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July 15, 2005
The Only Tactic They Know

Democrats in the Senate twice threatened more executive-nomination obstructionism if the White House refuses to meet their demands, this time on lower-level appointees. Both Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama separately told nominees to two EPA positions that they will block their confirmation unless mollified by the Bush administration on policy:

Two Democratic senators suggested Thursday they may block one or more of President Bush's nominees to key Environmental Protection Agency posts unless they get answers they want from the agency.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said he wanted to know when the EPA would issue regulations for lead paint exposure from house remodeling. ...

Obama told reporters after the hearing that he wanted a definite date from EPA officials about when they would issue the regulations, which by law were supposed to have come out in 1996. If that's not forthcoming, he said, he would use "whatever mechanisms I have available to get their attention."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., indicated she might block one of the nominees unless she gets details on an EPA list of 103 Superfund sites where the agency has suggested human exposure is possible. She said she wants the sites listed in order of health hazard, along with details on cleanup costs and how many children live nearby.

I'm reminded of the proverb that instructs us that when the only tool we own is a hammer, eventually everything begins to look like a nail. In our history, political parties have shown periods where they practice a glum kind of implosion, sitting on their hands and allowing little progress to be made. Their opposition usually calls them "Do-Nothings" in response. In the last two sessions of Congress, however, the Democrats have gone from glum and passive to virulent and obstructionist. Every issue now requires an investigation, and it seems every nominee now generates a food fight.

Did the Democrats learn nothing from their electoral debacle in 2004? Their caucus leader lost his seat thanks to these obstructionist tactics last cycle, but the Democrats under Harry Reid appear even more determined to toss their sabots into the machinery of government. They have abandoned any pretense at moderation and embraced the James Carville tactics of total political warfare on all fronts.

It almost reminds me of the notorious, and ultimately disastrous, banzai charges against the US Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Instead of tactical retreats, the Japanese Army would send hundreds of its men screaming in a blind charge against entrenched Marine defenses, confident that the Japanese martial spirit and loud screaming would demoralize the Americans into retreats and routs. No one could doubt individual Japanese bravery in these suicide charges, but the Marines proved the Japanese officers' judgment to be almost criminally stupid. It took the Japanese three years to realize that such tactics only bled them that much faster and that the Americans wouldn't be intimidated. Some of them never learned it, in fact.

It's been three years for the Democrats. So far, their leadership still hasn't learned the lesson of the futility of obstructionism. Their next lesson might come in 2006. So far, it looks like Harry Reid only knows one tactic, only has one tool in his bag, and he will keep flailing away at imaginary nails while his caucus continues to get decimated.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 15, 2005 6:38 AM

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» Fighting Fire With Fire, Finally from Hard Starboard
Meanwhile, back in 2005 and the U.S. Senate, it's still business as usual. Two Democratic senators suggested Thursday they may block one or more of President Bush's nominees to key Environmental Protection Agency posts unless they get answers they... [Read More]

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