Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here's a real waste of time...

The only people who care about Obama's "Czars" are Becktards and cranky senators, and unfortunately one of the latter is a Democrat who's taking this seriously enough to hold a hearing on it. This is just a reminder to me of how silly the separation of powers idea is these days. Parliamentary democracies have no sort of executive confirmation process at all, though there are numerous differences between our system and parliamentary systems--all ministers are legislators, for one thing, and are therefore directly accountable to the people. I can understand having ministerial and legislative types be separate people so that constituencies are served better, but the notion of senate confirmability doesn't really make much sense from that angle. Aside from perhaps judicial appointments, this notion should be either significantly reformed or shelved, as it serves little purpose. Almost all the time during these things, you get large majorities for confirmation and opposition members talking about how the president should be able to pick his (or her, someday) team. So why bother with the middleman? And there are always the times when the opposition decides to oppose nominees regardless of merit in hopes of scoring political points, as has happened with, among others, Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen and Judge David Hamilton, Obama's appointment to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Surely, this sort of activity doesn't fall under the clause of "advise and consent", as in those cases, we're getting neither.

So, I say this: the Constitution does indeed require advice and consent, but why not flip the notion of confirmation hearings around? Presidential appointments (except for judicial appointments) should go forward unless, say, 60% of the Senate disapproves them. There could still be hearings, but consent will be assumed unless a substantial majority object. And there would be a time limit to object--say one month. If the nomination isn't rejected within a month, then it counts as a confirmation. I think that this would improve matters quite nicely. No other country has our combination of antiquated, consensus-driven political institutions and relatively recent and highly polarized domestic politics. I think this would improve the situation considerably, though I wouldn't be surprised if the Obama team decided not to risk the political capital on it. Roosevelt's court-packing scheme comes to mind as an example of meddling in the institutions of government in a way that isn't technically unConstutional and is likely more democratic, but is politically unwise all the same.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.