Winning ugly or winning insufficiently

Fred Barnes argues that right now in Washington the Republicans may be “winning ugly” but they are winning. Perhaps. And if the New York Yankees can get their record to, say, 40-38 they will be “winning” too. But they still will be a disappointment, and so are the Republicans, considering that they control the presidency and both houses of Congress.
The compromise on filibustering judicial nominees is at the center of Barnes’ piece. But it only illustrates how “insufficiently” Republicans are winning. Those who see the compromise as a victory for Republicans are comparing the situation now (three controversial nominees, and two non-controversial ones, approved but a number in limbo) to the situation as it was before the deal. But the determination of whether it was a meaningful win for three center-right Republicans to compromise should be based on a comparison between the situation now and the situation as it would have been had the three not compromised.
Viewed that way, the Republicans lost the ability to confirm an indeterminate (as of now) number of well-qualified conservative judges in exchange for nothing except preservation of the right to filibuster judicial nominees. Many believe that the preservation of that right has zero or a negative value. Personally, I believe that there is some slight value to retaining that right. That way, corrupt or clearly unqualified judges who somehow would win on an up-or-down vote despite their corruption or incompetence can be blocked. But history tells us that this right will come in handy, what, maybe once per century if we stretch the facts and count the Fortas filibuster as an instance of this. If the deal results during the space of just one session of Congress thwarting the confirmation of several well qualified nominees, especially a Supreme Court nominee, then the deal must be considered a bad one and the “win” insufficient.
JOHN agrees: Prior to this administration, it never would have occurred to anyone to consider it a “victory” for the President’s judicial nominees to be confirmed by a Senate controlled by his own party–let alone for only some of his nominees to be so confirmed. I guess if you lower the bar this far, the Republicans are winning.


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