Various bloggers have reported that turncoat senator Jeffords of Vermont is willing to come back to the Republican party if he can keep a committee chairmanship. I'm not up on all the Senate rules, but it seems to me there might be some possibilities here for a truly worthy punishment:
1. If I'm not mistaken, the Senate first votes as a whole to decide who controls the chamber, and then the parties divide up to pass out majority and minority committee assignments without any interference from the other side. Would it be possible to string Jeffords along with ambiguous promises until after the vote on control? Promises like "we'll make sure you're taken care of" or "we'll give you a committee chairmanship suited to your experience". Once he had helped vote the Republicans back into power, they could then leave him off all the committees, or all the good committees, whichever is worse. (Are there committees so low in prestige that being on them is worse than not being on any?) He would then have three possible courses of action, all humiliating: accept being stripped of power, resign from the Senate, or switch sides again and beg the Democrats to take him in again.
2. It would be even better if the Republicans could hold off organizing the majority committee assignments until after the Democrats had organized the minority side. That way, if Jeffords went back to the Democrats with hat in hand, they would not be able to give him any seats on the minority side without bumping someone else, which would irritate the loyal Democrats.
3. Of course, that might not work, since the Democrats could wait to assign the minority seats until after the Republicans had divvied up the majority seats and chairs. All the more so if they suspected something was up. But couldn't the Republicans give Jeffords a chairmanship and various committee assignments, wait until the Democrats had assigned their seats -- surely no more than a week -- then go back and reshuffle their own, leaving Jeffords with nothing at all, or nothing much worth having? Telling a few Republicans that they were going to get better than expected assignments would be much easier than telling a few Democrats that they were losing their plums.
I just hope the senate Republican leadership is ruthless enough to do something like this. It would be good for the party and good for the country, particularly encouraging the first two virtues on the official Boy Scout list. (That's "trustworthy" and "loyal", if you've forgotten.)
By the way, in college, I once attended a lecture by Mortimer Adler in which he mentioned the Boy Scouts' list of twelve virtues and implied that he was sure none of us could recite them all. None of us was rude enough to correct him on the spot, but I was certainly not the only one in the audience who had to suppress a strong urge to jump up and shout "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent". I guess the "courteous" part had stuck.Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 20, 2002 08:09 PM