

I think it's fairly predictable that we are going to see the 101st keyboarders go into high gear tomorrow in response to the blogstorm developing over Little Ricky Santorum's Hitler remarks. They are going to bring up Robert Byrd's previous statements and say that it's even steven. And the press will probably see it that way as well. Overheated rhetoric, he-said-she-said and all that.

While I agree that it's probably not a good idea to evoke Hitler on the floor of the senate, I do think it's fair to take a look at the substance of the two statements by Byrd and Santorum and see if there is any actual merit in either of them.

Santorum said today:

The audacity of some members to stand up and say, "how dare you break this rule." It's the equivalent of Adolph Hitler in 1942 "I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine." This is no more the rule of the senate that it was the rule of the senate not to filibuster. It was an understanding and agreement. And it has been abused.


So, Santorum is clumsily blabbering that the Democrats are trying to stop the change of a rule that they're abusing. Or something. His point is that there was no rule to begin with --- it's an agreement, an understanding --- and even if there had been, the Democrats violated it by abusing it.

Santorum, of course, is speaking out of his ass. Norm Ornstein has definitively written about this. The Republicans are breaking the rules.

To make this happen, the Senate will have to get around the clear rules and precedents, set and regularly reaffirmed over 200 years, that allow debate on questions of constitutional interpretation–debate which itself can be filibustered. It will have to do this in a peremptory fashion, ignoring or overruling the Parliamentarian. And it will establish, beyond question, a new precedent. Namely, that whatever the Senate rules say–regardless of the view held since the Senate’s beginnings that it is a continuing body with continuing rules and precedents–they can be ignored or reversed at any given moment on the whim of the current majority.


Santorum is full of shit and everybody but the theocrats and the press knows it. Even Ricky. His analogy is wrong. The correct analogy to this situation would be if the French said to Hitler, "We have a treaty, you can't bomb our cities. You can't invade Paris!" Which they did. And he invaded anyway. I think you can figure out who represents the French and who represents Hitler in our little senate passion play.

Which brings us to Byrd:

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.

"Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."


And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.


That is correct. Hitler didn't defy the rules or the law. That's one of the hallmarks of the totalitarian state. They always operate within the law. They just make sure the law confers upon them absolute power, that's all.

So, we have both Byrd and Santorum making references to Hitler as regards this rules change. One is barely comprehensible and posits an absurd analogy to Democrats being Hitler in Paris. The other quite astutely points out that these arbitrary rules changes to advance the power of one party are not without precedent. Indeed, Hitler was a master at it.

I suppose that Hitler references are always going to cause a stir. But, aside from the sheer glory of Byrd's rhetoric compared to Santorum's incomprehensible blubbering, there is a serious point to be made. When one party is acting in ways that seriously draw the comparison, maybe it's fair to look at the substance of the charge. The fact is that while this rule change may not be the end of the world, it is another in a long line of pure power plays on the part of the Republicans who show no signs of having any limits. I know it's not nice to bring up the H-word, but if the shoe fits...


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