Saturday, May 14, 2005

A sad commentary

I had a pretty long talk tonight with a friend of a friend about our current political situation, and it was very wide-ranging. It gave me pause, though, to hear this line, "Look, I just care about my side winning, and if that means breaking tradition or even violating the Constitution, so be it. All of that is pretty outdated. We need a new revolution in this country."

Now, he's very liberal about how we treat drugs, jails, etc., but he thinks Bush and the GOP should get their way on judges no matter what. I guess he's a libertarian conservative, but the attitude is kind of scary. One of the things that makes our nation great is rule of law. Look at the Ukraine. They held a new election after the controversy of the first. We had Bush v. Gore. Both eventually worked out, but ours was more orderly, and no troops were ever needed. If we chuck that to get our way in political disputes, then we are setting ourselves up for the end of America as we know it. There's more that the comment made me feel, but I just don't know how to express it right now.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Wow, what a whopper this is

Charles Krauthammer today in the Washington Post declares that in the past two centuries Abe Fortas was the only filibuster of a judicial nominee, and then going to the Frist defense, said it's not the same because Fortas was being elevated, not appointed to the court in the first place. Mr. Krauthammer, perhaps you need a refresher course in recent Senate history.

Just last Sunday on Face the Nation, Senator Chuck Hagel spoke of the 62 Clinton nominees that were held up by the Republican Senate. Of those 62, the vast majority were held up in committee or not even given hearings, a huge amount of disrespect for a president. Now, of course, the GOP leaders all believe in courtesy to the president's choices.

Moving along, two Clinton nominees were filibustered. In the case of Richard Paez, the Senate voted cloture and he was approved. Marsha Berzon was also filibustered by Republicans. In fact, former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), who served in the Senate and was one of the Republicans who filibustered those justices, said, "Don't pontificate on the floor of the Senate and tell me that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States of America by blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don't think deserves to be on the circuit court....That is my responsibility. That is my advice and consent role, and I intend to exercise it."

A Republican senator, a mere five years ago, uttered the words that Democrats are being criticized for today. A Republican senator, denying the filibuster violated the Constitution, but now Republicans believe that the filibuster is unconstitutional. One of the people who joined with Mr. Smith in this filibuster? Why, none other than current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his Whip, Mitch McConnell. Gentlemen, would you please explain to me how you decided it was constitutional in 2000 to filibuster judges but it isn't now? Might it be that the President is a, dare I say it, Republican now, and so it's unconstitutional to hold up the judges that a Republican nominates, but it's perfectly constitutional to hold up the judges a Democrat nominates?

I could go on about the hypocrisy, but this is nothing more than switched roles. If cloture was acceptable by the same Senate leaders for Clinton's nominees, than by God, it ought to be good enough for Bush's. Having your party in the White House doesn't mean you can just toss out established rules and bull everything through that you want. Oh, yeah, filibusters wouldn't even be necessary if you hadn't stripped away the Senate's long established courtesy of allowing "blue slips" by home-state Senators of nominees, or allowing anonymous floor holds, other tactics that Republicans used against those 62 Clinton nominees, but of course, denied Democrats once Bush took office.

On Judicial nominees, according to this Senate document, cloture was invoked on judicial nominees from 1967-1992 five times, and failed three times. From 1993-2002, cloture was invoked six times and failed three times. It goes to say in that latter time period that filibusters most likely were threatened by Republicans, since they controlled the Senate for the vast majority of that time, and the minority Democrats would hardly filibuster Clinton's nominees. I'll attest that what I just said may seem a little weak, so feel free to find more solid evidence beyond the two nominees I found. For cloture to have been invoked, however, filibusters had to be an issue in those nominations, period, meaning that judicial filibusters, threatened or otherwise, are not a new issue, and are part of Senate history.

Without precedent, Mr. Krauthammer? Hardly.

Smears galore

Apparently Tom DeLay and Bill Frist mean business. In the last 24 hours, they have fired back in a major way at Democrats, and in Frist's case, at members of his own Senate caucus.

First, DeLay. A man who is under a huge cloud, whose friends and former employees are under state and federal investigation, is himself under ethics investigation, was quoted thusly: "No ideas. No leadership. No agenda. And, just in the last week, we can now add to that list, no class," DeLay said in a reference to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's remark to school children that President Bush was "a loser.""

First of all, I wasn't aware that Reid made that remark to schoolchildren, and no previous article I read made any mention of that whatsoever. Secondly, this is coming from the mouth of a man whose idea of leadership is to allow no debate, shove through whatever legislation he wants, use federal terrorism assets to track down Texas state legislators, and wrap himself in the cloak of the entire conservative movement when under attack. Sorry, Tom, no man is bigger than the movement, and you've had so many ethics violations that I've lost count. You attack everyone else for their lack of ethics, but refuse to acknowledge your own. Oh, hypocrite, won't you cry for me some more?

Now, Frist. The man is so desperate to win what appears now to be a losing battle that he approved ads to run against members of his own party to try and get them to vote for the nuclear option. Of course, senators are smarter and more plugged in than most of their constitutents, and take this sort of thing personally. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, for instance, are pissed off about it and Frist has likely lost their votes. What kind of jackass approves ads against their own people and expects increased loyalty? Oh, yeah, the same jackass who approved an ad saying Max Cleland was on the side on Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Cleland didn't deserve that crap. He lost three limbs in Vietnam and orignally proposed the Homeland Security Dept., and then when he voted against Bush's provision that those people receive no civil service protections, he got called a terrorist, basically.

Oh, how I hope Frist loses this one.

After reading around

I've come to the conclusion that it's quite possible no one has a single clue about Social Security and any changes to be made to it. Everyone says that everyone else is leaving out details or is doing the math wrong. At this point, who in the world can possibly claim to have it right???

Sad I forgot to write about this

My friend Wally was hurt in Iraq a couple of weeks ago. There was a mortar attack by insurgents on his base there, and despite suffering several wounds, he kept helping others injured in the attack before letting himself be cared for. He's hoping to come home now for his recovery. He lost the tips of several fingers and suffered some other wounds (we're not sure where) but by and large is alright. It's been our worry for a while that something would happen to him, and thank God that it was not more serious. He's Army, and he proved to be one tough SOB in that situation. I'd ask you all to pray for him and all our other brave men and women fighting over there and in Afghanistan.

Hillary as POTUS, round two

Des, my buddy over at GreatScat!, posted a comment asking what my reservations about a Hillary Clinton presidency would be. In the interests of fairness, here's both the plusses and minuses.

What Hillary does have going for her is that she is smart, she is tough, she is far more disciplined than her husband, and she's familiar with the terrain, so to say. She definitely could go into a room with a foreign leader and leave no doubt who's in charge. Those are all good things. She's sort of the left-wing Margaret Thatcher with her will.

Now, here are the negatives. She's divisive. As several books have shown, she was far more secretive and scorched-earth about handling the various investigations into herself and Bill. Bill wanted to have Ken Starr shown around the White House in 1995, and Hillary vetoed it right afterwards. She always stonewalled instead of cooperating. Yes, I know, there's lots of arguments for not cooperating, but there were things she could've done to make the process easier, and the same goes for Bill.

Furthermore, she doesn't have a lot of actual experience in office. She could run in 2012, with two Senate terms behind her, and she'd probably be better off for it. She'd end up being another John Edwards, in a sense. Going into 2008, the nation is going to need someone who can truly unite them, after eight years of the George "I will unite the parties but not through bipartisanship" Bush administration.

Hillary has too many enemies to do that. Kerry is equally as unlikely for it. Then again, had he run a halfway decent campaign, this wouldn't be an issue.
In 2008, I'd go for Mark Warner, for Edwards, for Wesley Clark (who seems to have found his running shoes) for Brian Schweitzer, even. I have nothing against a woman president, but if Hillary is going to do it, she should wait until 2012 for more experience.

Then again, in fairness, by 2012, many probably will have forgotten the Bill Clinton peace and prosperity record. This is going to be interesting what she does.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Even in London....

Nowhere on this planet, apparently, can you avoid talk of Hillary Clinton running for the White House in 2008. Even the Brits, fresh off a close election for Tony Blair (a good man, despite what many of my fellow Kossacks say about him), are talking. And no, it's not the ultra-liberal Guardian, but rather the staid, conservative, benchmark London Times.

In this story, the reporter says that today's appearance with Newt Gingrich is a further effort to shed her "liberal" tag and run for President. In an interesting twist, though, the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, Ed Cox, is thinking of running against her. After Rudy declined, it was thought her reelection might be a cakewalk, but perhaps not now.

I don't know what to think of her possibly running for President. A win would cement the legacy of the Clintons as political powerhouses. I have my doubts that it would be right for the nation, though, and that's my barometer for deciding. Then again, it's pretty ridiculous that the next election is being looked at with the past one only about half a year old. Does that say something about our media, or does it say something about Bush's status? It's an interesting question.

Didn't we say something about this?

Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security secretary, told USA Today that the administration often overruled him on raising the terror alert level. Since Ridge was the guy sent out to say there was no political motivation on it, he's best to know what really went on. And he's saying that they often raised the level unnecessarily.

Ridge said he wanted to “debunk the myth” that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.
“More often than not, we were the least inclined to raise it,” Ridge told reporters. “Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). … There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, ‘For that?' ”

Since USA Today is the McDonald's of news, there wasn't a lot of detail. But still, doesn't this raise a lot of questions about how this administration is handling our security?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Just because I can

Editor's note: I'm posting portions of a comment reply on here because it turned into a nice discourse on the underlying gay marraige issues.

Deciding gay marriage from the courts is an interesting issue. The high court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the 1960's, ruling that the 14th Amendment prevented states from keeping people from marrying. Whether that can be applied to gays is something that is being hotly debated and contested. I do believe this is going to end up going to the Supreme Court.

Interestingly enough, if the ERA had been passed, it possibly could've given gays more cover for the courts to decide this.

You say that states can decide to do this if they want. But at what point does state inaction preclude a group from having civil rights? At what point does activism end and proper involvement begin? It's a very thin line. The Pledge case, for instance, was a bit ridiculous. "Under God" was added during the Cold War, wasn't really necessary (william Safire wrote a great column on this and how the Pledge used to be. He argued it never should have been altered), but doesn't really harm anyone. I understand atheists don't believe in God, and that's their right, but this is one case where the minority is a really small minority, and the Ninth Circuit was wrong.

However, marriage, as I've argued, is a civil right. Marraiges occured in ancient Rome before Constantine converted to Christianity. Therefore, the institution of marriage is not per se a religious function sanctioned by the state historically. Justices of the peace hold non-religious marraiges, sanctioned just like religious marraiges. Therefore, marraige is a civil function if we empower people other than religious leaders to hold such ceremonies. As a civil, not a religious, function, marraige does not have to conform to religious boundaries.

This leaves a sticky problem. If the courts decide it, people get upset. However, many states, including our own, are barring gays from marrying. The question that is left, the truly important question, is whether marriage is a right that people have. If people have the right to marry, then the courts have to rule on these laws and strike them down, because the laws would violate the Equal Protection Clause. If marraige isn't a right, then the laws are legal, odious as they may be. This is the big issue, the underlying issue, and largely ignored in the political fighting.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I'm going to make history here....praise for Bush

For those who've only read me over the past year, you all know that I don't like much about our President's politics. I'm not a frother, though, and I do have some good things to say about him sometimes. This is one of those times.

Basically, the praise today is for our President calling bullshit on Vladimir Putin. It's been obvious for the past two years that Putin was using Bush's support to do some very undemocratic things. Bush was kind of slow to adjust to this, but after the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions, he picked up on it. I was critical that he was going to sit at a WWII memorial that basically praised Stalin, but he quickly made that moot by tearing Mr. Putin a new one.

The war on terror does have a few boundaries after all, and one of them seems to be that we're not going to see Russia become a crazy dictatorship again. I'm not sure that trashing Yalta was a good idea (I can see the President's point there, but at the same time, it was a different world and we had to stop the Germans first), but letting Putin know that we're not going to sit back and watch him trash fledgling democracy in his nation was a bold move, and worthy of applause. Even better, right after today's celebration, he flew straight to Georgia (republic, not state) for a public address tomorrow to their people. Between that and hitting Latvia before going to Russia, Bush has made it clear where we stand in this, and that should be more than enough to give Putin pause about trying to further his burgeoning dictatorship.

Congratulations, Mr. President, I applaud you for standing up for weaker nations.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Master Broder, do not go to the Dark Side

If you doubted that David Broder was sending himself over a Republican cliff, doubt no longer. Today's column by the esteemed pundit shows that he has sold himself to the GOP, or in a less likely scenario, is convinced that the Senate exists in 1975, and that honor, duty and country still count first. Let's break this one down, shall we?

"Frist not unexpectedly rejected Reid's offer, saying that Bush believes all his judges deserve an up-or-down vote. Frist, in turn, outlined his own proposal, which was a bit more complex. In return for the Democrats' accepting a ban on judicial filibusters, Frist offered to guarantee up to 100 hours of floor debate on each court appointee. Acknowledging that Republicans had blocked several of Bill Clinton's choices for the bench by refusing them hearings or approval in the Judiciary Committee, Frist also said he would pledge that all future nominees would get to the full Senate for an up-or-down vote.
Reid said he could not accept that proposal because "after 100 hours, the rights of the minority are extinguished." But the Democrats would be well advised to make a serious counteroffer rather than just reject Frist's overture."

Why should Democrats make a serious counteroffer at this point? They offered to let some of these people go and asked that the most extreme (i.e. Owen and Rogers-Brown) be rejected. And Frist's promise of letting all future nominees make it to the floor is disingenuous. Of course he said that. He retires after the midterms, so any future nominees under him come from his own party, so why wouldn't he guarantee that? He wasn't being mindful of how they screwed Clinton. He was playing a shell game.


"It is hard to believe that, when there is a serious case for rejecting a judicial nomination, it cannot be made in 100 hours of floor debate. What Reid is really saying is that he does not trust the majority of senators of both parties to weigh the merits of these judges after hearing all the arguments, pro and con, for their confirmation.
I think that distrust is unjustified. I believe that the centrist senators -- the moderate Democrats and Republicans who hold the balance of power in the Senate -- will give due deference to the president's selections for the bench but exercise their own judgments on those jurists' fitness for these lifetime appointments.
But Frist's suggestion offers a way to test that confidence. Democrats should accept the Frist proposal for the seven disputed judgeships and see what happens when they are examined carefully in extended debate on their individual merits."

This is Broder's time warp. He thinks the GOP doesn't bully its members, and that they will make principled Dick Lugar pushing for John Bolton at the U.N., or Ted Stevens, who's been around since 1969, right after the Fortas filibuster, yet will vote to detonate the nuclear option. The man who's been pragmatic on Social Security, Lindsey Graham, is willing to detonate. Centrism is going to be hard-fought here, and there's enormous pressure from interest groups and the party machinery to vote yes for people who are wholly unqualified. Would you take that risk as a Senator up for re-election, Mr. Broder?

And who says that Frist will keep to his word? Since he can change the rules at anytime, and since he's retiring, who is to say he'd stick to any agreement? He's fully beholden to his FOF sponsors now, and there's no backing down. I think he wants to detonate just to earn campaign cash for a presidential bid. It's sad I think that way, but there's an awful lot of justification to back me up on this.


"If everyone voted on party lines on every one of the seven appointees, then there might be no escape from the destructive potential of the "nuclear option." But I think the Senate is better than that, and I think that senators deserve a chance to demonstrate that they can meet their constitutional duty to share with the president the task of staffing the third branch of government.
If Frist has confidence in his colleagues, he will welcome such an experiment. And if the Democrats are prudent, they will withhold the threat of a filibuster and let the first 100-hour judicial nomination debate begin."

Broder, again, hasn't watched Congress that closely in the Bush administration. They have definitely not lived up to their duty of "advise and consent," instead they have been a pass-gate which Bush gets pretty much anything he wants. And prudence for the Democrats does not mean caving at this point. Prudence for the Democrats is letting the Republican leadership explode on this. Changing the rules and being a bully doesn't go over well, and that's what this GOP government has tried to do, and Americans are disagreeing with them on a massive scale.

America, again, just like on the Schiavo case, and just like on Social Security, is behind the Democrats on this one, and that's why Frist hasn't tried already. He'll probably lose if he does so, and he's scared to lose his bully pulpit and support. Hence the stringing along of pushing the button on this. Prudence for the Democrats is letting the Republican leadership explode on this. Changing the rules and being a bully doesn't go over well, and that's what this GOP government has tried to do, and Americans are disagreeing with them on a massive scale.

Frist's filibuster claim

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell have declared they have the necessary votes to detonate the nuclear option this week if they so choose. This is rather interesting, considering that a couple of Republicans have said they'd vote no, and others are on the fence and likely to vote no. The Dems only need six defections, they have two guaranteed already, and Snowe, Collins, Warner and Hagel probably will give them the other four.

I think that Frist is trying to scare some of his people into a yes vote, publicly praising the targeting of moderate GOP senators, a move that pissed off Collins royally. If Frist presses the button this week, it may blow up in his face instead.