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December 18, 2014

Byron York: No, Ted Cruz Did Not Let Harry Reid Confirm Appointments That Otherwise Would Have Failed

A few weeks ago, I noted that if an "expert" is not on your side, he's not a benefit to you. In fact, he's a threat.

What I mean by that is simple: An expert who's actually on your side can provide you with useful and true information and advice.

An expert who's not on your side can use his claimed expertise to bully you into accepting lies as the truth.

Witness Jonathan Gruber and all the alleged "Health Care Wonks" of the press who lied the public down the river.

Last week, Establishment types began claiming that Ted Cruz, by seeking a vote on immigration, somehow invoked a little-understood part of Senate rules which then permitted Harry Reid to ram through a bunch of stalled progressive appointments.

It was not quite explained how this rule operated or how Cruz had activated it.

The whole story relied on the bullying power of asserted expertise: Trust us, we understand Senate rules, and, while they're too complicated to explain right now, you'll just have to take our word for it that Ted Cruz permitted Harry Reid to do something he was otherwise powerless to do.

I don't like being told to just take things on faith, by anybody. I have not liked doing so since I was a child. Since I was a child, I rejected most claims of authority about what conclusions I should draw. If I don't understand the logic and facts which lead to the conclusion, I don't accept the conclusion as true, no matter how passionately the expert demands I take his word about things.

Which is not the same as saying I reject the conclusion as false: If I don't understand things, I can't say the conclusion is false, just as I can't accept it as true. I myself can draw no conclusions about it. I can cite the conclusions of experts, and even trust the conclusions of experts, but what I cannot do is take the conclusions of experts to be my own conclusions.

A man who's ignorant of the basic facts and principles in play does not get to have conclusions; he can only regurgitate the conclusions of others.

At any rate, I was skeptical of this claim not for any especially strong reason, but just due to pocket (fallible) heuristics, like: The people claiming this did not offer up a detailed explanation, permitting me to follow their logic and check their claimed facts. They just wanted me to Accept It.

People who have the truth on their side have no need of demanding I Accept things, given that they can prove them.

I also sort of didn't like the shabby sorts of people making the claim, like John McCain, who I know fancies himself as honorable and true but in fact is a low, sleazy liar in pursuit of his political goals. (See: "Build the dang fence.")

It's also the sort of Too Good to Be True/Proves All of the Arguments We've Always Been Making sort of claim. I've generally found these sorts of claims to be false.

Anyway, I didn't have strong reasons to doubt it, but I did have some reasons.

But, not having any real insight into the truth here, I refrained from writing about it.

That wasn't just me being lazy. I just get so fucking sick of having to offer Strong Opinions on things about which I know nearly nothing. Sometimes I like to implicitly confess my ignorance and not write about things about which I know nothing.

And now Byron York, someone I tend to trust a lot, has looked into it, and his conclusion is this was all nonsense.

Specifically, the accusation is that Cruz's initiative created a break in the consideration of the spending bill that allowed Reid to take the opportunity to set in motion the procedures necessary to get the confirmations underway. By doing that on Saturday, instead of having to wait until after the spending bill was passed on, say, Monday, the thinking goes, Reid got to pass more nominations than he might otherwise have. And of course, given that Democrats are about to give up control of the Senate, this was Reid's last chance to confirm Obama's nominees on his own.

There are four problems with the anti-Cruz scenario. The first is that on Dec. 9, days before Cruz threw a wrench in the works, Reid signaled his intention to confirm all of Obama's remaining nominees, no matter how long it took.

"You know, maybe we'll have to work the weekend and maybe even work next week," Reid told reporters. "I know that's tough duty for everybody, but we may have to do that. We have a number of nominations we're going to do. We're going to -- we have nine judges left. We're going to do those. We're going to do [Surgeon General nominee] Dr. [Vivek] Murthy. We're going to do the head of Immigration Naturalization, ICE. Social Security administrator and other things. I've given a list to the Republicans and it's up to them to decide how long we stay."

Does that sound like a majority leader who is ready to pack up and go home without passing his party's nominees? No, it doesn't. And that leads to the second problem with the scenario, which is the nature of Harry Reid himself. It is simply impossible to believe that the man who made the Senate pass Obamacare on Christmas Eve would abandon the president's nominees out of the goodness of his heart so that Republican colleagues could go home to make scheduled dates at the ballet or visits with family. That is not Harry Reid's style. If Cruz had not acted, would Reid have said, 'Well, it looks like we would have to work all the way until Dec. 18 to finish these nominations, so let's just put them aside and go home and have a nice time, even though it's our party's last chance to pass them." Does anyone believe Reid would have done that?

You can read the other two points.

The best argument made for the Cruz-Ruined-Everything scenario is less persuasive. The idea is that while Senators must stay in DC to pass the CRomnibus, they could go home once that is done; so if the CRominbus passed earlier, Democrat senators might bug out of Washington to get an early start on their vacations, rather than stick around to vote on appointments.

I find this unpersuasive and silly in its speculation. First of all, we were only talking about a couple of days.

Second, there would have been Holy Hell to Pay from the leftwing blogger/activist base if Democrat Senators went on vacation instead of passing President Princess' oh-so-important progressive appointees.

I just can't think of who they have in mind, when they postulate these leftwing senators willing to use the nuclear option to get Obama's picks installed, but not leftwing enough to stick around the couple of days needed to do so.

Such people might theoretically exist, but no one's pointed to a specific senator and said, "Well, Al Franken totally loves his vacation, he would have been out of here."

Let me point out the obvious:

The Republican Establishment is very similar to the Progressive Establishment in the dim view it takes of the Tea Party, and also in the belief that it is itself "rational" and "fact-based," as opposed to those emotional, hot-headed fabulists in the Tea Party who just "make up facts to comport with their ideology" and who "just make shit up so they can yell about it on talk radio."

Let me suggest here that making up silly fantasies about Ted Cruz enabling Harry Reid to do what Harry Reid could always have done (and which he said he would do) does not convince me that the Establishment is as "fact-based" is it believes itself to be, nor as above "just making up silly partisan hokum to make people angry so they can yell about it."

In fact, it appears like The Establishment has all of these failings too. Wrapped in entitlement and arrogance, to boot.

So if The Establishment wants my vote -- and I am a gettable vote -- it has to actually act as if being "fact-based" and "above made-up nonsense smears" is something that's important to them, rather than just something they claim to be all about (as they gleefully make up silly nonsense to smear the Tea Party with).

And speaking of Joe Scarborough.

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posted by Ace at 05:01 PM

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