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An Alito conspiracy theory

Senator Lincoln Chafee (RINO - RI) has just ended his splendid little Hamlet bit, saying he'll vote against confirming Alito, thus ending the tortuous suspense for all of us (I'd been biting my nails on the edge of my seat, Senator. Really.)

All right, so what? Perhaps there's nothing more here than meets the eye. On the other hand, this whole scenario seems to be playing out precisely along the lines of a conspiracy theory I hatched a week or two ago.

I was sitting around at work, bored as usual, so I decided to play "What Would Bill Frist Do?" which is a parlor game that never fails to amuse me. If I'm Bill Frist, I know that Alito is pretty much guaranteed a solid majority in the Senate. The only real drama is in whether the Democrats can close ranks enough to sustain a filibuster.

Harry Reid never seemed to think his party had the votes to do it, and they probably don't. It's risky pool, though, because if Alito gets confirmed with fewer than 60 votes, the Kos/MoveOn axis will go absolutely batshit ballistic (no, I mean more so than usual.) They'll turn on their own party, and the GOP will go into this year's mid-terms with a deeply divided opposition.

So let's say you're Bill Frist, and it's starting to look like Alito may get confirmed with 60 votes or more. Wouldn't it be tempting to go to Chafee, Snowe and company and say, "Look, under the circumstances, you can vote against the guy if you want to. You have the blessing of the Senate leadership." Such a move could get Alito's totals back down under the magic number of 60, thus triggering a Democratic schism, but still confirm him with a comfortable majority.

I can't help but wonder whether that's precisely what's happening. The predicted "Aye" count is currently hovering between 58 and 62 or so, depending on whom you ask. Combine that with the coalescing of support for a filibuster that we saw over the weekend, and the stage is perfectly set for my evil, cynical, Fristian ploy.

Anyway, right or wrong, it's going to be interesting nonetheless to see how today's cloture vote goes. The Democrats are in a tough situation. They clearly have no real desire for a filibuster, because (among other things) it would hand the Republicans another big campaign issue this fall, not to mention a great talking point for Bush's upcoming SOTU address. On the other hand, they're hoping that by going through the motions and failing, they will at least mollify some of the fire-breathing elements in their own base.

So happy Senate watching tonight! I'll be there, with a beer in hand, monitoring Alito developments and 24 simultaneously.


That is absolutely Rovian in its Machiavellianism!

We who are about to be cynical salute you!

I think you're giving Frist waaaaay more credit than he deserves. He's just not that Machiavellian. He might want to be. And maybe he thinks he is, but I just don't buy it. Maybe a very smart man, but crafty? Eh.

Maybe Rove told him what to do. ;-)

Have to throw in with my old friend (in time, not her age!) K. I have never been dazzled with Frist, much less believe he has a Machiavellian bone in his entire doctor's bag.

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