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The Other Nuclear Option

Democrats are feeling touchy about Senate Republicans’ invoking the “nuclear option,” should they decide to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.), referring to Sen. Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) and use of the fissile parliamentary procedure, warned, "If he ever tries to exercise that, he’s going to see a real filibuster if I’m living and able to stand on my feet or sit in my seat."

Curmudgeonly rhetoric can be safely de-escalated by sentient staffers, and its use only reaffirms one’s commitment to massive retaliation, which serves deterrence.  So far so good.

However, a problem arises for Senate Democrats if they fire every trick question in their arsenal without scaring enough RINOs to prevail in an up-or-down vote.  If Alito is half as hard to light up as Roberts was, they may become frustrated enough to try “the other nuclear option,” which is the use of slurs and insults — really bad ones.  This can be likened to the first use of a battlefield nuclear weapon, so we’re not talking spitballs.

With political wars, as with real ones, a weaker opponent is prone in a hopeless situation to consider lobbing a small nuke.  Tit-for-tat retaliation is expected, but one side’s proportional response is another’s wanton escalation.  As with the big nuclear option, threats and commitment have a place.

To keep Democrat loudmouths on their talking points (which interest groups have helpfully provided), Republicans have rattled sabers of their own. "Washington Whispers" in U.S. News and World Report reports that "Questioning Alito’s credibility and character will be hit back hard."

Democrats might dare a sneering “Scalito” reference — or perhaps an insane scream to unnerve — but if they venture into mafia jokes or get personal, they face destruction, assuredly.  Who knows, you might see a Republican show up wearing a life preserver with a neatly stenciled “Chappaquiddick.”  Or if they get sassy about CAP (Concerned Alumni for Princeton), a Republican might reference “a pointy cap my good friend and esteemed colleague used to wear.” And there you’d have your filibuster and big nuclear option, sure as you’re standing on your feat or sitting in your seat.

Would Senate Democrats be stupid enough to use the other nuclear option?  I pose this as rhetorical question; if you’re reckless enough to liken our troops to Nazis or inveigh against “the white Christian party,” anything is possible.

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Written By

Mr. Moffat is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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