Jonah Goldberg

"We have lifted ourselves above politics," declared West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd after the "fantastic fourteen" agreed to a compromise on filibusters (note: quotation marks are intended to convey sarcastic scorn).

Here's a rule of thumb nobody's bothered to lay out because it's so obvious: When someone like Byrd says he's lifted himself above politics, watch your wallet.

Now, as they say, the Senate can get back to "the people's business." Which means, as far as Byrd is concerned, getting back to the business of transferring the federal treasury wholesale to the state of West Virginia.

But enough about the only known surviving dinosaur from the Cretaceous period. I'm troubled by the filibuster compromise, although not so much because the Republicans seem to have settled for somewhere between a quarter and a third of a loaf. As it happens, the deal vexes a lot of liberals, too. Only time will tell who got the rawer deal here.

Nor is the worst aspect of the compromise the embarrassment the GOP brought upon itself with its inept rhetoric. Ever since they moronically coined and popularized the phrase "nuclear option," the Republicans were destined to look bad. Implicit in the phrase is the notion that the Republicans were the ones determined to do something radical and dangerous, even though it was the Democrats who were actually promising to "blow up" the Senate.

But nooooo, the Republicans had to come up with a phrase that showed how macho they are, even at the expense of conceding the better part of the argument to the Democrats. Where is the vaunted "message discipline" the Republicans are supposed to have? They couldn't simply call it the "restore Senate tradition" option? Did they just have to show off their big swinging nuclear options?

The most annoying thing about the compromise, I believe, is the logic underneath it.

First, there's the abiding faith - eternally celebrated by the press - that compromise is always and everywhere a good thing. If I say two plus two equals four, and you say two plus two equals 1 billion, is it really such a great advance to split the difference and agree that it's somewhere near 500 million? The media's love of compromise is the moral hazard that comes from always seeking both sides of an issue. The press should seek both sides, of course, but it shouldn't conclude that simply because each side has good arguments that both are right, or that splitting the difference is enlightened. The media sees such blurring as wisdom, when really it's cynicism.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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