With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I have been wracking my fraying brain for something to really be thankful for in regards to our national politics. For example, there still seems a pulse in congressional negotiations over immigration reform, but not enough throbbing to feel a heartfelt thanks. Not yet.
Half of me is thankful for the procedural rules change forced by the Democrat majority in the Senate which allows presidential appointments (except for Supreme Court judges) to be decided by 51 votes, not 60, releasing the stranglehold of the filibuster that the Republicans have placed on so many of President Obama’s appointments while setting new records in obstruction.
However, the other half is unnerved by the likelihood that this will give the winning side in whatever Senates are to come the power to pack the lower courts with judges even more ideologically extreme than they are now. Also, after making this change, a future Senate could decide that the Supreme Court nominees would also be selected by a simple majority, allowing extremists on the right and left to be given life long terms… Whoa, Nellie! And we think we are polarized now?
Let’s save that to think about until after turkey day.
On the brighter side, I am thankful that we are drawing down our troops to low levels in Afghanistan, and perhaps no levels at all if the enigmatic potentate, titled-president there, Hamid Karsai, continues to make demands we cannot accept, such as the prerogative to try our troops in Afghan courts (a demand made by Iraq that prompted the withdrawal of all of our troops from there). But even if we leave a few thousand in country, ostensibly to train Afghanies and make strikes on nests of Al Kaida, who knows what support the central government can maintain once we are largely gone?
Might Al Kaida reestablish itself there? Yesterday I heard that Karsai might be hoping that if we leave he can make a deal with the Taliban. Though seemingly unlikely, who knows? Let’s leave that riddle for after Thanksgiving, too.
That wasn’t so much brighter after all. Was it. I do continue to be thankful that progress is being made in the destruction of the killer chemicals in Syria, but always the “but-er”, even if that succeeds, which would be great, the civil war remains hot and deadly with over 100,000 already dead and Assad’s strongest opposition seeming to stem from radical Muslim groups, who we wouldn’t want to prevail.
Meanwhile, in coming to terms with Assad, we have reduced pressure on changing the government because of its role in maintaining the chemical destruction program. We’d like Assad gone, but not quite yet.
So, when it comes to giving thanks in terms of national issues, the best I can come up with is the agreement last week regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Not that I’m all that thankful yet, given its limitations and the slippery nature of Iran’s government/religious nexus, and the friction level raised with our allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, six months of further negotiations while essentially holding Iran’s nuclear program in momentary check seems good to me. At least it seems better than any other alternatives I’ve heard mentioned. (*1)
And, though akin to a T-Day dinner featuring processed turkey, I’m thankful for that.
(*1). By the way, while the deal is open to criticism from various angles, anyone who suggests there is an analogy between this deal and the one made with Hitler at Munich in 1938, is cherry picking facts to suit their purposes and leaving out key differences. In short, they are being dishonest as Eugene Robinson suggests in this piece in the Washington Post.