Ben Johnson

Katrina vanden Heuvel Debates Herself on Filibusters

Posted on November 2 2009 11:49 pm
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It’s good to see the modern Left still maintains the intellectual dexterity it exhibited when it hewed to the ever-changing Stalinist party line in the 1930s. On MSNBC’s The Ed Show, Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel took the bold position that Senate Democrats must “bust the filibuster,” ending the right of the minority party to stall important legislation — a position totally at odds with that of…Katrina vanden Heuvel. Katrina told Ed:

We need the president to take a stand that is bold, honest, courageous, clear, forceful, unequivocal, to tell those senators on the Democratic side they have to stop the filibuster.  The president has not done that…The president should do it, and should do it now.  We win if the president stands with us.

She expounded later:

The major question, Ed, is moving forward, the need to revise the Senate rules.  Can’t do it now, but you’ve got to bust that filibuster.  It’s anti-Democratic.  And Joe Lieberman is just the most blatant evidence of the dangers.

(Once again, the MSNBC’s transcript for The Ed Show is erroneous. The network of record claims Katrina said leftists need to revive the Senate rules.”)

What a difference 60 senators makes. In March 2005, Katrina posted a blog entry on the Nation website hailing Sen. Robert Byrd, D-Kleagle, for issuing a “warning to the Republic” about (in her words) “the Republicans’ threat to use the ‘nuclear option’ — a change to the rules of the Senate that would effectively bar Democrats from filibustering judicial nominations.” She singled out for special commendation Byrd’s comparison of a Senate without the  filibuster (for one class of judicial nominees) with Nazi Germany or fascist Italy. On a roll, Byrd warbled:

If we start, here, in this Senate, to chip away at that essential mark of freedom – – here of all places, in a body designed to guarantee the power of even a single individual through the device of extended debate – – we are on the road to refuting the Preamble to our own Constitution and the very principles upon which it rests.

Katrina was hardly alone in her defense of this august Senate institution — when minority Democrats obstructed a president committed to wartime victory. In 2004, John Nichols — who recently defended the practice of dueling on The Ed Show — authored Nation articles such as “Checks, Balances, and the Duty to Filibuster.” Others defended it as American as apple pie. The magazine ran but not one but two articles within a month of each other in April-May 2005 entitled, “Fight for the Filibuster.”

Nichols extolled the filibuster as a uniquely left-wing institution. He wrote, “Senate progressives who would go on to be remembered as some of that chamber’s greatest members were passionate defenders of the filibuster.” (He named Burton K. Wheeler, the isolationist Democrat from Montana who, upon learning Hitler had invaded Poland, declared, “Lord, if only I could have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided.”)

Burton K. Wheeler: Progressive, isolationist, Hitler's dupe.

As the dream of socialized medicine began to slip away this August, the magazine cited a different historical precedent:

Of course, I know there are all sorts of arguments made for the filibuster. For example: “But the filibuster is part of our country’s history, and there’s much to be said for respecting our history and tradition.” Yes, well, slavery and segregation are also part of our history, and that’s what the filibuster was used to defend.

William Greider suggested a pointedly unaccommodating course of action: “Given the country’s adversities, it is intolerable to let the remnant right wing hold up Congress for the next two years. If McConnell will not accept a reasonable compromise, then Democrats should jam it down his throat.”

Just a few years ago, Katrina and her magazine invoked everyone from James Madison to Jimmy Stewart to protect the use of the filibuster in ways that were unprecedented. Now, she demands the filibuster be ended because non-socialists are using it in ways that are, well, precedented.

Could there be a more blatant example of the Left’s intellectual bankruptcy and all-consuming lust for power?

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