Sunday, July 29, 2007

Will the real Partisans please stand up?

This Yglesias post got me thinking about which politicians are the most partisan. Here's Yglesias explaining who is not partisan:
Say what you will about this stuff, but none of it is partisan. Bolton was, after all, perfectly correct to say that the deal Nick Burns struck with North Korea and that Bush agreed to contradicts the basic premises of the Bush foreign policy. The partisan thing for Bolton to have done would have been to keep his qualms quiet and let the Great Leader bask in praise. Similarly, for Democrats to attack Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama isn't partisanship. What's partisanship is when people refrain from criticizing their party's leading figures.
Partisanship is when you refrain from attacking people in your own party for ideological differences or when attack people in the other party for views which you actually agree with. Too often nowadays writers and Op-Ed columnists equate honest political debate with partisanship simply because they can't imagine that people would actually disagree with them on the merits so they simply assume the opposing side is motivated by partisanship.

If you want to find the real partisans, look for politicians who have have taken strong public positions on important topics but failed to follow up that rhetoric by actually voting against the party line. If you want people who are clearly not partisan at all, see politicians willing to put their own party's senate seat at risk simply because they think that perusing the best foreign policy is more important than party orthodoxy.

Take Arlen Specter, Republican senator from Pennsylvania. He strongly suspects that Alberto Gonzales purposefully lied to congress (and him) while under oath, questioning him harshly. But when it came to actually calling for a special council to investigate suddenly Specter wasn't all that interested calling a special council "a great fundraising device for the Democratic Party."

It's interesting that he should frame his opposition to the special council in such starkly partisan terms. Specter does not oppose a special council because he thinks Gonzales is innocent. He doesn't oppose the special council because he thinks he'll be able to resolve the matter with Bush (perhaps by convincing him to dismiss Gonzales). He opposes the special council because - as much as he dislikes seeing a presidential appointee commit perjury - he hates the idea of helping the Democrats even more.

If that isn't rank partisanship I don't know what is.

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