Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pledged to vote against any effort on the part of Senate Republicans to end Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. Chafee and Snowe will likely join McCain in his ploy for publicity, which leaves Republicans with the requisite bare majority, 52-48, as long as no other Republicans defect. But if the current Republican trend of bucking the White House continues, even this measure -- perhaps the measure most important for Republicans in maintaining the support of their base -- could go down to a humiliating defeat.
But even these obstacles could be overcome by a show of power from Republican leadership. Such a show of force probably won't occur any time soon. Instead of pressuring Republican senators to step back in line, the White House has pursued a patty-cake policy of compromise and appeasement. President Bush had an opportunity early after the election to whip Republican "mavericks" back into line when Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) threatened his judicial nominees. Yet instead of calling for Specter's ouster as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, President Bush remained largely silent. Specter is still chair of the committee.
Compromises between single senators and an incumbent president are known in psychological parlance as "enabling." Republican weakness enables their opponents. By allowing dissention to spread within the Republican Party, the White House and the Senate Republican leadership, endanger all the gains that have been made over the last decade.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, in flux just a few months ago, sit back and chuckle. They're standing fast against Bolton and against Social Security personal accounts, where they can exploit Republican divisions. And they're offering the oh-so-tempting carrot of compromise to a wobbly Republican Senate with regard to judicial filibusters, stating that they will allow a few Bush nominees to reach a floor vote if Republicans promise not to end the practice of judicial filibustering. You can almost hear the drool hit the floor as Sen. Bill Frist looks at Sen. Harry Reid's compromise offer and then glances uneasily over at the Hole-in-the-Republican-Senate-Gang, led by Snowe, Chafee and McCain.
Republicans have been down so long that they don't even know when they're up. They'd better recognize their strength and start using it quickly or they'll be down again before they know it.