Thursday, May 26, 2005


Senator John Thune is fighting tooth and nail to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota from closing. He's not alone in his fight, as Senators from a bevy of states including Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are all rather upset at the recent decision by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to close military bases in their respective home states. And these Senators are certainly not alone in their fury, either. The military and civilian personnel that would be negatively affected by the base closures are also up in arms (pun not really intended). The folks who oppose these closures are from every walk of life, from United States Senators down to mechanics and janitors, but these individuals all share one thing, their motivation. No matter what they say, each one of them are in this fight because of self-interest.

The politicians want to get reelected, and that's really the bottom-line for why they are involved at all. They might say something loosely related to the "war on terror," or the "compromising of America's security," but that is all just cover. If this were the movie Liar Liar, then Thune and the rest of this roving band of base closure opponents would have to say that "We have to stand up tall to save these bases, because regardless of their relevance to America's security, if they close, I won't get reelected." Sorry if this seems coarse, but I am just trying to inject a little honesty into this debate.

The soldiers and civilian employees who work at the base are also driven by self-interest, and they aren't really trying to hide it, unlike our friends on Capitol Hill. I feel for these folks, really I do. The military personnel whose families have to be uprooted as they are moved to another base somewhere else in the country, that's certainly a shame and I wish it didn't have to happen. What's worse, are the civilian employees who won't be transferred, but instead are forced to find totally new employment, in places like South Dakota where the economy isn't exactly booming, its mooing.

But these self-centered, if somewhat justified, concerns aside, the Federal government cannot, and should not, be required to keep every base across the globe open ad infinitum just because people have jobs there. This is reality, and keeping bases open when they don't need to remain open isn't reality, it's communism. Government continuing to fund programs just because people rely on them for income isn't healthy. These bases no longer fit into the security paradigm, which shifted 180 degrees on September 11.

We are no longer fighting the Cold War, for which most of these bases were built in the first place. The War on Terror isn't going to be won because we keep a base in rural South Dakota open, and that's not the issue anyway, lets be frank. The issue is jobs, and in a market economy, sometimes people lose their jobs. Even federal employees.

Monday, May 16, 2005

No Time To Go Nuclear

Talk of the "nuclear option" or, as the Republicans prefer to call it, the "constitutional option" has been swirling around Washington for about the past two months. In those eight weeks the nuclear fire has spread like a well-watered Kudzu vine, with the Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate exchanging verbal jabs at one another on the floor of the chamber, in press conferences, and back home in the district; yet they always play nice when they appear together, "we are in constant contact, trying to come up with a solution to this problem that will satisfy both sides of the isle" is a common phrase heard when the players on this issue need to sound bipartisan and willing to compromise.

But they really aren't willing to compromise on this, and thats the whole reason we are here right now, discussing it at all. Basically, the nuclear option would remove the judicial filibuster from the aresnal of obstructionist weaponry that the minority party has been more than willing to use in the past three years. They have withheld 10 of President Bush's over 200 judicial nominations, which might not sound like a lot, until you consider that no judicial nominee in the over 200 year history of the Senate has been denied an up or down floor vote via filibuster.

The bottom line here is that the Republicans are the majority party, and the Democrats are in the minority, and the minority can't obstruct just for the sake of obstructing. The Republican majority (in both Houses of Congress, and in the White House) is the majority for a reason, because a majority of the American electorate put them there, ergo a majority of the American electorate agrees with the principles of the Republican party. Logic tells us therefore that the Democrats are thwarting the will of the people, and thats never beneficial, particularly in a representative democracy.

Needless to say, the Republicans shouldn't change the rule, they shouldn't kill the judicial filibuster. I just don't think its worth it, because one day, maybe not too far off in the future, the Republicans will be in the minority, and they might want to fire up a judicial filibuster to stop someone like Michael Moore from becoming a Supreme Court justice. And just as they start to reach into their aresnal, the Democrats will gently remind them "ah-ah-ah, there will be NONE of that." As my dad always said, pick your fights wisely.