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Sunday, June 29, 2003
By Steven Taylor

A few more words on Strom.

  • I do not, as some do, consider him to have been evil incarnate, and I do believe that he evolved, personally and politically, vis-ŗ-vis race.
  • The post by Bryan that prompted my response was a query as to how Strom would be remembered, and a general assessment of his legacy. While brief, and not especially positive, I think my assessment below is fair.

    Some more comments, and a summation:

  • Aside from anything else, Stromís age was something that troubled me (as have the ages of many other Senators on both sides of the aisle: Byrd, Bob Smith of NH, Jesse Helms, to name a few). I respect the rights of the voters in those states to send whom they choose to Washington, but have often wondered why voters send back incumbents who are clearly experiencing diminished mental capacity. And there can be no argument that was not the case with Strom. Another example is Bob Smithís primary campaign against now-Senator Sununu. Smith was clearly struggling (as he had in office).
  • And age, race-issues, and other factors aside, the bottom line is that Strom was not a particularly powerful force legislatively. Rather he was a generic supporter of the military (which I applaud) and was very good at getting money spent on his state (which is something I have mixed feeling on, as on the one hand, that is part of the job, but on the other, if one is overly good at it, that means an inordinate amount of tax dollars are going to a specific state, which I decry).
  • And in re: Byrd, I would repost what I said in the comments below: I do agree that Byrd gets, and will get in death, a larger pass on the racism issue. I will say, to be fair, that Byrd has been a far greater force legislatively, and in terms of his influence over the years on the rules and procedures of the Senate than Thurmond ever was. So as much as Robert Byrd annoys me, he has been a far more significant member of the Senate than Strom was by any objective measure.

    I would summarize my views as follows: from a dispassionate and professional view, Strom had a largely unremarkable Senate career aside from two factors: the politics of race during the first half of his career, and his longevity. Beyond that there isn’t all that much to distinguish him. Yes, good and bad can be found in the details of his career, but they would hardly put him in the pantheon of the great legislators of our country.

    For a more positive review, please visit Backcountry Conservative, who has an extensive post on this topic, one that deserves to be read, if anything to reward Jeff for his hard work. Further, as a native South Carolinian, he clearly has a different perspective on this issue. Although I do take some exception to his classification of conservatives who criticize Strom as being ďself-loathing.Ē But will assume that he didn’t mean me :)

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  • Saturday, June 28, 2003
    By Steven Taylor

    Thanks to Wall of Sleep and The Bemusement Park for adding PoliBlog to their blogrolls!

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    By Steven Taylor

    Bryan of Arguing with Signposts has thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak, over the death of Strom and his legacy. I must say that part of the reason I havenít blogged on Strom is that, in many ways, I find him rather boring, and therefore didnít have a whole lot to say about him. Professionally he was rather uninteresting, and personally he was something of an embarrassment (as I am both a conservative and a southerner-letís just say that he isnít my idea of the poster child of the Republican Party).

    He will be most known for running as a segregationist against Truman, for filibustering the Civil Right Act (and having to pee in a bucket with one foot on the Senate floor), and for switching to the Republican Party (which Brett Marston would likely show as Exhibit A for his arguments regarding the Southern Strategy). He will also be known for being in the Senate a loooong time, and for being a true political animalói.e., adapting to political reality in his state, and for bringing home the bacon. He certainly was able to maintain his popularity at home. Legislatively, there will be no legacy, as there isnít one to leave.

    Letís put it this way: there are two significant things that Thurmond did recently: he turned 100, which is an impressive feat, but was a feat of biology, not skill; he managed to cause Trent Lott to lose his job, although in a highly indirect fashion. Neither of those things is an example of political brilliance.

    I will say this, he was always good for a joke in class, usually along the lines of some reference as being the only member of the Senate to have served since the War of 1812, or somesuch.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Dean, of Dean’s World has an interesting essay on what he calls the gift-economy of blogrolls. It also contains somoe general musings on why we blog. It is worth a read.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Rich Tucker makes an interesting case for doing away with the paper dollar bill. While this is (as he notes) a decidedly unpopular move, he makes a compelling case. His strongest point being:

    It’s a simple matter of economics. Look in your pocket. Chances are you’ll find coins from five, 10, even 20 years ago. That’s because the average coin lasts for 30 years, while the average bill lasts 22 months.

    In other words, during the lifetime of a dollar coin, we’ll have to manufacture 16 one-dollar bills to do the same job. It costs about eight cents to mint a coin, and four cents to print a bill. So it costs 60 cents more to keep a dollar bill in circulation than it costs to keep a coin in circulation. Multiply that 60 cents times the billions of dollar bills in circulation, and you’re talking real money. So much money, in fact, that in 2000, the General Accounting Office estimated the government could save $522.2 million per year by getting rid of dollar bills.

    However, with 64% popular opposition, I doubt this will happen anytime soon.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Bob Novak writes that General Wesley Clark appears to be feeling out the political scene and may run for the Democratic nomination. If he does (and my guess is that he ultimately will not), here are some predictions:

  • There will be an initial huge buzz.

    But then,

  • He will find that raising money ainít all that easy.
  • The moderate Dem space is quite limited, politically speaking, look at how Lieberman is doing, if you want evidence.
  • He will face vicious attacks from the more liberal candidates, who will feel threatened by his entry.
  • Political rookies rarely fare well on the big stage. And primary campaigns are the biggest stage there is, aside from the general election campaign for president.
  • It is one thing to field questions about the military, as when you are NATO commander, reporters are often somewhat deferential. It wonít be the same when Russert is asking him about taxes, abortion, gay rights, welfare, and so forth.
  • His gloom and doom commentary on CNN regarding the early days of Gulf War II will come back to bite him, and bite him hard.

    And even if he is nominated, I would maintain this argument I made a while back in regards to the Dems and the security issue.

    Although it may all be a Veep-bid, as Novak suggests.

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  • By Steven Taylor

    While I understand, and agree to point, with Kevin Drum when he points out that many current politicians cast debates in terms of issues from the past, such as many conservatives still railing against the Great Society, there are some shifts in the debate: G.O.P. Steals Thunder.

    Although I will grant that the conservative wing of the party will still be quite critical. Indeed, from an ideological and public poicy perspective, I am not all that pleased with this legislation. Still, the Great Society ref in this piece, made me tihnk of Kevin’s post:

    Medicare has always been a signature Democratic program, the proud legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, established and protected by the Democratic majorities that reigned in Congress for much of the past 40 years.

    Now, the House and Senate have passed the biggest expansion and overhaul of Medicare since it was created, including a major new drug benefit for the 40 million elderly and disabled Americans covered by the government health insurance program. And it was Republicans, led by President Bush, who pushed it through.

    And it ceratinly does shift the nature of the rhetoric in the debate for the upcoming election cycle.

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    By Steven Taylor

    This piece on Bill Frist is worth a read as well: Frist’s Political and Personal Triumph.

    Two points come out: 1) He is clearly working closely with President Bush, and 2) He worked the moderates to get this bill passed.

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    By Steven Taylor

    An interesting look into the world of legislating: In the Wee Hours, Votes Change as Arms Twist. For example:

    Shortly after 2 o’clock this morning, with so many Republicans defecting that the Medicare prescription drug bill seemed headed for defeat, Representative Jo Ann Emerson found herself in a showdown on the House floor with some of the most powerful men in Washington.

    Mrs. Emerson, a Missouri Republican, voted no, objecting to a provision in the legislation that would make it difficult for people to import drugs from Canada. The House Republican leadership, including Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, surrounded her, asking what it would take to change her vote. She pulled a slip of paper from her purse, pointed to the six-line provision highlighted in yellow and replied: “Take it out.”

    The provision was not removed. But in explaining today how she voted, Mrs. Emerson said that the leaders promised to strip it out at a conference with the Senate, and to schedule a separate House vote on her bill that would allow prescription drugs to be imported. So by 2:30 a.m., she had switched her no vote to yes.

    Mrs. Emerson’s last-minute reversal was one of several twists that, in the end, delivered victory to the Republicans by a razor-thin majority. The 216-to-215 vote to give elderly people some relief from the high costs of prescription drugs came after a day of arm-twisting and cajoling ó not only by the House leadership but also by officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary Tommy Thompson of health and human services.

    Mr. Thompson stayed in the Capitol until the last vote was counted, and for Republicans, the Herculean lobbying effort was necessary. So tenuous was the situation that the leadership was forced to extend the customary 15-minute voting period to more than 50 minutes in order to round up the necessary votes.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Bryan, of Arguing With Signposts, makes the following legit point in the comments section of this post, but since it inspires a long-ish reply, I decided to move it out into the open, so to speak, rather than in the comments section.

    Bryan stated:

    ” If the Founders had stuck to their original desire, ”

    I was under the impression that there was considerable debate, and that the BoR was something of a bargaining chip that got some to agree to the Constitution. Clearly, there were some founders who had different desires.

    I am somewhat uneasy with attempts to fit all the “founders” under an umbrella of unanimity in all things political. I know that there were at least some (among the baptists and congregationalists) who were very keen on separation of church and state because of the early state-church status of churches in the colonies.

    I would agree that there is a habit, to which I am guilty, of over-simplifying the situation and conflating the members of the Philadelphia Convention under the label “The Founders”. However, in this case the generic label fits, and the issue to which you refer (church-state relations) is a good example of where I am coming from.

    First, it is fair to speak of “The Founders” as having reached a decisions once a decision was, in fact, made. And the decision was made to omit a Bill of Rights from the Constitution at the convention itself. And the Federalist Papers represented the official position of the Convention as interpreted by Hamilton, Jay and Madison, as the expressed purpose of those essays was to convince New York to ratify the Constitution. The BoR emerged as a political compromise to get the states, some of whom wanted a BoR, to ratify the Constitution. That is to say, the BoR was not part of the proposal sent to the states, nor was the BoR part of compromise to get the document itself out of the convention, rather it was added after ratification of the constitution itself. Anyway, the basic point is that yes, while there was a debate, that once the conventioneers had voted out the proposed Constitution sans a BoR that it is fair to say that the consensus of the Founders was that there be no BoR.

    They did not include that declaration of rights for a variety of reasons, including the idea that Hamilton sets forth in Fed 84 that regulating or prohibiting the national government from doing something it was not granted the power to do, or even close to doing, made no sense. Further making a list has the effect, often, or limiting rights, and third the original conception of the national government was that it would be so limited as to not have the ability to really tread on the rights of citizens.

    Second, the church-state thing is quite interesting, and does illustrate, really, my basic point, which is that the original goal of pure federalism is eroded over time, and partially for reasons that Hamilton noted in my previous post, and also by actions of the SC, the addition of the 14th Amendment and so forth. The First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion was aimed, originally and exclusively, at the national government. Indeed, there were official churches in some of the states even after the ratification of the constitution. For example, Connecticut had an official church until 1813, and Massachusetts until 1833. They were not in violation of the First Amendment, because at the time the BoR was not interpreted to apply to the actions of states (indeed, since the First Amendment starts with “Congress shall make no lawÖ” it is pretty clear that the original intent was for the First Amendment to apply only to the central government). It was not until the Fourteenth Amendment opened the door for the incorporation of the BoR to the states, and then not until a series of Supreme Court cases, predominantly in the 1920s and 1960s, that the BoR applied to the states (and even then, only right by right, the entire BoR is still not wholly incorporated).

    Hence, my basic point yesterday was that had there been no BoR, these issues would have not been federal ones in the first place. I am not arguing that we should repeal the BoR, but rather pointing out that they are, as they have been interpreted, part of the dilution of federalism. That is to say, by prohibiting the federal government from passing certain legislation, it became necessary for the federal courts to interpret what those prohibitions meant, which led, through a variety of processes, to the federal courts considering if/how those prohibitions should apply to states. If the prohibitions had never been put in place in the first place, then there never would have been any reason o ever discuss how they should or should not be applied to the states.

    This leads to yet another, and far longer discussion, that I will leave alone for the moment. Plus, I figure Brett will jump in soon, and maybe James :)

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