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« Dean Esmay rejects Michelle Malkin’s dismissal of Islam | Main | Oh, thank heaven, a stand against Hugo Chavez »

September 30, 2006


jj mollo

It really is like a Kabuki dance. It's especially like a Kabuki dance as viewed by a Westerner who has no idea what the motivations are, or maybe more like shadow puppets where you respond to contrived appearances on the screen without seeing how it's actually done.

The first thing you have to understand is that votes per se are seldom indicative of anything. Special interest blocs decide whether a particular vote is for them or against them, but Congresscritters have to decide based on everything else in the bill. For instance, if the leadership wants to pass a lot of earmarks, they can put it into an immigration bill. Everybody is afraid to vote against immigration enforcement, but they don't want to build a bridge to nowhere, so they use tactical tricks to hold up the legislation until they get a chance to confront the earmarkers. Sometimes the earmarkers will then retaliate by holding up someone else's bill.

Say, as a purely imaginary example, Sen. McCain is annoyed with Sen. Obama for one reason or another, he might be motivated to put a poison pill into an agriculture bill, forcing Obama to vote against something that his constituents desperately want. It would then behoove Sen. Obama to delay the vote until he can talk with Sen. McCain and rectify the original issue. Another strategy for Obama would be to hold up a bill that McCain was interested in, then do a trade. In either case, the public makes assessments of the motivations that have nothing to do with the actual tactical motivations.

Senators who are secure in their positions have more power in this game. Sen. Specter is popular in Pennsylvania and plans to retire, so he can even harass the President and get away with it. Senator Santorum is up for election and not so popular. He has to be very careful how he votes. His adversaries in the Senate will now try to get him to make ridiculous votes that can be used against him at a later time.

This is my assessment of how things work. I would like anyone who knows better to correct me, but I won't get my hopes up.

Christopher Taylor

As I understand it the first bill for the fence had riders on it that were unacceptible to the bulk of the senate. Basically, unethical scumbag congressmen tacked things on the bill because they figured it would pass anyway and the Senate said "I think not."

jj mollo

Christopher, I don't think it's fair to call them unethical, etc. They are buffeted by context. They have little choice but to play the game the way the game is played. Machiavelli wrote the rule book. Anyone who shows signs of weakness or excessive sense of honor will be abused and probably driven from office. More likely, they could never get that far to begin with. Decent men in Congress are doing the best they can, but it's not easy.

Christopher Taylor

Nah, there are scum in congress, and the guys who tack spending that they know can't pass on bills that are totally unrelated are engaging in unethical behavior. I have nothing but contempt for guys like Byrd who is apparently trying to get the entire state named after him.

jj mollo

I didn't say there weren't unethical people in Congress. I just don't feel personally qualified to ascertain which votes and which members are specifically unethical without understanding the whole story in detail, which is very hard to do. It's hard to understand because they make it that way. They are all trying very hard to obscure the issues and motivations and to make their adversaries look bad.

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