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James Sensenbrenner stifles congressional debate

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The modern Democrat Party has a bad problem with whining and weaseling. They’ve called Republicans every kind of evil wickedness in wildly inappropriate ways. Thus they’ve gotten to the point that they don’t have any credibility the times when Republican congressional leadership really do act like dirtbags.

The classic current example comes in Democrat demagoguery about judicial filibusters and the constitutional nuclear option. [Note how I incorporated both sides names in a fair and balanced manner- like Fox News.] The Democratic Grand Wizard of Constitutional Scholarship Robert Byrd [how do you like that title?) set the talking point repeated ad nauseum: Republican threats to make a perhaps questionable parliamentary move to change cloture from a super majority to a simple majority vote for judicial confirmations would constitute the end of free speech and open debate. The frickin’ sky is falling.

This argument is transparently dishonest. These filibusters are not about people getting to say their piece. They represent instead simple parliamentary obstructionism. Actual filibusters generally devolve into reading the phone book or some such non-productive waste of effort.

Yet HERE is a case where Democrats would have at least a half reasonable beef with House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, and his recent heavy handed behavior.

The Republican chairman walked off with the gavel, leaving Democrats shouting into turned-off microphones at a raucous hearing Friday on the Patriot Act.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing, with the two sides accusing each other of being irresponsible and undemocratic, came as President Bush was urging Congress to renew those sections of the post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism law set to expire in September.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the panel, abruptly gaveled the meeting to an end and walked out, followed by other Republicans. Sensenbrenner declared that much of the testimony, which veered into debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was irrelevant.

Now see, THIS is stifling reasonable free debate on particularly critical public policy issues. The Democrats wanted to bring in some critics of the Patriot Act to testify, and Chairman Sensenbrenner was having none of it. Meeting adjourned! Very clever.

Yet the Democrats will not get much mileage out of this, cause they’ve already screamed their lungs out about evil Republicans to such an extent that no one’s going to hear when something really is whack like this.

To give the Republicans some credit though, my local congressman Mike Pence made a strong but valid complaint against Amnesty International.

Tempers flared when Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., accused Amnesty International of endangering the lives of Americans in uniform by referring to the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a “gulag.” Sensenbrenner didn’t allow the Amnesty representative, Chip Pitts, to respond until Nadler raised a “point of decency.”

Again Sensenbrenner being ridiculously heavy handed, but Pence makes a good point. When they talk stuff like this gulag nonsense, Amnesty International is willfully inflaming the well known violent pathologies of Arab and Muslim cultures with obviously baseless claims. This faked up gulag nonsense does nothing but give the borderline schmucks an excuse.

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  • SFC SKI

    I don’t agree AL, I watched the haring for reasons even I can’t figure out, and it quickly got so far off track that it was pointless to continue the hearing as such. Both sides were responsible for straying from the topic, but continuing would not have gotten to the matter at hand. I am not familiar enough with procedure, but if the Chairman is not allowed to tell his esteemed colleagues to stay on topic, why should the official hearing continue?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    I did not see/hear the hearings, so I cannot judge how it went. But surely Sensenbrenner could have done this in a more reasonable manner…

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    The classic current example comes in Democrat demagoguery about judicial filibusters and the constitutional nuclear option. [Note how I incorporated both sides names in a fair and balanced manner- like Fox News.] The Democratic Grand Wizard of Constitutional Scholarship Robert Byrd [how do you like that title?) set the talking point repeated ad nauseum: Republican threats to make a perhaps questionable parliamentary move to change cloture from a super majority to a simple majority vote for judicial confirmations would constitute the end of free speech and open debate. The frickin’ sky is falling.

    Well, I’ll tell you how I like the title. I think it is inflammatory, racist and so typically Extreme Rightist Republican propaganda. Unlike Dixie Democrat turned Republican Strom Thurmond, Senator Byrd renounced his membership in the Ku Klux Klan some SIXTY years ago. In an interview with Slate he said:

    “Well, it’s easy to state what has been my biggest mistake. The greatest mistake I ever made was joining the Ku Klux Klan. And I’ve said that many times. But one cannot erase what he has done. He can only change his ways and his thoughts. That was an albatross around my neck that I will always wear. You will read it in my obituary that I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”

    Senator Robert Byrd has been maligned by Republicans, overly liberal Democrats and political enemies for far too long. He has served the people of West Virginia and this country well. This man holds the United States Constitution as dearly as he holds the Bible. That says a lot. When he made a mistake, especially in joining the KKK, he swiftly remedied the situation and has spent the following half century repeatedly voicing his apologies. Even the new great statesman Senator Barak Obama appreciates the Byrd legacy. Unfortunately when a ‘liberal Democrat’ apologizes for a mistake, the opposition refuses to let bygones be bygones. Had he been a Republican held in the same high esteem, the Republicans and the extreme right would hold him high as their champion.

    Senator Byrd understands what our Founding Fathers intended the Senate to be. It was to be a place where the greatest debates in American politics would be held. The Senate would be the place where intelligent men and women from every fabric of American life could come to advise and consent to many of the choices made by the Executive. Since the Republican take over of the Senate, it has become a place where the politics of hate festers and grows like a cancer in Senators who have served with him, past and present, appreciate his knowledge of the Constitution and his affection for the body he has served so brilliantly. West Virginia has been the butt of jokes on the American landscape for a hundred years, but the great state gave America one of the greatest Americans in its history and this is one liberal Northerner that will forever be grateful for their sending Robert C. Byrd to Washington.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “the new great statesman Senator Barak Obama”

    Uh, that remains to be seen…

    Imagine a Republican black Senator shrugging about a fellow party member who was a former Klansman. The MSM would have a FIELD DAY and the words “uncle tom” would forever follow that black Republican Senator for life…

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Ah, you forget the great Republican Senator Ed Brooke the first elected Black Senator. He happened to come frrom Massqchusetts and many a conservative Republican shudders at the mention of his name because he does not subscribe to the hard right winged fanatacism that controls the GOP.

    Ed Brooke was not an “Uncle Tom.” Neither is Barak Obama. If he were Republican the right would be quite silent.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Dear Silas: Byrd was in the Klan, but I’M the racist? Come on, now. I will cop to “inflammatory.” Note however that I didn’t carry on about it, just a passing hint of a reminder of a true fact. I really dislike him because he’s a self-deluded jackass pork barrel politician who likes to think that he’s a statesman. I didn’t actually mention it in the original essay, but did you know that Robert Byrd used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

    As to Strom Thurmond, screw him too. I never claimed him for mine, as neither a Dixiecrat or a damned Republican.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Note however that I didn’t carry on about it, just a passing hint of a reminder of a true fact.

    Well, I learned a long time ago from a Republican operative no less, that in order to insure that the message settles in to the populace the best way to do it is by dropping hints and innuendo. Perhaps your passing hint may have been innocent from your perspective. Yes, Robert Byrd was once a member of the KKK. In my honest opinion he is far from a self-deluded pork barrel politician. There’s plenty that I don’t agree with as far as Senator Byrd is concerned but his crusade to maintain the Senate tradition is something I proudly respect.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Silas, I was just being passing cute in the original essay. However, I do not wish to be misperceived as “dropping hints and innuendo.” Let me therefore note in the most simple and non-inflammatory manner that

    ROBERT BYRD WAS A MEMBER OF THE KU KLUX KLAN.

    I was reviewing your comment #3 there, about what a constitutional icon Senator Byrd is, and the bad old Republican hacks who just “hate” and “fester.” What are you on, man?

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    OK, Al, I’ll bite. Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia was once a member of the the racist Christian Ku Klux Klan. Subsequently he resigned and has apologized ad nauseum ever since for his membership.

    In order for me to be fair and balanced like the highly ethical and respected Fox News Channel, I thought that it was important to note that the KKK was a White Christian organization and Senator Byrd did indeed apologize. Now that I have verified that which you have uttered, could you at least admit that I am correct on the remaining two points?

  • SFC SKI

    For all the people who reflexivley cite Fox news as exemplar of all that is wroing with media today, I wonder what, if any, news channels or program they watch and why do they consider them better than Fox? I don’t watch TV news voluntarily, so Iam just asking.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    the interesting thing about fox is that they know that their tag line “we report, you decide” is balony. heck, bill o’reilly said as much in an interview (hmmm….can’t remember where i read the interview, sorry).

    “better” is a difficult thing, since it’s so subject. what i don’t see out on the other networks is the out & out cheerleading that goes on on fox.

    ps. most cable news is crap: stories too short, lacking in depth, focusing on ‘gotcha’s’, etc.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    For all the people who reflexivley cite Fox news as exemplar of all that is wroing with media today, I wonder what, if any, news channels or program they watch and why do they consider them better than Fox? I don’t watch TV news voluntarily, so Iam just asking.

    Personally I look at Fox News Channel as the “Enquirer” of news outlets. They have become the tool of the political right because there is a misguided perception in this country that the media is liberal in its bias. Thanks to Nielsen, Arbitron and advertisers, news reporting has gone right down the tubes. Our Founding Fathers worked so hard to insure our freedom and we’ve done them a great disservice in how we’ve evolved.

    But back to your original question. I do watch CNN and MSNBC and find them to be informative to a point. I prefer watching news from the BBC or CBC as seeing news from the perspective of those outside the United States can be quite enlightening. Finally, my greatest news resource is use of the Internet. Blogcritics is at the top of my list for news commentary. As far as news reporting is concerned, I find myself going to various major newspapers across the globe including: The Guardian (London); The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); The Toronto Star (Canada); The China News Agency; and, L’ Osservatore Romano (Vatican News).

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    Stiffling Congressional debate is more a public service than anything else (regardless of partisan affiliations).

  • http://suitablyflip.blogs.com/ Flip

    Not only did the hearing get way off topic, the very hearing itself was supplemental, with each witness hand-picked by the Democrat members of the Committee. It wasn’t very magnanimous of Sensenbrenner to end it the way he did, but I can’t say I entirely blame him for having a finite level of patience that evening.

    One item I haven’t seen covered anywhere is the fact that Sensenbrenner requested that Amnesty Chairman Chip Pitts back up his claim that librarians have had business records requested by FISA Courts under the Patriot Act. He was given 7 days to submit such documentation. I e-mailed Amnesty to ask if they plan to comply – still waiting for a response…

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Re: comment #9- Silas, you are correct in noting that Senator Byrd has long since thoroughly renounced his long ago involvement in the Klan.

    Having EVER been a member of the Klan stands as a permanent black mark on your record. Still, I’d let that pass if I thought he had done significant good things that outweigh it. However, Senator Byrd appears to be merely one of the worst low rent seeking pork barrel hacks in congressional history, and then he puffs himself up with pretensions of statesmanship. Puh-lease.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Duly noted, Al. Thank you.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Barack Obama just showed himself to be a tool of the Left-Wing Democrats by saying positive things about the (former?) racist Democrat Senator Robert Byrd.

    Imagine JC Watts praising David Duke, if David Duke was a fellow Congress-critter.

    The media would be going BATSHIT over it.

  • http://gonzo-marx.blogspot.com gonzo marx

    RJ sez…
    *Barack Obama just showed himself to be a tool of the Left-Wing Democrats by saying positive things about the (former?) racist Democrat Senator Robert Byrd.*

    and big Al sez…
    *Having EVER been a member of the Klan stands as a permanent black mark on your record.*

    from these Statements i am to understand that heinous sins of the Past can never be forgiven in figures of Authority, and to say anything about the work they have doen since they “reformed” is pointless and makes you a “tool” of you particular Ideology…

    so this would be True for an ex-hitler youth and former nazi soldier, and anything said nice about him since would make folks a “tool”

    somebody should tell the Pope and the RC church that one..

    we’ll keep it secular…under this premise if you were a spoiled rich new englander kid who smoked pot, did coke, and had drunk driving charges you are forever tarnished and anyone that says anything nice about you for the work you have done since is “tool” of their political party?

    somebody should tell the Shrub…

    the Persecution Rests…

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    heh, that’s rich. obama is a tool of the left-wing democrats?

    show me a republican who’s not a tool of the right-wing republicans. these days, if somebody doesn’t run in step with the republican majority they’re labeled ‘rino’ and afixed with the scarlet letter.

    man, politics is ugly these days (who knows, maybe it always was).

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Gonzo, this quote surely does NOT describe my comments “to say anything about the work they have doen since they “reformed” is pointless.” I specifically said that IF Byrd had done anything worthwhile to counterbalance it, I’d be happy to recognize it.

    Bitching about Pope Benedict’s background as a Hitler youth really isn’t fair, in that this was not a voluntary thing.

    Drinking and driving isn’t good, but one very marginal DUI doesn’t begin to be in the same league as Klan membership.

    Far as I can see so far, Obama looks like another hack politician on the make- but ain’t they all? He’s prettier than most of them though (except of course for our everlovin’ Evan Bayh), and he has some reasonable presence of mind to avoid just going off talking crazy and stupid like a lot of them do.