Then vs. Now: Obama on Filibusters and Gridlock

Posted: Nov 22, 2013 10:32 AM

A follow-up to Dan's post from yesterday. Barack Obama's shameless flip-flopping on political tactics based on immediate expediency isn't news. See, for instance, Senator Obama's comments on raising the debt ceiling in 2006. Both parties have been somewhat hypocritical on judicial filibusters, tidily trading arguments when White House control exchanged hands in 2009. Up until yesterday, Obama's statements had been as contradictory and partisan as anyone else's -- but then came his White House statement placing a presidential imprimatur on Harry Reid's nuclear action. Yesterday's extreme measure was made necessary by the actions of intransigent Republicans, he argued, whose obstructionism had "gummed up the works." His core argument was that Democrats had no choice by to nuke the filibuster through a radical rules change in order to alleviate the Senate's "unprecedented," incurable gridlock:

He claimed Republicans have obstructed "everything," regardless of the merits. This is a straw man argument on steroids. On judicial nominees, the Senate has confirmed 215 Obama picks while successfully filibustering six. That's a far cry from "everything." But the rationalization was irrelevant, really. The Left had its heart set on this raw power grab, and Democrats needed to throw a big bone to their depressed base. They got their pound of flesh -- for now. We'll see how much liberals enjoy the "Reid rule" when they are no longer the majority party. But how did Senator Barack Obama assess Republicans' discussion of detonating a similar "nuclear" strike in 2005 when Democrats were in the minority?

In the process of decrying "ends justify the means" politics -- the irony is rich -- in a floor speech, Obama intoned:

“The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster – if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate – then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”

To recap: In 2005, the nuclear option would exacerbate Congress' toxic climate of partisanship and gridlock. In 2013, the nuclear option is a solution to Congress' toxic climate of partisanship and gridlock. Got it. Parting thought:

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