Reid goes to the mattresses

He’s chosen his ground well.

Given the increasingly geriatric nature of the Senate, making the Republicans actually conduct a talk-all-night, cots-in-the-cloakroom filibuster raises the ante substantially. If Reid carries through, he might be able to curb the routine use of the filibuster to carry out the Republicans’ published threat to deny the Democratic-led Congress any legislative accomplishment whatsoever.

Reid has chosen his ground well: Iraq is a highly salient issue, with overwhelming public opposition to an open-ended commitment. If the next week of news coverage is all about the Republicans supporting the President rather than the troops, I don’t see any downside.

The Left Blogosphere and many Democratic voters have been frustrated by Reid’s gentlemanly tactics. I think he’s playing rope-a-dope. Now when he gets tough, it’s evidently in response to public demand. What he seems to remember, that his critics forget, is that it isn’t public opinion today that counts; it’s public opinion a year from November. It doesn’t much matter that the last three months of coverage has been about “ineffectual Democrats,” as long as the next sixteen months is about “obstructionist Republicans.” Once that narrative is established, Reid can go nuclear in various ways &#8212 riding a bunch of items that got filibustered on the White House Appropriation, for example &#8212 without looking unreasonable.

Just remember: Fabius Maximus wasn’t playing for a draw when he kept avoiding battle. He was weakening Hannibal’s forces as a prelude to destroying them.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com