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May 24, 2005


from First Read:

With the nuclear option suddenly a moot point after so much time, money, and effort spent by both sides, Washington plays the usual game of winners and losers. A White House official tells NBC's Bob Kur that the deal, which gets some Bush nominees a floor vote, is a "positive development." Democrats cast it as a loss for Bush that seven of his US senators bucked his wishes and struck a deal. The Chattering Class sees a big defeat for aspiring presidential candidate Frist at the hands of aspiring presidential candidate McCain. Judiciary chair and moderate Arlen Specter wins in having made it through without being forced to reveal how he'd vote. The bases are deflated on both sides, though more so on the right. The press corps wins by getting a deal right when there was nothing left to say.

First Read's take: Everyone wins, in that had there been a vote, everyone would have lost. The deal comes as new Gallup data echoes the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in its gloomy news for Bush and its verdict that Congress doesn't share the public's priorities. The Senate meets at 9:45 am today, with the floor vote on Priscilla Owen expected around 11:00 am -- and with lots of committees getting busy on lots of legislation.

I don't know yet who won, but I have no doubt Frist lost.

more press reaction, and this time a decent Note:

Conventional wisdom winners: Harry Reid; the judges who get confirmed under the deal; the Democrats; the Gang of 14; the traditions of the Senate.

Actual winners: 10 members of the Gang of 14; the judges who get confirmed under the deal; the people who devised the White House strategy of (disengagement; David Rogers; Dan Balz; Norm Ornstein; advertisers on A & E (the Fox News Channel broadcast McCain's pitch for his movie in its entirety!)

Conventional wisdom losers: Sen./Leader/Dr. Frist; the nominees thrown from the sled; James Dobson, Nan Aron, and their allies.

Actual losers: Some cable news producers; four members of the Gang of 14; public orgies of self-congratulation.

Conventional wisdom too-soon-to-say-how-they-fared: the White House.

Actual too-soon-to-say-how-they-fared: the White House; Dr. Frist; Sen. Reid; Sen. McCain.

See also:
7. When — and if — the deal falls apart. What happens to Brett Cavanaugh and William Haynes. (We checked this morning with tippy-top Republican and Democratic aides, and Democrats insist there's a side deal to drop them while Republicans think there's no deal at all. Do Democrats have reason to believe that the two won't get out of committee?)

Gotta agree with DemFromCT: Frist landed facefirst from his leap from the cliff. He's well on the way to being 2008's Dan Quayle.

Other than that, we'll just have to wait and see.

Loose ends ... The Rad's picked a fight, and the Mod's won it. Momentum? Stem cells ahead. Bolton. Brown (or other designated loser). Transportation veto? Exactly who the Mod's are will vary from issue to issue.

Saad was an odd throw-in, who probably would have lost anyway.

McCain has become "over my dead body" material for the theocons. Frist a laughingstock.

The "Don't Go There" faction -- much larger than 14 -- is relieved ... and grateful?

7+7 makes the bargain much more durable than 6+6.

Specter didn't sign on, possibly due to "corrupt bargain" concerns, possibly to preserve his prerogatives as Judiciary Chair ... but definitely relieved at the bullet dodged and the center reanimated.

Frist took to the Senate floor this morning, threatening to revive the Nuclear Option at the drop of a hat. Reid declared it dead "for our lifetime". We'll see.

"I don't know yet who won, but I have no doubt Frist lost."

- He just ended 10 years of procedural Senate warfare on judges to the Republicans benefit.

- He retains purity in the eyes of the Republican base.

- And he avoided becoming radioactive by avoiding an actual nuclear war.

I understand the insta-reaction is that Frist suffers, but if I were his consigliere, I'd be pouring the champagne right now.

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