So it turns out to be a compromise on judges after all. Hard to know just how to read it, given that with freedom for Democrats to filibuster under “extraordinary circumstances” and for Republicans to nuke if “continuing commitments made in this agreement” are abridged, all it resolves for good is that Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryer, and Priscilla Owen will soon be Circuit Court Judges and William Myers and Henry Saad won’t be. But given that the Democrats’ position on this has, for better or worse (you can guess where I come down on that one), all along been one of extreme willingness to compromise (“We gave you the judge who thinks men should dominate their wives, but do you really need the one who thinks God has veto power over the constitution”), almost any compromise would have been a political victory for the Democrats. Not as big a victory as the one I suspect we could have had tomorrow (in part because I trust John McCain’s political instincts more than, say, Joe Lieberman’s). As compromises go, the word a few days ago was that the major sticking point was GOP resistance to language like this:

We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word “Advice” speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President’s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

So the Dems at least got something out of the negotiations. Today we saw a few Republican Senators buck the Senate leadership and the Senate buck the unilateral impulses of the White House. That counts for something. And the reason it happened is because public opinion has turned rather sharply against the Bush team and their exercise of their ostensible mandate. That’s a trend which should have implications which last much longer than this agreement. But only if the Democrats capitalize on it with a robust and aggressive vision. I’d say cutting this deal was a poor move, but those saying that the party had been taking a firm and principled stand which it undercut tonight forget that when it comes to steadfast refusal to let through extremist unqualified judges, the ship had sailed on that one – and driving it were Randians, theocrats, and Randian-theocrats who have now safely arrived in a court near you. The Democrats’ repreated invocation of outrageous nominees they’d let though, rather than making them seem eminently reasonable, just made them look sort of silly.

Speaking of the future, anyone who still thinks John McCain – in whose office the compromise was apparently signed – isn’t running for President has another think coming. Same goes for anyone arguing that he does whatever’s right regardless of politics. As for Bill Frist, I’m sure he’ll do well on the lecture circuit. Or at least, he has a better shot at it than at a serious run for the GOP nomination. Good news for him: washed up right-wing speakers, unlike sitting Senators, aren’t expected to go into inner cities where they have to worry about being stabbed to death by children of color with pencils. Now, back to spanish conjugations for me.

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