The Byrd Option Gets More Backing

Yesterday, Lindsay Graham stepped away from his foolish flirtation with the Democrats and warned that any attempt to filibuster a qualified nominee to the Supreme Court such as Samuel Alito — who had not yet been announced as the selection — would not qualify as an “exceptional circumstance”, and that Graham would then support the Byrd option eliminating the filibuster. Now on Hugh Hewitt’s show, we can add another of the Gang of 14, Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, who explicitly stated that he will vote for the Byrd option to end filibusters on judicial nominees. Radioblogger has the transcript:

HH: Your colleague on judiciary, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said yesterday on Face The Nation, that if Democrats attempt to filibuster, he will work to break it, meaning that this is not something the Gang of 14 had in mind. Do you agree with Senator Graham that this is not a filibusterable nomination?
MD: Oh, I absolutely do. I mean, this is not under what our definition of extraordinary circumstances is. This is a nomination that’s clearly within the mainstream of conservative judges. This is someone who has a long, distinguished record, someone who I would classify as kind of a classic conservative justice, who believes you should decide each case one at a time, you should not be a judicial activist, you should not be intrusive, that a judge should kind of sit back, wait for that case to come, and then make a decision on the case, but not be really a legislator. And really, that’s what this judge’s record would, at least seem to me, to show.
HH: So absent any extraordinary revelation, is it fair to say, Senator DeWine, that if the Constitutional option has to be deployed, that you will vote for it?
MD: Oh, I certainly would. I would think, though, that this will not be necessary. I just…it’s hard for me to envision why anyone would think that you would have to filibuster in this case, or why they would think it would be, as we defined it in our group of 14, that Lindsey and I were a part of, why we would define it as extraordinary circumstances.
HH: You know, I think if even one more member of that group comes out and says this is not a filibuster occasion, it’s over. I don’t think the Democrats will attempt to then, because enough Senators will be on the record as supporting the Constitutional option.

This may not be the explicit addition to which Hugh refers, but the original Republican sellout sounded as though he would not oppose the Byrd option, if it came down to it. Senator John McCain, who became the first Republican to announce that he would oppose the rule change during the spring and later helped form the Gang of 14 to avoid the confrontation, told Sean Hannity that he wanted to wait until the hearings to make up his mind, but that at this point he didn’t see any exceptional circumstances either.
That at least sounds like an abstention — giving the Republicans a 50-49 split at worst on the Byrd option. Chaffee, Snowe, and Collins will probably never vote for the Byrd option, but John Warner will probably go with Frist, especially on a Supreme Court nominee like Alito. Even if he doesn’t, the re-enlistment of DeWine and Graham makes the passage of the rule change inevitable.
That, of course, will keep it from getting invoked altogether. Despite the hue and cry coming today from Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, the rest of the Democrats will not follow them over a cliff merely to protect this swing seat, not with the midterms around the corner and two successive losses in the electoral cycle due to Dacshle’s strategy of obstructionism. Perhaps they would have tried it while Bush’s approval ratings kept dropping — but that trend has reversed itself after the Miers withdrawal, which reached a two-week high on Rassmussen’s daily polling. That indicates that a significant part of Bush’s drop may have come from his own base after the Miers nomination inspired a massive but short-lived outpouring of criticism from the right.
With his numbers coming up after the Miers withdrawal and the prospect of Iraqi security taking over Iraq by the midterm elections, the last thing Democrats need is more obstructionism on which the GOP can attack the red-state Senate Democrats in the election. They have a disadvantage already, and one of the three GOP seats that they could gain next year is an almost certain vote against the Byrd option (Chaffee). They run the risk of not only losing three more seats to the Republicans, but also losing one more “no” vote on a rule change that would disallow the filibuster on a later attempt — which they will need if Bush gets a third opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice.
Again, if most of the Democrats remain rational, they will make lots of noise but fail to fulfill a filibuster. In the end, they will have to take Alito and bitterly rue their decision to abandon Miers when they could have supported her and kept her nomination alive. They made the choice — especially Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer — to publicly ridicule Miers and her answers to the Judiciary Committee after Reid personally suggested Miers to Bush. They helped set the table for Alito, and now they should consider themselves fortunate not to have to square off against Janice Rogers Brown.

First Mate Update, Day 4

The First Mate had a pretty good day today. Her fever stayed mostly down, although her cough hasn’t improved much. The doctors have decided to install a semipermanent shunt under her arm for IVs, as her veins keep giving them problems and she will likely need home IVs for a while to deal with the aftermath of the pneumonia. We think she’ll get released some time tomorrow, but no one can tell me that for sure. She’s itching to get the heck out of the hospital, but it isn’t for lack of attentive and excellent care. She’s been in very good hands at Fairview University at the U of M campus. We always feel safe and optimistic when they’re on the case.
I’ll give you all an update tomorrow.

Save Our Reefs — From Greenpeace!

Greenpeace has set out on a global cruise with its converted fishing trawler, The Rainbow Warrior, to highlight its promotion of Kyoto-like policies to combat what it sees as global warming, and uses coral reef degradation as a significant part of its evidence of the climate theory. It turns out, however, that The Rainbow Warrior itself presents a more clear and present danger to coral reefs than warm water:

Greenpeace is to be fined after its flagship Rainbow Warrior II damaged a coral reef in the central Philippines during a climate change awareness campaign, marine park rangers said.
The ship and its crew were assessed a 640,000-peso (11,600-dollar) fine after the 55-meter (180-foot) motor-assisted schooner ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park on Monday, park manager Angelique Songco told AFP.
The ship’s bow sliced through a reef formation measuring 160 square meters (1,722 square feet), she added.

The biggest irony in this story? It turns out that the Manila reef that they wanted to highlight actually has none of the damage that Greenpeace predicted. They had expected to find bleaching and other evidence of warm-water damage to the living coral, but instead discovered that the coral remained alive and healthy — except where the Rainbow Warrior managed to kill a chunk out of it, thanks to Greenpeace’s navigational skills.
When asked about their scientific discovery, Greenpeace replied that global warming is “an extremely complicated science.” It gets a lot more complicated when its advocates destroy the evidence that contraindicates their hypotheses.

Sorry About Comments Being Down (Updated)

I understand that comments have been down all day — it appears to be a Typepad issue. This is my first time logging in since this morning, so I haven’t had much of a chance to look into it. I’ll see when they expect the problem to get resolved and get back to everyone ASAP.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for some interactive fun, take Hugh Hewitt’s poll on the Alito nomination. Should the Byrd option get invoked if the Democrats filibuster Alito? Let Hugh know what you think!
UPDATE: Looks like they’re up and running now.

Will The UN Stand Up To Syria?

The New York Times thinks so — they report today that the Bush administration’s alliance with France against the Assad regime will get the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that will impose tough economic sanctions if Syria refuses to fully cooperate with the investigation into the Rafik Hariri assassination. The Russians and the Chinese, who both had made noises about vetoing any such resolution, have been convinced to sideline themselves:

Security Council diplomats worked out final details on Sunday on a tough resolution against Syria, an action that will forcefully step up international pressure on the country’s embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, and deepen his government’s struggle to ward off increasing isolation.
Diplomats from the resolution’s three co-sponsors, Britain, France and the United States, said they expected passage on Monday and did not foresee a veto from either China or Russia, the two countries most reluctant to punish Syria.
The resolution threatens Syria with economic penalties if it does not give full cooperation to the United Nations investigation that has identified high-ranking security officials as suspects in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.
The measure also orders Syria to take into custody and make available to the investigators people they suspect of involvement in the killing.

If Assad has to turn over the suspects, one of two things will happen, both bad for the opthalmologist who fails to see the writing on the wall. Either he refuses and the sanctions drop onto an already shaky Syrian economy, or he agrees and his political cover deserts him — both a prelude to a coup.
After losing Lebanon for economic exploitation, the Syrians cannot afford any more economic hurdles and will not handle this kind of outside assault. The collapse of the Syrian economy will force the monied interests out of the country, and those have provided Assad with most of his power base. Assad doesn’t generate the same kind of fear his father did, and that means his enemies will not find themselves cowed merely by his personality the way they might have with his father.
Turning over the suspects, of course, means coughing up his own family and the people at the top of the military intelligence apparatus. Before that happens, the military will likely have something to say about protecting its own, especially after suffering the humiliation of the withdrawal from Lebanon just this year. That looks like actual suicide, rather than political suicide.
If the Bush administration can get this through the UNSC, we may see radical changes in Syria in the next few weeks. The West should be prepared for it.

Graham: Forget The Filibuster

In a New York Times report that preceded the nomination of Samuel Alito, one of the Republican Gang of 14 warned the Democrats that any political objections to Alito or any other nominee would not rise to the level of “exceptional circumstances,” and that a filibuster would break the agreement that kept the Byrd option off the table:

Mr. Reid had already said he would object to the selection of Judge Luttig or Judge Owen. And on Sunday, he did not rule out the possibility that Democrats would try to block a nominee by a filibuster or refusing to close debate and vote. “We are going to do everything we can” to see that the president names “somebody that’s really good,” Mr. Reid said.
But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, fired back Sunday, saying that if the Democrats staged a filibuster against Judge Alito or Judge Luttig because of their conservatism, “the filibuster will not stand.”
Mr. Graham’s warning was significant because he played a crucial role earlier this year in helping block a Republican effort to change the Senate rules – known as the nuclear option – so that Democrats could not filibuster judicial nominees. His comments on Sunday indicated that this time, he would support that rule change; Democrats have threatened to retaliate with a battle that could snarl Senate business for months.

As I mentioned below, Reid caused this problem in part because he did nothing to rescue his own suggestion for the court opening until Miers withdrew her nomination. He had specifically mentioned Miers as a compromise candidate that Democrats would not oppose, and then allowed Schumer and Leahy to belittle her responses in an echo of the conservative opposition that quickly coalesced around Miers. Reid and his caucus could have rescued the most moderate candidate they were likely to see from this administration. The Democratic delight in Bush’s predicament over the last three weeks undoubtedly played a part in the President’s decision to discount any further advice from Harry Reid.
The Democrats might try to filibuster, but his candidacy does not have the same fire that may have come with Janice Rogers Brown. The Democrats feared a Brown appointment; they would have had to do a character assassination on a jurist with a clearly inspirational life story as well as a solid track record and a strong conservative record. Alito has a more mild personality and will come across much like John Roberts in the hearings, but his self-effacing style will still have some bite. Building a hearing record for obstructionist mischief on the floor will probably blow up in the faces of the Judiciary Democrats, especially Kennedy, Schumer, and Biden, who made themselves look like idiots during the Roberts hearings.
I expect that the Democrats will get 30-35 votes in favor of a filibuster once Alito gets out of committee. If they do consider a filibuster, too many of them will realize that Stevens might get replaced during this term (he’s 85 years old). They need that potential stop on Senate business to protect a genuinely liberal seat on the Court — and enough of them won’t agree to tossing it aside before the 2006 elections, when they might narrow the gap in the Senate, in order to keep Alito off the bench. They also won’t want to fight over obstructionism again during the next cycle, or the Democrats might well lose more Senate seats in the midterms.
Expect Alito to get confirmed, 65-35.

Alito Gets The Nod

President Bush will nominate Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Sandra Day O’Connor, the third nominee for this seat. The AP and Fox News reports that the New Jersey jurist and former prosecutor had topped George Bush’s list during his last round of deliberations, but had lost out to the now-withdrawn Harriet Miers when Bush decided to try choosing someone outside of the “judicial monastery”:

Bush believes that Alito has not only the right experience and conservative ideology for the job, but he also has a temperament suited to building consensus on the court. A former prosecutor, Alito has experience off the bench that factored into Bush’s thinking, the officials said.
While Alito is expected to win praise from Bush’s allies on the right, Democrats have served notice that his nomination would spark a partisan brawl. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Sunday that Alito’s nomination would “create a lot of problems.”
Unlike Miers, who has never been a judge, Alito, a 55-year-old jurist from New Jersey, has been a strong conservative voice on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since former President George H.W. Bush seated him there in 1990.

Of course, the Democrats blew their one opportunity to get a moderate on the bench during the Bush administration by waiting until Miers withdrew before defending her. Prior to that, Charles Schumer and Pat Leahy took great pains to call her questionnaire response “insulting” and echoing conservative complaints that her resume seemed too lightweight for a nomination to the Supreme Court. Had they pledged to support her, Bush likely would have allowed her to coast through the hearings to a floor vote despite the dissatisfaction on the right.
Now Bush has nominated a jurist with a solid track record and a reputation for a scholarly and consistent approach to Constitutional issues. However, unlike some of the other people on the list, such as Janice Rogers Brown, Alito does not produce a knee-jerk reaction on the Left. The two organizations that have pushed the disastrous obstructionist strategy for the Democrats, People for the American Way and Alliance for Justice, don’t even have a ready profile for opposition to Alito, despite his long residence on conservative short lists.
On the other hand, Alito doesn’t always produce rulings that please the Right, which sometimes wishes for activism when it should be pleased with originalism. USA Today shows Alito’s libertarian streak in a July profile highlighted by Michelle Malkin:

Some observers say that Alito cannot be easily pigeon-holed. In Saxe v. State College Area School District, Alito, writing for the panel, argued that the school does not have the right to punish students for vulgar language or harassment when it doesn’t disrupt the school day. “Sam struck that down as a violation of free speech,” Kmiec says. “That’s not a conservative outcome.”

Alito, at 55, has the possibility of providing 20-30 years of jurisprudence on the Supreme Court, meaning that he and John Roberts have a real opportunity to turn the court back from its decades-long flirtation with supplanting the Legislature and turning itself into a strange American version of the Iranian Guardian Council. In this nomination, Bush may have hit the home run we wanted with the first nomination. Democrats may well try obstructionism, but they stand to lose the filibuster if they try — and if John Paul Stevens steps down or dies during the next two years, the path will open up for Janice Rogers Brown to take his place.

The Myth Of Dragging Wilson’s Wife Into The Niger Case

Earlier today, I listened to “Late Edition” on CNN and heard Wolf Blitzer interviewing Gary Bauer about the Plame case. Normally that would cause me to either fall asleep from apathy or change the channel to something more interesting — perhaps a re-run of pro bowling on ESPN XXIV. Before I reached the remote, however, I heard this exchange and my jaw hit the floor:

BLITZER: But even if there were no criminal — if there was nothing criminal about the release of the Valerie Plame, was it appropriate for senior officials in the Bush — Bush White House, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, to be talking about Joe Wilson’s wife instead of simply arguing with him over the merits of the case.
BAUER: Well, Joe Wilson’s wife — they have their own political agenda, which I think is fairly obvious as we have watched this unfold in recent months…
BLITZER: Well, we don’t know what her agenda was, if any. We know what Joe Wilson’s political views were. He wrote about them in the New York Times.
BAUER: But one of the things we may find out, however, as this unfolds and the trial is held and so forth, is what some of the agendas were of everybody involved…
BLITZER: But do you feel comfortable, do you feel comfortable with the very narrow issue of — for example, some people that have problems with you, and they say, well, let’s go to his — let’s see what his wife is up to, and we’ll try to drag her into this?
BAUER: But, Wolf, in this case, his wife allegedly played a role in sending him on a mission that ended up in a very real way being used to undermine the president’s desires in foreign policy areas…
BLITZER: So you don’t have a problem dragging her into this?
BAUER: Well, I would have trouble attacking somebody’s spouse if that spouse had nothing to do with the controversy. I’m arguing that in fact she did have something to do with the controversy. Look, this is a tough city…
BLITZER: I’m going to move on to Harriet Miers…
BAUER: Sure.
BLITZER: … and the Supreme Court. So even if no criminal law was broken, the fact that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby spoke about Valerie Plame with reporters, that’s O.K. as far as you’re concerned?

“Dragging her into this?” Does Blitzer ever do any research or real reporting, or does he just read off of notecards at this point? The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence made this quite clear in their unanimous report on the use of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. Plame didn’t get dragged into this controversy by the Bush administration — she initiated the entire event by getting her husband a job to investigate the Niger data, based on the CIA’s curiousity about the British intelligence on the subject.
If anyone other than Plame bears responsibility for Plame’s outing, it’s her martyr-playing husband, Joe Wilson. As I’ve written before, Wilson repeatedly lied about how he got his assignment and why. The SSCI did not get fooled:

Some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable DELETED requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him “there’s this crazy report” on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.

Wilson had told Nicholas Krystof and William Pincus, and later insisted publicly, that Dick Cheney had sent him. But it turns out that Cheney never asked the CIA to investigate the report, just to let him know what they had on the subject. That idea apparently originated within the CIA — possibly with Plame herself. Her written memo makes it clear that she selected her husband for this mission, a strange idea unless she wanted to make sure she knew what kind of report would come back. The CIA, oddly, never required Wilson to sign a non-disclosure agreement, usually considered automatic when dealing with outsiders on agency missions.
And what did Wilson find? He found out that the Iraqis had indeed attempted to negotiate for yellowcake uranium, according to the Nigerien Prime Minister. Again, the SSCI report contradicts practically everything Wilson wrote or leaked after his return:

[Wilson’s] intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,(REDACTED) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”

Niger exports four commodities: cowpeas, onions, livestock, and yellowcake uranium. The Iraqis would not need secret negotiations to purchase the first three from Niger, and the poverty-racked Nigeriens would gladly have worked on sales of those commodities.
None of this should consist of breaking news to anyone — anyone, that is, except the addled Wolf Blitzer at CNN. I have plenty more at my earlier post explaining why Joe Wilson has absolutely no credibility on WMD or Niger, and how his wife played a key role, if possibly unwitting, in getting false information leaked to the press through her loudmouth husband. The notion of either of them as victims is laughably absurd.
UPDATE: For those who think the SSCI got it wrong, the indictment of Scooter Libby makes it clear that Plame got Wilson the mission to Niger (page 4, points 6 & 7, h/t CQ commenter ROA). The only argument that has come out from anyone saying anything different was a Washington Post article from August, which was anonymously sourced. Unfortunately for the “senior CIA officer” serving as that source, the SSCI has in their possession a written memorandum from Plame making the recommendation — which, if you read the post above, you would already know.
Why isn’t Wilson getting charged with lying to Congress in the SSCI investigation? Probably because he knew better than to lie about his assignment while under oath. The SSCI report makes that much clear as well; he admits that the Nigerien PM told him that the Iraqis tried to buy the yellowcake and elides the point about his wife as much as he can without committing perjury. Too bad Scooter Libby wasn’t bright enough to do the same thing.

Hospiblogging Update

Not much change today — the First Mate is resting a bit more comfortably, and we still haven’t heard a final diagnosis from the lung docs. My guess is that we won’t hear anything until tomorrow, as it takes at least 24 hours to study the cultures. In the meantime, they’re giving her the kill-everything-but-the-patient drug regime just to make sure they’re covering their bases, and it’s doing some good; her fever has dropped to 99, almost normal. It hasn’t improved her cough at all, though.
Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers. The FM brightens up every time I mention how many of you have been kind enough to send your notes of concern. She wants me to send her greetings back to all of you, and her thanks as well as mine. More updates later …

We’ve Heard This Before

The Palestinian triangle offense continues apace in Gaza. They have gone to their usual Plan B when they get caught at it — they declare that one of the three factions has agreed to cease attacking Israel, and expect the Israelis and the rest of the world to celebrate it. Today, that comes in the form of a statement assuring observers that Islamic Jihad has agreed not to shoot rockets into Israel, but that wasn’t what started the Israeli response that killed several IJ leaders this past week:

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have agreed to halt rocket attacks on Israel, Palestinian Interior Ministry officials said Sunday.
The halt in rocket fire comes after days of airstrikes and artillery fire by the Israeli army aimed at the Islamic Jihad militant group. Palestinian officials said the declaration was expected to bring an end to the Israeli attacks.
The Interior Ministry officials spoke on condition of anonymity, pending the release of an official statement later in the day. Palestinian factions, including the militant groups, were scheduled to meet Sunday night.
Earlier Sunday, Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz vowed to wage war on Islamic Jihad until its capabilities are wiped out.

The suicide bombing in Israel that killed five in Hadera started the Israeli offensive against IJ, and they have the right idea in ensuring that they do enough damage to IJ and the territory that harbors them to keep them from trying it again soon. The Palestinians offer nothing more than the same tired rhetoric of truces and cease-fires that it either cannot or will not guarantee. They want the cease-fires to be unilateral — that Israel stop responding to attacks from their proxy partners in terror.
The time has long passed for the West to insist that the Palestinian Authority cease this useless prattle, and either take control of the territory or find itself disqualified from any further recognition as a partner for peace. When the Palestinians tire of war, they will elect people who want peace. If they want a genocidal conflict — and their continuing support of Hamas and Fatah indicates that they do — they should get it and see which end of such policies they receive as a result. Until the Palestinians want peace instead of total war, all of this negotiation is clearly a waste of time and effort.