July 12, 2005

The Reason Behind Right Wing Attack on Sen. Durbin

David Corn writes in the Washington Monthly the reason behind right wing attacks over Sen. Durbin remarks on mistreatment of prisoners and detainees is the Senator is a threat to the GOP.
The answer is that they went after Durbin because he's a threat. A triple threat, in fact. Today's Republicans may not be competent at planning wars or managing the federal treasury, but when it comes to the politics of attack, they know what they're doing. And they know whom to target. In the last six months, Democrats have scored political successes with an oppositional strategy that has made life difficult for Republicans on Social Security reform, judicial nominations, and the John Bolton confirmation. Durbin, a sharp tactician, has been Democratic Leader Harry Reid's chief partner in concocting that strategy and its details. Durbin is also good in front of a television camera and is often cited by Democrats as the party leader who can best argue the Democrats' case in the media. (He outshines Reid in this regard.) And Durbin, an active member of the judiciary committee and one of the toughest questioners in the Senate, is expected to assume a leading role in the battle over over Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.
One reason why Senator Durbin is a threat to the GOP he and Senator Reid develop strategy to thwart the Republicans plan to eliminate the filibuster.
This spring, for example, when Republicans threatened to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominations, Durbin devised the Democrats' contingency plan in case Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) pushed the nuclear button. In such an event, under the Durbin plan, the Democrats would take advantage of the Senate rules—which virtually allow any senator to bring up legislation at any time—and continually introduce popular initiatives: expanding tax credits for health care, raising the minimum wage, and releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve to counter the rising price of gasoline. The strategy held three benefits. First, it would clutter up the Senate calendar, limiting the time Republicans had for their own priorities. Second, because Democrats would be proposing real legislation, Republicans would have a harder time casting them as mere obstructionists. Finally, it would put Republicans on record as voting against measures many Americans support. One of the first bills Durbin lined up for recurring votes was legislation intended to reduce abortion rates by requiring private drug plans to cover prescription contraceptives. Such legislation would place Republicans in the awkward position of opposing a measure designed to lower the number of unwanted pregnancies. The counter-nuclear plan devised by Durbin may well have motivated several Republicans to reject Frist's nuclear option and seek a compromise. (After 14 so-called moderate Democratic and Republican senators brokered a deal that apparently—or perhaps temporarily—defused the standoff, Durbin said the arrangement was “not what I would choose” but “the alternative could have been much worse.”)
David Corn article goes in-depth about Senator Durbin political career and his effectiveness as a Senator and Democrat leader. Go read the whole article.

David Corn wants to know, What are Democrats willing to risk to be a fierce opposition party?
These high-octane, media-driven, partisan spats and disputes may often appear to be trivial or distractions, but they are part of policy and electoral warfare that is real and epochal. The Democrats are not going to win that battle unless they—and Durbin—move past the Gitmo imbroglio and remain fully engaged in the ugly fray.
In order to win the Democrats need to join the GOP in the ugly fray.


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