Bad Political Ideas Whose Times Have Not Yet Come

Posted June 4, 2003 at 4:01pm

I’m all for new ideas, as long as we can all agree that not every new idea is a good one. For every creative, intriguing, enlightening thought there is, well, a bomb, such as “New Coke” or the Edsel.

At the moment, there are a number of bad ideas circulating in the political world. Here are just a few:

[IMGCAP(1)] 1. End the filibuster on judicial appointments. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are leading a GOP charge against filibusters of judicial nominees, arguing that only a simple majority should be needed to confirm President Bush’s selections. Their view, which is shared by other Republicans, is shortsighted.

Both parties ought to want to have the option of tying up nominees they regard as ideologically extreme. Obviously, the more the minority party employs the filibuster, the more that party risks being successfully portrayed as obstructionist. That’s the risk of the tactic. But sometimes that risk is worth taking, and the legislative minority needs to have some rights to stop a majority.

Both parties have sought to politicize the judiciary over the past few decades, and the Supreme Court deserves some credit — or blame — of its own for discovering controversial constitutional “rights” that never before existed. So it’s probably not surprising that one of the parties is threatening to take the next step: changing the rules of the game. But the Republicans ought to remember that some day they are likely to be in the minority again and may want to stop a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate from doing something stupid.

2. Require the Democratic presidential nominee to campaign in North Dakota. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) says he won’t endorse a Democratic candidate for president who won’t promise to campaign in North Dakota. But any presidential hopeful who campaigns in Dorgan’s state is simply wasting his or her time.

Like it or not, North Dakota is simply irrelevant in the race for the White House. That may not sit well with Dorgan, Sen. Kent Conrad, Rep. Earl Pomeroy and the people of North Dakota, but any White House hopeful who spends time in the state, rather than in West Virginia, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin or any of a dozen other competitive states, is simply making an irrational, illogical decision.

Indeed, anyone who promises to spend time in North Dakota rather than in a politically competitive state is showing such poor judgment that he or she should be disqualified from being the Democratic nominee.

3. Attack Bush for politicizing the war in Iraq. Some Democrats seem to think that they need to prove their “macho” credentials by challenging Bush on foreign policy and defense, including his decision to land on an aircraft carrier in a carefully scripted event. That’s a bad idea, unless they secretly are trying to help Bush.

When Democrats are talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, aircraft carriers, homeland security or anything in that vein, they are not talking about jobs, economic growth, the deficit, prescription drugs and other domestic issues on which they have an advantage.

4. Montana Gov. Judy Martz (R) running for re-election. Martz was elected governor in 2000 and is scheduled to face voters again in 2004. The governor would have to be delusional to run for re-election, and state Republicans would have to be crazy to renominate her.

The most recent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for Lee Newspapers showed Martz losing 52 percent to 24 percent to Brian Schweitzer, the likely Democratic nominee. That’s not surprising considering that only 18 percent of those polled said that she should be given another term, while 49 percent responded that she should be replaced. Only two out of five voters said she has done a “good” or “excellent” job as governor, while 48 percent describe her performance as “poor.”

These are some of the worst poll numbers I have ever seen. If Martz won’t step aside, the state GOP ought to give her a push. That’s the only way they have a prayer of holding the state’s top office.

5. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) running for president. Biden continues to reiterate that he has not yet decided whether he will run for president in 2004, and he says that he will announce a decision later this year.

I certainly understand the desire of Delaware’s senior Senator not to be ignored. And anyone who has been in the Senate for more than 30 years has earned the right to be considered seriously for the top office in the land. But let’s get real here. It is too late now to get into the 2004 Democratic race. It was too late last month. And it was too late the month before that.

At some point, anyone who refuses to rule out a presidential run in 2004, whether it is Biden or Gen. Wesley Clark, starts to look silly. So please, Senator, just tell us that you aren’t running for president, and we can all move on.


Rothenberg Political Report