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Which is "The Party in Power"?

The Republicans and Democrats are both "in power," obviously, given that the Republicans control the White House, but the Democrats control the House and Senate.

With that in mind, here's the New York Times on McCain:

The nominee's friend described him as a "restless reformer who will clean up Washington." His defeated rival described him going to the capital to "drain that swamp."" His running mate described their mission as "change, the goal we share." And that was at the incumbent party's convention.

After watching two political conclaves the last two weeks, it would be easy to be confused about which was really the gathering of the opposition. As Senator John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for president, he and his supporters sounded the call of insurgents seeking to topple the establishment, even though their party heads the establishment.

You would think that the author would at least mention somewhere in this article that the Democrats control both houses of Congress. You would be wrong.

I agree that voters perceive the Republicans to be "in charge," in part because barely half even know that the Democrats control the Congress. But the Times piece presents things as if it's not just a political problem for McCain, but logically problematic for a Republican to run as a reformer who will clean up Washington. Even though Capitol Hill is, and is very likely to remain, a Democratic stronghold, according to the Times, the Democrats are the "opposition party." (see also Shales in the Washington Post). Anyone want to bet on whether the Times will have a story on how problematic it is for Barack Obama to run as a reformer when he is a Senator and his party controls the Senate?

sputnik (mail):
8 years presidency
6 years congress.
i love how republicans are running away from their record.
Why ?
Why don't they run on their achievements?
Party of past, the 5th wheel in American progress, that's what GOP has become....
9.5.2008 9:34am
Jerry F:
You would also think that the article would have mentioned that the activist Left controls the Supreme Court (which was a large part of Romney's point given his denounciation of Boumediene). What a sorry excuse for a news[sic]paper.
9.5.2008 9:37am
rarango (mail):
Lets see if get this right: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are Republicans? Just wow. The NYT is something else indeed.
9.5.2008 9:42am
Adam J:
Jerry F- The Supreme Court holds 5 republican appointees (a majority in case you weren't sure), so I can't comprehend how you think its controlled by the "activist left" One would think someone who claims to be interested in honest reporting would engage in it himself.
9.5.2008 9:43am
Keith Jackson (mail):
Seriously? You think the "activist Left" controls the Supreme Court? I think Justice Kennedy would be rather suprised to be characterized as "activist Left." Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas would be even more suprised.
9.5.2008 9:44am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
It is true that the Democrats currently control Congress, but only barely. With the Republicans ability to filibuster in the Senate, and Bush's ability to veto bills passed by Congress, this hasn't given the Democrats all that much power to actually do anything, and they have had that power for less than 2 years. On the other hand the President has all sorts of powers that don't require him to go to Congress, and Bush has been a fan of doing things even when he really should have gone to Congress to get permission first. The Constitution may have intended co-equal branches of government, but at this point in history they are hardly co-equal, and having a slim majority in Congress hardly gives a party the power of holding the presidency. It also helps that the Republicans currently have a majority in the third branch, the Judiciary, both in the Supreme Court and in the lower courts.

Moreover, what we are talking about here is not an election for who should control Congress, but rather a Presidential election.
9.5.2008 9:46am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I was just looking for even a passing acknowledgment in the piece that Republicans don't exactly have a monopoly on power in Washington, but there isn't one.
9.5.2008 9:50am
rarango (mail):
So the consensus thus far is that the democrats are indeed the minority party? Wow. just wow.
9.5.2008 9:56am
Angela (mail):
How long have the Democrats controlled the House and Senate? How long before that did the Republicans? Howe long did the Republicans control all three?
9.5.2008 9:56am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
DavidBernstein: Sometimes adding details takes away from the overall truth. This is why Judges are allowed to prohibit evidence that they believe is more prejudicial than probative.
9.5.2008 9:59am
bellisaurius (mail):
I think when he said "in power" he was being intentionally vague to appear to be a proper "outsider", but I thought that part of the speech belonged with the part where he said:

"I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger."

Which seemed to point at the republicans in general (My coworker, a Biden fan, didn;t think it was clear either, but, then again, I like mccain, so I could be reading that into a context rather than it actually being there.
9.5.2008 9:59am
Observer:
Keith: Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas do not control the Supreme Court. The other five Justices do. See, e.g., Boumediene v. Bush.
9.5.2008 10:01am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
bellisaurius:
To a certain extent, you are right, McCain certainly can run as someone seeking to reform Republican Government, and there have been many statements to that effect. They have gone much further than this though at the RNC. The most ridiculous line to this effect was by Mitt Romney who, after the last 8 years of Bush's war on terror, contrasted the Republicans to the Democrats stating that the Democrat where the party of Big Brother.
9.5.2008 10:05am
Modus Ponens:
To the extent that McCain &Obama are competing for the Presidency of the U.S.; and to the extent that the Presidency is currently occupied by a member of the Republican Party, it is accurate to say that the GOP is the incumbent party in the Presidential race.

The rhetoric of feigned confusion on the blog is sickening at times.
9.5.2008 10:07am
deathsinger:
Adam J,


The Supreme Court holds 5 republican appointees

Who appointed those other two justices? (Ginsburg and Breyer were appointed by Clinton) Or is one of the following not a Republican: Ronald Reagan (2 appointments still on the court), George H.W. Bush (2 appointments still on the court), or George W. Bush (2 appointments still on the court)?
9.5.2008 10:10am
NPJacques:

We noticed the same thing in the post-speech discussion on PBS with Shields and Brooks, esp. with Shields who obviously knows that the Democrats own the House and Senate.

Is it possible that Democrats are so frustrated at not being able to just pass whatever they want that they don't think they're really the majority party in the Legislature? It hadn't occurred to me that might be so, but if it is, it's disturbing.
9.5.2008 10:10am
rarango (mail):
Modus: then perhaps the NYT piece should have said that, and if that is what they meant, then obviously you are correct and I would have agreed with you. On the other hand not everyone may agree with your inference, and I for one don't, nor is my confusion feigned. Its a lousy piece of writing. But it is the NYT.
9.5.2008 10:12am
LN (mail):
Right now we have a Republican President and a Democratic Congress.

If John McCain becomes President... that will, uh, stay exactly the same.
9.5.2008 10:13am
PC:
If we want to be specific about things... The Senate is currently tied with 49 Republicans and 49 Democrats. There is 1 Independent that caucuses with Democrats and 1 Independent Democrat that caucuses with Democrats (for now), but the Independent Democrat just endorsed the Republican presidential candidate. So in the literal sense the Democrats and Republicans are tied for seats in the Senate.

The House has a Democratic majority.

The presidency is under Republican control.

So I guess the NYT article could have been more accurate by saying, "As Senator John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for president, he and his supporters sounded the call of insurgents seeking to regain the House, even as their party controls the presidency and is tied in the Senate."

Better?
9.5.2008 10:16am
rarango (mail):
And the reality is that neither candidate will reform anything. And both candidates being senators, both know it. Republicans had their change and blew it, and the I expect even less from the democrats.
9.5.2008 10:16am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Observer:
Out of the 9 Justices, 4 of them, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts are safe Republican votes on most issues. Three, Stevens, Ginsburg and Souter, are safe Democratic Votes. Of the remaining two, Kennedy leans toward the Republican side and Breyer leans Democratic, but both have been known, particularly in the past few years to switch sides. This doesn't give the Republicans a lock on the Supreme Court, but it certainly gices them a large advantage.
9.5.2008 10:16am
Visitor Again:
This appeared in a New York Times editorial dated September 3, 2008 under the heading "Running Against Themselves":


The difficulty for the Republican ticket in talking about change and reform and acting like insurgents is that they have been running Washington — the White House and Congress — for most of the last eight years.


Breaking it down, the GOP controlled the White House for all eight years and the Congress for six of the eight years.

The Times' point--both in the story Bernstein complains about and in this editorial--is a fair one even though the Democrats did control Congress by a very narrow margin the past two years.

What do you do when the media points out that you can't run on your party's record because that record is atrocious and that you're pretending your party wasn't in power in an effort to coopt the popular cry for change? You scream media bias, of course. Step up GOP hack David Bernstein.
9.5.2008 10:17am
PC:
And if we adopt Addington's novel theory that the Vice President is actually a member of the legislative branch, that means the Senate has 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats. So the Republicans want us to elect McCain so they can clean up the House. That's some mighty good change there.
9.5.2008 10:23am
Sarcastro (www):
The Dems are ruling Washington with an iron fist, people!

Why does no one acknowledge that it is the DEMS who are unable to use their bare majority to change Republican policies?

Sure, back in the day it was the Republicans who failed to drill for oil. But now it's the Democrats!

And ages ago it was the Republicans who failed to properly regulate our borders. Now it's the Democrats!

And the economy! I mean, after 6 years of the Republicans, now we get to blame the Democrats for not turning things around!

But no one seems to acknowledge the serious changes that already happened in Congress! The only real change would be a change BACK to Republican rule.
9.5.2008 10:26am
The Ace (mail):
It is true that the Democrats currently control Congress, but only barely. With the Republicans ability to filibuster in the Senate

Laugh out loud funny.
So I guess the Republicans haven't really controlled the Senate for that long then, right?

By the way, why the short memory on Tom Daschle being majority leader (June 6, 2001-January 3, 2003)? (he was the guy who "rushed" the USA Patriot Act and the Iraq AUMF through the Senate after all...)
9.5.2008 10:29am
byomtov (mail):
What everyone else has said. The NYT has it right.

Republicans controlled both house of Congress, for most of the last eight years, and the White House for all of it. For Republicans to campaign on a promise to "throw the rascals out" and reform Washington is beyond ludicrous. Indeed, Romney took the prize by railing against the liberals running Washington, but he had plenty of competition.

These guys really have gone through the looking glass.
9.5.2008 10:32am
BT:
The biggest joke in this or any other election season is BO running as a reformer. How anyone can believe a democrat from the sewer that is Cook County/Chicago politics and was and is a member in good standing is a reformer is very very funny. BO is a guy who never once went against the grain of what his party wanted while doing his 8 years in the senate in Illinois.

As an aside, it's interesting that the NYT has just sent a bunch of investigative reporters north to Alaska to check out Palin. (Which they should by the way) Funny that they never did the same thing in Chicago to BO.
9.5.2008 10:34am
taney71:
Well, the Constitution gives Congress the power to legislate and that is where the power is. The presidency was never intended to have the level of power that now the position currently holds. Still to get anything done Congress must pass a law. That is power.
9.5.2008 10:41am
Sarcastro (www):
BT has it right. BO is a dirty, smelly guy from Chicago, which is where Al Capone is from. If any reporters looked into Obama's background, they'd realize this. All BO will do is sewer-up DC.

The Republicans are from heartland America, and while confused by big-city politics, their spirits are pure and they will reform Washington, led by Integrity-king McCain, whose thirty years of reforming experience has really cleaned up American politics!

They should send McCain to Chicago when he's done in Washington!
9.5.2008 10:43am
JK:
In addition to who controls what, the major policy positions the country has right now were established under (and are the offical policy of) Republican control: war, health care, tax burden, fiscal situation, etc. The fact that McCain wants to run as an insurgent when he wants to maintain all the major policy positions of the Bush administration (and untill a year and a half ago Rep congress) is what stretches logic, regardless of who has controlled congress by a few votes for the past 19 months.
9.5.2008 10:45am
Sean Wilson (www):
Eugene:

The perception that Republicans are in charge is not caused by people being unaware that politicians having the affiliation of "Democrat" are more numerous in Congress.

It is caused by the bully pulpit and the presidency as an institution in the post-Roosevelt era of American politics.

Just as one does not see a corporation governed more by its directors than its CEO, Americans rightly perceive that the presidency is the lead policy organ in American governance. This is not merely a perception; it has a good deal of truth to it.

Regards.
9.5.2008 10:48am
PC:
The fact that McCain wants to run as an insurgent when he wants to maintain all the major policy positions of the Bush administration


The Onion has it covered.
9.5.2008 10:48am
Sean Wilson (www):
... whoops, Eugene didn't write that one. My mistake.
9.5.2008 10:50am
DavidBernsten (mail):
The nominee's friend described him as a "restless reformer who will clean up Washington." His defeated rival described him going to the capital to "drain that swamp."
So why did the Times find it odd that McCain wants to "clean up Washington" and "drain the swamp." Putting aside that many of us have disgust at both sides tht McCain at least purports to share, "cleaning up Washington" and "draining the swamp" is rhetoric pretty clearly aimed more at Congress than at the White House.
9.5.2008 10:56am
David M. Nieporent (www):

6 years congress.
i love how republicans are running away from their record.

This is another one of those false ideas running around the internet. James Jeffords switched parties in mid-2001, and Republicans did not retake the Senate until the midterm elections. So it's not 6 years Congress, but 4 1/2 years. For two years Democrats will have controlled Congress, and for a year and a half it was divided.
9.5.2008 10:57am
Arkady:

I was just looking for even a passing acknowledgment in the piece that Republicans don't exactly have a monopoly on power in Washington, but there isn't one.


Really, David, c'mon. The article's about the presidential election. Here's the lede (as you quote):


The nominee's friend described him as a "restless reformer who will clean up Washington." His defeated rival described him going to the capital to "drain that swamp." His running mate described their mission as "change, the goal we share." And that was at the incumbent party's convention.


This a dog-bites-man story. As the story goes on to say:


[I]t is easier to run as the opposition party if you actually are the opposition party.


McCain has the politically unenviable task of running a presidential campaign against the backdrop of the perception that his own party, headed by the almost-totally-absent-from-the-convention current president, screwed the pooch. The fact that the Democrats enjoy a majority in the current House and a majority? in the Senate is not germane to the story in the Times. As I read the piece, it's about McCain versus the Republican establishment.
9.5.2008 11:00am
Sarcastro (www):
David M. Nieporent I have it on good authority that the Vice President, tasked with breaking ties in the Senate, was a partisan shamless liberal during that time.
9.5.2008 11:02am
NYer:
You're being unbelievably picky here. It might have been worthwhile to have a throwaway sentence in there about the recent Democratic control of Congress, but including it or omitting it doesn't make any real difference. The piece was about which party controls the presidency, since this is a presidential race. Its not exactly a secret that the Democrats won a majority in the recent election.
9.5.2008 11:03am
Jeff Boghosian (mail):
Maybe it's more correct to say that the party that controls Congress is the "opposition party" in terms of judge appointments and foreign policy, but the Congress and President share power legislatively.
9.5.2008 11:03am
PC:
Putting aside that many of us have disgust at both sides tht McCain at least purports to share, "cleaning up Washington" and "draining the swamp" is rhetoric pretty clearly aimed more at Congress than at the White House.


So what would President McCain do to clean up Congress? The president has the power of the veto. Is there some other power the president has over Congress that I'm missing?

Given that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time in 2007, what exactly would President McCain change?
9.5.2008 11:11am
Sarcastro (www):
PC the President would change name and appearance, and the Vice President would change also.
9.5.2008 11:14am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
The Ace:
There is a big difference between controlling the Presidency, controlling the House, and controlling the Senate a filibuster limitation and just controlling the House and the Senate with a filibuster limitation.

Under the first circumstance, you need to get an extra 10 votes in the Senate from the other side to pass legislation, and even if you can't, you still have plenty of power with the President.

Under the second, you have to either get 10 extra votes in the Senate and the President on your side, or 17 extra votes in the Senate, plus 73 extra votes in the House. If not, you basically have the power to subpoena people and complain.

Which of these two scenarios sounds like more power?

What it really comes down to is that most Americans are not happy with the state of the Nation. For the most part, whose policies have resulted in this state?
9.5.2008 11:17am
PC:
For the most part, whose policies have resulted in this state?


Bill Clinton.
9.5.2008 11:19am
Bored Lawyer:
The inanity of the Times piece consists in the presumption that two politicians of the same party must be of the same ideology and philosophy of governance. That's non-sensical, especially given the Constitutional structure of our government.

Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain were both Tories (or Conservatives), but I think it was clear that the replacement of Chamberlain with Churchill represented a sea-change in British policy with respect to dealing with Germany and the war. Churchill could rightly claim that for years he had advocated a different policy than the leadership of his own party and that he represented a major change in policy.

There are many conservatives who, while they admire the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror, are sorely disappointed in what they view as a sell-out of conservative principles in other areas, such as profligate spending, etc. It remains to be seen if John McCain can reclaim these conservative principles. But you can't blame him for trying.
9.5.2008 11:20am
Distressed Reader:
David, your blind partisanship is bordering on a nuisance. I truly enjoy reading all the other Conspirators' posts, even when I totally disagree with them. Yours have become aggressive, transparent and, frankly, beneath the standard of academic thoughtfulness and reflection on which this site is based. I sincerely hope that these posts don't continue to clog VC for the rest of the campaign.
9.5.2008 11:21am
Blue:
"Its a lousy piece of writing."

That's a defensible position if the bias slants both ways. It doesn't It's never the Republican party ID of a scandalous politician being dropped--that only happens to Democrats.
9.5.2008 11:22am
Blue:
"Its a lousy piece of writing."

That's a defensible position if the bias slants both ways. It doesn't It's never the Republican party ID of a scandalous politician being dropped--that only happens to Democrats.
9.5.2008 11:22am
The Ace (mail):
you need to get an extra 10 votes in the Senate from the other side to pass legislation, and even if you can't, you still have plenty of power with the President

Power to do what, exactly?

Appoint judges?


You do realize it is incoherent to argue that the Democrats don't really control the Senate because the Republicans can fillibuster, while ignoring the fact that the Republicans never had a fillibuster proof majority, right?
9.5.2008 11:28am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

You would think that the author would at least mention somewhere in this article that the Democrats control both houses of Congress.



No I wouldn't. Try to find a mention of the party to which the ex-Mayor of Detroit belongs.
9.5.2008 11:29am
Sarcastro (www):
Can you guys think of anything the President does other than appoint judges? Cause that's the only power he has that I can think of.
9.5.2008 11:32am
Modus Ponens:
Charlie:

Try looking at the 3rd word from the end of the second sentence.

Is it too much to ask that conservative ideologues learn to read?
9.5.2008 11:35am
nicestrategy (mail):
Bernstein ought to stick to law. The Presidency is obviously far more powerful than the Congress, especially when the Senate, which has more power than the House, is closely divided and respecting filibusters. Duh. Please spare us the Constitutional arguments -- surely Congress has the ultimate power to impeach/remove, settle elections, etc., but the arrangement of powers was designed without a context of political parties much less a _2_ party system. It takes supermajorities to get policy changed over the will of the President, or even with the support of the President. Lastly, the Democrats aren't a voting block. Being the majority party in a chamber doesn't mean that you always have a majority willing to push through each and every policy of the leadership. (Harry Reid has been a spectacularly mediocre majority leader as well.)

Moreover, the corruption as exposed has been largely Republican: military no-bid contracts... scandalous accounting of money disbursed in Iraq... politicization of the bureaucracy, including the Justice department... rushing into war based on bogus evidence... Abramoff... Cunningham... Alaska... not to mention the sexual hypocrisy of 2 sitting Senators and Mark Foley... editing scientific reports by politicians... these are all Republicans. Earmarks and pork are a bipartisan disease, but you'd have to have your head in your posterior to believe that the corruption in Washington is simply a matter of whomever is in the majority at the moment. The 1995 Congress was not the same as the 2005 Congress.

As far as Obama as reformer, he did author a piece of legislation that became law in the Senate. Besides, he has made McCain-Feingold, the libertarian favorite, obsolete by building his war chest without having to suck up to corporate interests. If that model can work at the Congressional level, the level of special interest influence will diminish. No Republican can take us there in the near term, and none seems interested in trying.
9.5.2008 11:37am
pluribus:
7 (not 5) of the 9 justices on the Supreme Court are Republican appointees. The charge that the Court is controlled by the "activist left" is absurd.
9.5.2008 11:39am
pluribus:

Stevens, Ginsburg and Souter, are safe Democratic Votes.

This, too, is absurd. Stevens and Souter are both Republicans.

And since when is a Supreme Court decision "Democratic" or "Republican"? They are constitutional, and should remain hat way, despite the efforts of politicians (and some internet posters) to bring them into the party line.
9.5.2008 11:46am
dpt (mail):
I have heard Democrats ask, "Are you better off than four years ago?"

Well four years ago, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid gained power in the House and the Senate, respectively.

(May reply to that question is "Yes." Fortunately, I have been able to answer "Yes" every four years going back to 1980. In 1980 my answer was "No"...thank you President Carter.
9.5.2008 11:55am
PC:
And since when is a Supreme Court decision "Democratic" or "Republican"?


You forget the primary rule about judicial decisions: if the decision agrees with the conservative view it is a sound piece of reasoning based on the law; if the decision agrees with the liberal view it is the result of out of control activist judges.
9.5.2008 11:55am
The Ace (mail):
7 (not 5) of the 9 justices on the Supreme Court are Republican appointees. The charge that the Court is controlled by the "activist left" is absurd

Ah yes, because of course that can't possibly mean any justice is liberal!

Stevens and Souter are both Republicans.

See comment above.

By the way, why do you think you're not talking about what they actually belive and have written, but who has appointed them?

Want to take a stab at that, champ?
9.5.2008 11:55am
MG:
Minor point relative to above, but there are actually seven Republican appointed justices: Scalia, Thomas, Souter, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy and (believe it or not) Stevens. If we have a Republican president for the next eight years we could easily have the entire court be Republican-appointed (Ginsburg is 75, Breyer 70).
9.5.2008 11:56am
The Ace (mail):
Can you guys think of anything the President does other than appoint judges? Cause that's the only power he has that I can think of.

Name away, silly.

I love this:
Lastly, the Democrats aren't a voting block. Being the majority party in a chamber doesn't mean that you always have a majority willing to push through each and every policy of the leadership.

But don't worry, the Republicans have controlled the Senate for 6 of the last 8 years!

Again, it is no longer possible to parody you people.
9.5.2008 11:58am
Melancton Smith:
Crackmonkeyjr wrote:

Sometimes adding details takes away from the overall truth. This is why Judges are allowed to prohibit evidence that they believe is more prejudicial than probative.


So it is more "truthy" this way?
9.5.2008 11:59am
pluribus:
If the conservatives continue to run against the NY Times, they are going to have a hard time winning. The newspaper is not running in this election, Obama is. I may not like a Times article, or I may not like all Times articles. It does not mean I must like McCain.
9.5.2008 12:00pm
Shertaugh:
Bernstein, all you needed to say was that the NYTimes should have said that all the problems in America today trace directly and proximately to the election of that bleeding heart liberal Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
9.5.2008 12:00pm
pluribus:
The presidential nominee of the Republican party, running for election as a Republican president, seeking to replace a Republican president he has supported 90 percent of the time in Senate votes, seeks to picture himself as an "outsider" who has come to clean up the "swamp" in Washington. Folks, McCain has been in Washington for 30 years (he was a naval liaison officer in the Senate before he won election to Congress in 1982). If he wins this year's election, it will be his seventh straight election to Washington. This does not mean he is a bad man. It does mean that he is not an outsider, come to clean up the "swamp."
9.5.2008 12:04pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
The Ace:
You managed to respond to one sentence of my post entirely missing the rest of it. I understand that the Republicans have never had a filibuster proof majority, but needing to peal off 10 Democratic votes in the Senate, when those Democrats can still claim that they voted against the bill, just for an up or down vote is significantly easier than overcoming a veto.

Further, if you think that the President's only real power, without Congressional approval is appointing judges, you haven't been paying attention for the past century. At the very least, the President has almost carte blanche over foreign affairs, which is very significant in a time when we have two wars going on, and even more significant when you have a President who has spent the last 8 years tryign to define everything as a foreign affairs issue, because it is somehow tied to terrorism. Additionally, the President gets to appoint the entire executive, which has a hell of a lot to do with how the laws on the books are enforced. Finally, the bully pulpet is far from insignificant. If Bush wants to, he basically can get all of the networks to break away from normal coverage and show him speaking. Do you think that Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid can do that? of course not.

The Constitution may not have given the President much power to act unilaterally (although certainly more than it gave Congress), but the Office of the President sure has managed to gain those powers over the past 230 years.
9.5.2008 12:08pm
pluribus:
Ace,
Apparently it makes you feel good to label decisions you don't like "liberal" or "left" or "Democratic." That's your opinion (with which many disagree). The fact is that 7 of the 9 justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court are Republicans appointed by Republican presidents. Facts always trump opinions.
9.5.2008 12:14pm
marcystrauss (mail):
David, I have to agree with Distressed, that the quality of your posts on the election are weal for a person of your intellect. I should add that I generally agree with your posts on Israel, so this really isn't a personal attack. But your diatribes on behaf of Palin and this one are filled with such half truths its sad. The Republicans have been in control for virtually all the last 8 years, the democrats in congress for only the past year and a half, and the NYT article was primarily on the occupancy of the White House.
9.5.2008 12:15pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Melancton Smith: The truth of the matter is that most of the policies put in place for the past 8 years have come from the Republicans and that the Democrats brief, narrow control of Congress in 2001 and 2002 and since 2007 has not allowed them to do much either to roll back Republican policies or put in place many Democratic policies. It certainly hasn't been comparable to holding the Presidency for those periods.

Sure the article could have thrown in that the Democrats did take back Congress recently, but unless you either assume the reader has a working knowledge of the powers of the various branches of government, or go on a long tangent about why this has not significantly changed the fact that we are working from Republican policies, this will be misleading. Particularly because most people who would have a working knowledge of the powers of the various branches of government would also know that the Democrats have gotten a slim majority in Congress recently, this sort of comment would be at best unnecessary, and possibly misleading as to the overall truth of the situation, and therefore either should not have been included, or at least need not have been included.
9.5.2008 12:21pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
the NYT article was primarily on the occupancy of the White House.


Really. In that case I can confidently say that no matter who wins the election, he will submit no earmarks.

Oh, wait...
9.5.2008 12:24pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Aside from Jumping Jim Jeffords switch in May 2001, the Senate was split 50/50 with Al Gore as the tie breaker from circa 03 Jan 2001 until 20 January 2001. Then from 20 January 2001 until the Jefford's switch in May, the Senate was split 50/50 with Dick Cheney as the tie breaker. During both these periods, the committees had dual chairs and the Senate was split evenly.

That means Republican control of the Senate under GWB actually started in January 2003.

Political ignorance.
9.5.2008 12:25pm
The Unbeliever:
The answer is quite simple: for years McCain has never really struck anyone as being an actual Republican, just a stubborn old mule who happened to land in one party almost by random. He likes to brand himself as being outside of or above his own party, and he often acts that way. He only emphasizes his party alignment on the regular occassions someone rightfully questions his commitment to its principles (the Gang of 14 debacle, immigration reform, the 2008 primaries, etc).

Now he's going more populist than usual, and embracing his habitual alienation. The simple truth is very few GOP pols on the national level can claim that same level of membership-yet-not-a-member separation, and McCain just happens to be one in a year populism came back into vogue.

IOW, the NYT is willfully ignoring McCain's carefully earned reputation on the matter.
9.5.2008 12:28pm
Sarcastro (www):
[pluribus, appointment by a Republican does not neccessarily mean conservative rulings.

No need to guild the lilly. The Court is generally 5-4 conservative on the big civil cases, though Kennedy is kind of a political crazy-car at times.]
9.5.2008 12:31pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
the NYT is willfully ignoring McCain's carefully earned reputation on the matter


You're willfully ignoring the fact "that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time in 2007." As PC pointed out.
9.5.2008 12:32pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I think I see the source of confusion here: Justice Stevens was a Republican long before the AuH2O/Reagan ideologues captured control of the party. A lifelong moderate, he now appears liberal by contrast to his fellow party members.

Regarding Souter, this line from his wikipedia entry is telling: Souter spoke of his admiration for the conservative Justice John Marshall Harlan II of the Warren Court during his confirmation hearings. Far from being a conservative, in his dissent to the denial of cert in Poe v. Ullman, Harlan II set the court on the path to recognizing reproductive freedoms in Roe v. Wade.

PC is quite right to claim that neither party controls the Senate, with Reps and Dems tied at 49-49. While the socialist Bernie Sanders is aligned with the Democrats, the ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman clearly is more at home with the Republicans, because he endorsed John McCain over the Democratic candidate.
9.5.2008 12:38pm
boqueronman (mail):
Apparently none of the commenters here have actually worked as a civil servant. As a thankfully retired member of this illustrative profession, let me clue you all in. The bureaucrats run the government. Congress and the President can pass laws and issue directives until they are blue in the face. How all that is interpreted and acted upon is up to the good will of the civil servants. The government the public sees is the Empire of the Bureaucrats. Toward which political party do the bureaucrats instinctively lean? Not surprisingly toward more taxes and bigger, more intrusive government Excuse me for not making the effort but I would be shocked if there is a study that the civil service does NOT vote overwhelmingly for Dems. McCain probably already knows, and Palin will soon discover, that, if they are elected, trying to change the direction of the Imperial Federal Government will make turning a aircraft carrier seem like playing with plastic boats in the bathtub.
9.5.2008 12:39pm
krs:
You're willfully ignoring the fact "that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time in 2007."

What does it mean to "vote with Bush"? If Bush was a Senator, he'd have a voting record, and you could compare his with McCain's and figure out how many times they voted identically.

Also, what are the corresponding numbers for Obama and Biden under whatever method produced the 95% figure?
9.5.2008 12:40pm
Arkady:
@dpt


Well four years ago, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid gained power in the House and the Senate, respectively


Two years ago (2006 elections).
9.5.2008 12:49pm
PC:
What does it mean to "vote with Bush"? If Bush was a Senator, he'd have a voting record, and you could compare his with McCain's and figure out how many times they voted identically.


Indeed, the president is merely a neutral bystander that never tries to push an agenda. He simply signs or doesn't sign (it's a coin toss I hear) any legislation that comes across his desk.

Also, what are the corresponding numbers for Obama and Biden under whatever method produced the 95% figure?


That information is provided at the link I posted earlier.
9.5.2008 1:02pm
Hoosier:
Which is "The Party in Power"?

The ZOG.

Duh!
9.5.2008 1:05pm
hattio1:
I assume this has been mentioned by someone before me, but maybe the reason the newspaper treats Senator McCain's party as the party in power, and Senator Obama's as the party not in power is because, well, Senator McCain's party is the party in power in the presidency and they are running for president.
9.5.2008 1:16pm
Lawyer (mail):
This seems to be getting a little out-of-hand.

The NY Times claimed it ironic that Republicans were presenting their ticket as anti-establishment when, in fact, the Republican party "heads the establishment."

But clearly, the Republican Party doesn't "head the establishment." It heads the executive branch. And the Democratic Party currently heads the legislative branch. (I think we can all agree that neither party heads the judicial.)

So if we're going to discuss which party is the "Establishment," it's really kind of a tie, although we can debate the varying powers of the different branches that would make them more establishment-like.

Kudos to the author for pointing this out.
9.5.2008 1:17pm
Thomass (mail):
The Democrats also control the permanent government bureaucracies.. and this has proven to be as powerful as any formal branch of government (re: the Republicans can control the Legislature and Executive branch and still have a hard time getting their policies put into effect).
9.5.2008 1:18pm
Crust (mail):
What hattio1 said:
Senator McCain's party is the party in power in the presidency and they are running for president.

That said, I still think DB's point has some validity (indeed I had the same reaction myself when I read the article).
9.5.2008 1:37pm
karl newman:
The comment on power is a bit naive. The executive branch has the "power" to control the bureaucracy. As an example, the President appoints the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) who then oversees how the Department runs - the regulation. Most of the government is not the new law, which over the past 2 years wouldn't have had much time to impact the country yet, it is how existing law is enforced. If you look at the spike in food-related infections and the impact on beef sales overseas, you can see how a President and his appointments has a greater impact then a single Senator or even the Senate.
9.5.2008 1:38pm
nicestrategy (mail):

The Democrats also control the permanent government bureaucracies..


This is totally ignorant. The POTUS is the chief executive of the government, meaning, he's the CEO of the executive branch bureaucracy. With the exception of agencies like the Federal Reserve, which are designed to be insulated from political pressure, the President can issue executive orders that have the force of law to direct the bureaucracy to interpret and implement a law in a specific way. If there is one thing bureaucrats are terrified of, it is not following procedure -- and the POTUS has great power in shaping those procedures. The President appoints the heads of the executive departments, and the Senate defers to the President and confirms the vast majority of his nominees.

Some agencies have a culture that is in favor of activist government, but the Bush administration has spent the last 8 years inventing and applying political litmus tests at the expense of basic competence, most notably at the DOJ and EPA. Futhermore, some agencies have a culture distinctly favorable to GOP policies, especially at DOD. When the DOD and State collided, who won? The liberal bureaucrats? No. Cheney and Rumsfeld won. The GS 15 and 16s at DOD aren't generally liberal. Whistleblowers like the Army comptroller general have been rousted from government.

Government bureaucrats, no matter their political persuasion, only have so much discretion. They follow things by the book. The book -- the law -- is a combination of Congressional statutes written over the years (not just the current Congress) and executive decisions by the President and his appointees. No, they do not have the power to fire lower level bureaucrats, so it isn't like a private business. (Thank goodness. Read James Q Wilson, a true conservative, about the absurdity of that comparison). Yes, there are people in the bureaucracy who can use their limited discretion to affect or subvert executive initiatives. But this is not your father's bureaucracy; the GOP Congress has stripped many agencies of the discretion they had (e.g. OSHA) and the President has had 8 years worth of ideologues at the top of most every agency.
9.5.2008 1:38pm
please:
repubs have congress for 6 years and presidency for 8. supreme court is "activist liberal" only by the standards of those to the right of mosley and le pen. this is just fucking preposterous. although i often (not always) disagree with the volokh posters, i am (honestly) shocked by the shabby political "analysis" over the last week or so. what the hell happened?
9.5.2008 1:40pm
Mark Field (mail):

No need to guild the lilly.


No, no, no. Lillies don't have guilds, only apples and oranges have guilds. Lillies have fleurs. Or maybe they are fleurs; what do the French know anyway?
9.5.2008 1:49pm
tsotha:
The whole idea of a party being "in power" is stupid. We have three co-equal (in theory) branches of government. The phrase makes sense when you're talking about a European-style parliamentary democracy, where the executives are drawn from the party in control of the legislature.

To say the Republicans are "in power" is to ignore reality. I agree with DB - the author of the article was being disingenuous.
9.5.2008 2:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Regardless of the facts, it is appearances that count here, and when they say they are running against Washington, D.C., they are primarily running against Congress, which has lower approval than does President Bush.

The problem is that a lot of the Republicans cozied up to the public trough with the Democrats after they captured Congress in the 1990s after the Democrats having a lock on it for most of the previous 60 years. Sens. Trent Lott and Ted Stevens, Reps. Tom DeLay and Dan Young, etc. are prime examples. From the point of view of a Republican reformer, they are no better than the Democrats, and probably even worse because of their apostasy.

The Democrats, of course, nominated candidates who have no problem with pork barrel spending - though Hillary! seems to be better at it than either Obama or Biden. And it is this sort of corruption that McCain has long opposed, and Palin fought against in Alaska (at least to some extent). Bringing home the bacon is fine if it is your own Congresscritters, but bad when some other state gets it. And a lot of people are tired of this.

It is this crusade against Congressional corruption that is a big part of what is galvanizing a lot of the Republican base right now. (Ok, there are also plenty of values voters excited about having a strong pro-life woman on the ticket who doesn't just talk the talk).

If what the populace wants is change, what sort of change are Obama or Biden offering? More government corruption? There are a lot of people out there, as evidenced by Congress' likely record low approval level, who are loathe to trust Congress with any more money until they can honestly spend what they are taking from us already. And, it is these voters that this "reform" candidacy is targeting.
9.5.2008 2:07pm
The Ace (mail):
Ace,
Apparently it makes you feel good to label decisions you don't like "liberal" or "left" or "Democratic


Huh?
Um, it is entirely reasonable to read a decision and conclude that "liberal" logic led to it. Especially when the liberal justices wrote the opinion or concurred with it.

Now you can sit there and pretend Justice Kennedy is a "Republican" which is meaningless and in fact you can not possibly know, but it that is all you are doing, pretending.
And there is a reason for that.
9.5.2008 2:11pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
With the Republicans ability to filibuster in the Senate, and Bush's ability to veto bills passed by Congress, ...
Except that the Republicans never filibuster anything, and Bush never vetoes anything. (With a couple of minor exceptions.)
9.5.2008 2:30pm
SATA_Interface:
Hoosier, is ZOG an backwards-acronym (backronym?!) for the Gnomes of Zurich?? I have to know!

And DB is correct in his media criticism. The NYT skewed the facts to fit an op-ed. Not very honest. And I don't DB is a pimp for McCain either; he has a good ombudsman's eye for media bias that manufactures reality to fit a column. It's one thing to avoid facts in support of your point and is another entirely to create a fact to support your point.
9.5.2008 2:33pm
SATA_Interface:
Wait, Republicans don't filibuster anything?? And there were 70 cloture votes in 07.
9.5.2008 2:44pm
josh:
This is an absurd post. The notion that "reform" would be (or should be) directed at the party only two years in power after ten years (1996-2006) of Republican rule is intellectually dishonest as to hardly merit response.

Are the democrats responsible for the outright corruption of late (see Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Abramoff et al. And, please, don't even start with anecdotal evidence of democrats getting busted. Until you can come up with a list to match these: http://senate2008guru.blogspot.com/2007/08/ republican-culture-of-corruption-2007.html, don't waste your breath)

Are the dems responsible for torture? warrantless wiretapping? wrongly political hiring? cencorship of scientific (global warming) or budgetary (medicare) data to advance political points, etc. etc.?

If that's what you believe, please list and provide citations for the specific criminal acts of the democratic congress in the last two years that needs reform.
9.5.2008 2:57pm
pluribus:
The Ace:
<blockquote>
Now you can sit there and pretend Justice Kennedy is a "Republican" which is meaningless and in fact you can not possibly know, but it that is all you are doing, pretending.
And there is a reason for that.
</blockquote>
The reason is because it is a fact. I quote:
<blockquote>
In his years as a private practitioner in San Francisco and Sacramento, Kennedy was an able lawyer of <b>conservative</b> inclination and <b>Republican</b> Party affiliation, as was his father. . . . Like his father before him, Kennedy was a <b>Republican</b>. . . . Nevertheless, in the early 1970s he was asked to serve on a commission to draft a tax-limitation initiative known as Proposition 1 for Ronald Reagan, then the governor of California. Although the ballot proposition failed in 1973, Kennedy had impressed the Reagan camp with his constitutional expertise. . . . His <b>conservative</b> philosophy and his <b>Republican</b> party affiliation led to Kennedy's first judicial appointment. In 1975 President Gerald R. Ford appointed him to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. . . . Although appointed by a President who was both <b>Republican</b> and <b>conservative</b>, Kennedys tenure on the Court has seen him take a somewhat mixed path. Kennedy's philosophy seems to be <b>conservative</b> and libertarian. . . .
</blockquote>
http://www.answers.com/topic/anthony-kennedy

Again, facts trump opinions.
9.5.2008 3:25pm
Hoosier:
Mark Field (mail):

No need to guild the lilly.



No, no, no. Lillies don't have guilds, only apples and oranges have guilds. Lillies have fleurs. Or maybe they are fleurs; what do the French know anyway?


What the "French know": The Lilly Guild holds its office space under a Fleur de Lease.
9.5.2008 3:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
David M. Nieporent I have it on good authority that the Vice President, tasked with breaking ties in the Senate, was a partisan shamless liberal during that time.
What on earth doess that have to do with anything? After Jeffords switched, it wasn't a tie; it was 51-49 Democrats. Which is why Tom Daschle got to be majority leader rather than Trent Lott.
9.5.2008 5:05pm
mostly lurking:
I swear I have lost IQ points following this thread and have lost valuable minutes from my life, and that has never happened at VC before. Good grief!

My perception of GWB's tenure as President sees phases. We have phase one, characterized by feces-flinging over Florida. Whatever. Phase two, characterized by responses to 9/11 and sucking up to Dem congresscritters. See NCLB, etc. Phase three has gone on for a long time and revolved around Iraq, justifying Iraq, feces-flinging over Iraq, and shocked surprise over Iraq. My perception of Congress during that time also sees phases. Phase one, feces-flinging and whining about Florida. Whatever. Phase two, whining about sharing power and fighting over obscure procedure rules. Whatever. When control of the houses shifts to a different color of monkey, the feces-flinging continues. Whatever. At the end of the fight, the water hole is full of feces.

I am a news junkie and a rabid partisan and I can't stand this anymore. Who has the time and energy? Doesn't anybody have a day job? As a colleague observed one late afternoon "This is all so... high school."
9.5.2008 7:43pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
To paint the lily, to gild refined gold, to throw a perfume on the violet -- Shakespeare.
9.5.2008 9:38pm
snelson (mail):
"And since when is a Supreme Court decision "Democratic" or "Republican"? "

Since Demorats decided that they would filibuster every nominee they didn't like. See also Bork, Robert.

Sure, the Rethuglicans controlled the Senate; Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, just to name a couple of real reliable conservatives...

And of course the unelected bureaucracy, comitting treason by outing CIA agents (Richard Armitage, remember), disclosing classified programs to the Slimes, etc. Doesn't do you any good to get laws passed if unelected, union organized, liberal civil servants can decide not to implement them.
9.6.2008 9:26am