Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tip of the Hat

The Huffington Post has reported that noted conservative columnist David Frum is joining The Daily Beast / Newsweek as a blog contributor.  The move, however, means that FrumForum will unfortunately have to be shut down, and that is a loss for everyone.  FrumForum, though conservative, made a significant contribution to sensible dialogue in an otherwise partisan and hyperbolic political atmosphere.  In an email he wrote this past Friday, Frum thanked the 70 regular contributors to the site:

“Together we have forcefully joined the debate over the future of the Republican Party -- and I think we together have shifted that debate. When we started, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck were real forces in American politics. I don't think we can take all the credit for seeing them off, but we do deserve at least some of it!”

It's hardly a secret that Frum is no fan of certain elements within the conservative movement and has been an irritant of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.  Therefore in honor of Frum and his forum, I have decided to make his last piece this month’s “Tip of the Hat” feature.  I look forward to reading his work at The Daily Beast and wish him the best of luck.

The Cordray Crisis

By David Frum

Constitutional abuse begets constitutional abuse.

President Obama has engaged in a dubious maneuver to force a recess appointment through a Senate that denies it has recessed.

(Brad Plumer has a good run-down of the legal issues, here.)

The president’s action has ignited a fireworks show of Republican outrage. And yes, Obama has here pushed presidential power beyond past limits.

But it’s not only presidents who can bend the rules. The Senate has also pushed its powers here beyond the usual limits. The Senate is pretending to be in session when it’s obviously not in session. It is engaging in this pretense in order to use its power over confirmations to negate an agency lawfully created by the prior Congress. Most fundamentally, the Senate here is further extending a weird quirk in its own rules–the quirk that allows individual senators to delay votes on appointments–in ways that allow the Senate minority to impose its will on the whole US government.

Over the past three decades, we have lived through a prolonged cycle of partisan revenge. Each party pushes the law to score partisan points in ways that would have been deemed unacceptable only just a little while ago. Then at the next turn of the cycle, the other party pushes the law further and wider and even more destructively. One by one, they sequentially smash the customs and traditions that enabled the US government to function. This latest episode over the Cordray appointment may be the most extreme example. But it’s surely not the final example.

It is instead an ominous milestone in the deterioration of the US political system into ever more intense acrimony and paralysis.

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