With Filibuster Flip-Flops, George Will Displays His (Groucho) Marxist Tendencies

George Will (cc photo: Keith Allison)

George Will (cc photo: Keith Allison)

George Will may be the dean of conservative punditry with a reputation for sober consistency, but when it comes to intellectual honesty and principle–well, a person could get whiplash trying to follow his opportunistic and hypocritical positions over the years.

On Thursday’s Special Report on Fox News (1/21/13), George Will was sad that the Democrats had invoked the “nuclear option,” preventing Senate minorities from using the filibuster to block presidential appointments, other than Supreme Court nominees. “It was a melancholy day for American life,” said Will:

It diminishes minority rights, which are always at threat in a democracy, where majorities rule. It further expands presidential power, which is too powerful under Republicans and Democrats alike.

Ten years ago, in the column “Coup Against the Constitution” (Washington Post, 2/28/03), Will declared the hallowed filibuster an outrage against the framers.  Concerned that “41 Senate Democrats” might succeed in blocking a Bush judicial  nominee, Will wrote:

If Senate rules, exploited by an anti-constitutional minority, are allowed to trump the Constitution’s text and two centuries of practice, the Senate’s power to consent to judicial nominations will have become a Senate right to require a supermajority vote for confirmation.

And 10 years before that,  when a Republican Senate minority filibustered President Clinton’s economic stimulus bill, Will was all for it. In a column headlined “The Framers’ Intent” (Washington Post, 4/25/93), he praised “the right of a minority to use extended debate to obstruct Senate action,” and he cheered “the generation that wrote and ratified the Constitution” for properly establishing “the Senate’s permissive tradition regarding extended debates.”

Dismissing a liberal critic of the rule, Will wrote:

The Senate is not obligated to jettison one of its defining characteristics, permissiveness regarding extended debate, in order to pander to the perception that the presidency is the sun around which all else in American government–even American life–orbits.

In short, Will supports the filibuster when the senate minority is Republican and opposes it when it’s Democratic. Like Groucho Marx, Will has his principles, and if you don’t like them–well, he has others.

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.