Former Clinton apparatchik Sidney Blumenthal is better known by the well-earned moniker of Sid Vicious. He now plies his trade in the pages of Britain’s far-left Guardian. Sid Vicious addressed the filibuster with his usual subtlety in his May 26 column: “Bush’s war comes home.” The Guardian subhead reads, “His dream of dominating every government institution in tatters, the US president is already plotting his revenge.” Blumenthal even goes so far as to peddle the image of Robert Byrd as a cornpone constitutionalist:
Over the weekend, two elders, Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, and Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, pored over the federalist papers, written by the constitutional framers, to refresh their thinking about the inviolability of the Senate.
I’m getting all misty-eyed, but I don’t buy it. Maybe I’m more cynical than Sid Vicious, but I can’t find a blessed word in the Federalist Papers that supports the filibuster or the Great Compromise wrought by the cornpone constitutionalist and his soulmate. (Check out this Free Republic thread for more.)
Attorney James Green forwarded us his correspondence with Sid Vicious concerning the column. Green wrote:
I humbly suggest that your facts are quite wrong when you say: “Frist, like most Republicans in favour of the nuclear option, had enthusiastically filibustered against Clinton’s court nominees, 65 of which were blocked from 1995-2000.” I do not recall how many of Clinton’s nominees were bottled up in committee or blue slipped, but I am quite confident that none of them were filibustered. As far as I can tell from my media viewing, no one (other than yourself) suggests otherwise. While a principled case can be made that either way the President’s nominations are stifled, it is simply incorrect to say Clinton’s nominees were flibustered. Why are you saying this?
Vicious tersely responded:
Frist filibustered Richard Paez.
Well, that’s one, but we’re not up to the two or more implied by “Clinton’s court nominees,” let alone the 65 to whom Sid Vicious refers. However, there Vicious stopped. Green wrote back:
I appreciate you responding to my message. I went back to look up the Paez situation but I submit that the statement made in your colunm is still very wrong. On March 8, 2000, Frist was one of 14 senators to vote against a successful cloture. Accordingly, the most that can be said is that Frist voted unsuccessfully to initiate a filibuster, but there was no filibuster. While this may be evidence of Frist’s hypocrisy, it does not make your statement true that Clinton nominees (one or more) were in fact filubustered. Additionally, if that is the only example you have, it is also quite untrue to say that “most Republicans who favor the nuclear option” also filibustered Clinton nominees as the 14 Republican senators who voted against the Paez cloture does not get you to “most” of the 50 or so Republicans who now support the nuclear option.
I would appreciate hearing your further thoughts. I am not a blogger but rather just a bored lawyer who pays attention to political events. While I am a conservative, I am certainly not above admitting that I am wrong. However, I think that you are quite wrong here and hope that you will not leave our British friends (even those far on the Left) with the wrong impression.
Green observes that, at least insofar as his email exchange goes, Vicious has “understandably fallen silent.”
JOHN adds: Sid Vicious’ claim that “most Republicans in favour of the nuclear option, had enthusiastically filibustered against Clinton’s court nominees, 65 of which were blocked from 1995-2000” isn’t just misleading, it’s an outright falsehood. The best instance he can come up with for a single example in support of his claim is that of Richard Paez. But while Paez’s nomination was admittedly bottled up while the Republicans were in the majority in the Senate, it was not filibustered; the only cloture vote passed easily. On the merits, however, Paez was confirmed by a vote of only 59 to 39, with two Republicans not voting. Which means that the Republicans could have fiilibustered Paez if they had chosen to, but didn’t.
It’s probably fair to say that no one in the United States takes Sid Blumenthal seriously, but isn’t there something contemptible about his publishing this kind of falsehood about his country’s government in a foreign newspaper, for a foreign audience that probably has no idea how unreliable he is?