Monday, March 24, 2008


I know Republicans are feeling their oats right now as they watch Democrats battle, but I wasn't quite expecting torture enabler John Yoo, now a Berkeley law professor and American Enterprise Institute "visiting scholar," to try to put the boot in. It's not that I don't think of him as a shameless partisan apparatchik -- I just thought that penning Democrat-baiting op-eds was a subspecies of partisan hackery that didn't play to his strengths.

But here he is, on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, with just such an op-ed. And as it turns out, I was right -- he's not very good at this. Try to follow the tortured logic as he attempts to convert the Democrats' intraparty battle into a full-blown constitutional crisis:

... there are a total of 795 superdelegates, none of whom are required to honor the will of the voters of their state at the party's convention.

Sound undemocratic? It is....

Unelected delegates ... have more than twice the votes of the richest state prize, California.

So much for unfiltered democracy. In truth, the Democratic Party runs by rules that are the epitome of the smoke-filled room and ensure, in essence, that congressional incumbents exercise a veto power over the nomination.

This delegate dissonance wasn't anything the Framers of the U.S. Constitution dreamed up. They believed that letting Congress choose the president was a dreadful idea. Without direct election by the people, the Framers said that the executive would lose its independence and vigor and become a mere servant of the legislature....

Press reports indicate that the Framers were right to worry. The Clinton and Obama campaigns are now competing hard to win superdelegates. Members of Congress no doubt will cut deals for themselves and their constituents. A water project here, some pet legislation there -- surely such details are worth the nomination.... As we close in on the Democratic convention, the demand for superdelegates will escalate, with the choice of the nominee becoming increasingly the work of political intrigue, inside deals, and power struggles among special interest groups -- just as the Framers feared....

Is your head spinning yet?

Let's review how far we've deviated from reality:

* Not all superdelegates are members of Congress, or even current officeholders of any kind.

* It's far from certain that superdelegates' choices will be made in smoke-filled rooms -- the nominating process is probably much too public, and a good thing, too. There's a very good chance that superdelegates will recognize the damage they'd do to the party if they neutralize the outcomes of primaries and caucuses.

* Even if you accept the notion that the superdelegate process will be sleazy, corrupt, and undemocratic, the Constitution says nothing about how parties pick candidates. We're still going to have a democratic general election, no? So how would the choice of one party nominee by superdelegates, some of whom are members of Congress, be equivalent to "letting Congress choose the president"?

* And, er, who says "direct election by the people" was the Framers' vision of how we should choose a president? If the Framers had wanted direct election, they wouldn't have put the Electoral College process in the Constitution -- a process that doesn't even require electors to vote the way citizens of their states vote.

Hackery. Absolute hackery. Try again, John.

No comments: