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May 16, 2005

One Question for Walter Shapiro

Political Wire tracked down Walter Shapiro, one of the best political columnists, on a fellowship at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Since leaving USA Today last year, Shapiro has begun blogging for the Huffington Post and is working on a book proposal "which is more personal and essayish than as straight political" as his excellent 2003 campaign chronicle, One-Car Caravan.

Political Wire: Which party stands to lose the most from a Senate filibuster showdown?

Shapiro: "If Bill Frist indeed knows how to count votes and the nuclear option is successfully detonated, the Democrats are likely to be the short-term losers during a period that extends through the Senate vote on Rehnquist's successor. For there is just no way for the Democrats to look high-minded while they are employing obstructionist tactics to get even for loss of the filibuster. But, ultimately, it is hard not to see this as a Pyrrhic victory for Senate Republicans. Not only will the next Democratic president be giggling at GOP folly when she or he starts nominating federal judges in 2009 or 2013, but also if the filibuster is eliminated for judges, it will be philosophically hard to maintain it for legislation. So unless the Democrats completely abandon their belief in activist government in a new bout of triangulation, the Republicans will someday loudly lament losing a major procedural weapon the next time a president tries to provide health care for the uninsured. But then I'm old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s when eliminating the filibuster was a litmus test of liberal faith."
Tommorrow, we'll ask Shapiro for his views on the Bush administration's second term.


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