Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly. And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren't subsidizing Bill's bombast; we payers of the BBC license fee don't enjoy that peace of mind.
Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That's our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting. The Beeb's institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
A coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups announced a campaign today to urge that the U.S. Congress launch a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. The campaign focuses on evidence that recently emerged in a British memo containing minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.
John Bonifaz, a Boston attorney specializing in constitutional litigation, sent a memo to Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach President Bush.
Bonifaz's memo, made available today at www.AfterDowningStreet.org, begins: "The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution."
In February and March 2003, John Bonifaz served as lead counsel for a coalition of United States soldiers, parents of U.S. soldiers, and Members of Congress (led by Representatives John Conyers, Jr. and Dennis Kucinich) in a federal lawsuit challenging President George W. Bush’s authority to wage war against Iraq absent a congressional declaration of war or equivalent action. Bonifaz is the author of Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush (NationBooks-NY, 2004, foreword by Rep. John Conyers, Jr.), which chronicles that case and its meaning for the United States Constitution.
The organizations forming the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition include: Global Exchange, Gold Star Families for Peace, Democrats.com, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Progressive Democrats of America, and Democracy Rising. These organizations, beginning today, will be urging their members to contact their Representatives to urge support of a Resolution of Inquiry.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Looking at John McCain in Shades of Gray
With John McCain it isn't a black or white question.
This comment is useful to have a link to should the Swifties return. It may also be useful should Kerry run again in 2008 and should McCain backtrack on the truth.
As for McCain himself, he is neither the honest straight shooter the media makes him out to be or as dishonest as the current GOP leadership. Certainly McCain played politics and backtracked in his defense of Kerry, knowing that his future in the GOP depended upon being seen as a reliable supporter of their candidates.
A Republican will have a hard time, but it is not impossible to win with the opposition of the religious right, especially if their support is divided up among several people. A Republican has virtually no chance to win the nomination if seen as disloyal to the party itself, and loyalty to the party means supporting its candidates.
If not pulled by political necessity, I believe McCain would run a more honorable campaign than we have seen from recent Republicans. If McCain had won the nomination, and leadership of the party, in 2000, I do not think the party would have engaged in the type of dirty politics which now appears to be characteristic of them. Maybe we would have even had fair elections based upon the true differences in positions between the candidates, as opposed to the GOP tactic of distorting the opponent's positions and record.
Another example of how McCain differs from those running the GOP was seen in his comments on Jane Fonda and others who protested the war. While I disagree with his objection to protestors against the war, at least he sees this as an honest difference of opinion, and not a reason for the type of vicious attacks we have recently seen (including movie theaters refusing to show Fonda's movies). From yesterday's Late Edition interview:
- BLITZER: Over the years, on my occasions, I've heard you speak about forgiveness, forgiving those with whom you disagreed during the Vietnam War. When a mutual friend of ours, David Ifshin, died, you gave the eulogy for him, even though he was a radical in the '60s, SDS, and went to Hanoi while you were a prisoner of war.
- MCCAIN: You know, but the fact is, David Ifshin reached out to me, and I reached out to him. And David Ifshin is a man of honor and a man of decency and a man of integrity. And I was grateful for the opportunity to call him a friend.
- BLITZER: And you've even forgiven Jane Fonda.
- MCCAIN: She said she was sorry. If people say they were sorry, then -- I'm a great believer in redemption. All the things I've done wrong in my life and all the times I've failed, I'm a great believer in redemption.
- BLITZER: When she went -- while you were a POW, did you know she visited Hanoi?
- MCCAIN: Oh, yeah. They played us the tapes and showed us the pictures. But also, they showed us -- when Ramsey Clark, former attorney general of the United States, came. I think he's far more responsible than a young actress.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
John Conyers on the Downing Street Memo
May 27, 2005
As many of you are aware, a classified memo was recently disclosed in Great Britain that I believe has serious ramifications for the integrity of the United States Government. Dubbed the “Downing Street Memo,” but actually comprising the minutes of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top British government officials, the memo casts serious doubt on many of the contentions of the Bush Administration in the lead up to the Iraq war. With over 1,600 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen killed in Iraq, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and over $200 billion in taxpayer funds going to this war effort, we cannot afford to stand by any longer.
Along with 88 of my colleagues, I wrote to the President requesting answers about this grave matter. Thus far, our search for the truth has been stonewalled and I need your help. I believe the American people deserve answers about this matter and should demand directly that the President tell the truth about the memo. To that end, I am asking you to sign on to a letter to the President requesting he answer the questions posed to him by 89 Members of Congress.
I will personally insure that this letter is delivered to the White House.
You can read the letter here and sign on to it below. You and I know the White House is just hoping that this matter will fade away, but in a few short weeks, with our steadfastness, the memo has found its way into leading newspapers and White House press briefings. With your help, we can hold this Administration accountable.
Please pass on this important letter to your friends and colleagues, and ask them to sign as well.
Thank you for your help and support.
John Conyers, Jr.
BLITZER: The whole Vietnam War became such a powerful issue during the last campaign. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth really went after John Kerry during the campaign. Looking back on it now, how fair were they in skewering him? He himself had served in Vietnam, was injured there.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, he and I had worked together to try to heal those wounds -- normalization of relations; resolution of the POW-MIA issue. And John Kerry is a friend of mine.
I didn't agree with what John Kerry did after the war was over when he came home. I have that right to disagree, just like we all have a right to disagree with one another.
I thought it was dishonorable and dishonest to question the medals and citations that he had received in combat. Those medals and citations were reviewed up the line to the highest level in the Navy. He had earned them.
And to question those, in my view, was not only improper, but -- look, should we go back and examine everybody's medals and how they got them and under what circumstances?
I'll tell you a dirty little secret. It was much easier at the end of the Vietnam War to get a medal than it was at the beginning. That's true in every conflict. And I'm not saying no one deserved them. They all deserved them. They were brave Americans.
But I just thought it was wrong. And I know that some of my friends, including those I was in prison with, strongly disagreed with that view.
Friday, May 27, 2005
John Kerry spoke before a National Head Start Association conference in Florida today to promote his Kid's First proposal. Here's some excerpts from Kerry's statement:
I went back and reread the whole New Testament the other day. Nowhere in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ did I find a suggestion at all, ever, anywhere, in any way whatsover, that you ought to take the money from the poor, the opportunities from the poor and give them to the rich people.
We need enlist and join together in a great cause across the country that puts a simple choice before our fellow Americans. It's a choice that, I think, is based on values.
The fact is, 10 million more Americans voted for our idea of what we wanted to do than voted for Bill Clinton in 1996 when he was the sitting president of the United States. The fact is, a million people volunteered. The fact is, across America we created an energy.
And that energy is going to keep on going and keep on fighting until we achieve what we want to.
Senator Kerry Honors Massachusetts War Heroes on Memorial Day Weekend, 2005
| Boston, MA -- As Americans celebrate Memorial Day Weekend, Senator John Kerry today paid tribute to the fallen heroes of Massachusetts and their families: |
“Memorial Day is a day of mixed emotions: sorrow for the families whose sons and daughters have given their lives for our country, coupled with universal pride in the great Americans who for generations and particularly today teach us the full meaning of service and sacrifice. The courage and bravery of our young men and women fighting overseas continues to inspire all of us, and indeed inspire the free world and those yearning for freedom.
“America’s fallen soldiers shouldered a responsibility greater than any of us will ever know. Their families, their units, and their nation depended on them, and they answered the call of duty with selflessness and devotion. Our soldiers did not shirk from this responsibility, and all the uncertainty, danger and honor that came with it. Their families remember them as special sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and cherished friends. Their nation remembers them as special citizens. Grown men will touch their names etched on granite walls and will today weep for fallen comrades who gave their lives so that others can live.
“In this time of war, and in memory of our fallen heroes, we must be mindful to do everything in our power to keep our troops safe as they keep us safe. We must do better to take care of their families, who sacrifice in ways too many count.
“While we can never repay our nation’s debt to families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we must always remember the legacy of their fallen sons and daughters: a safer and freer world. On this Memorial Day, I believe it appropriate to take a small step in that direction by recognizing in the record those exceptional individuals from Massachusetts who this year gave their lives, and earned the eternal gratitude of the American people:
Arredondo, Alexander S., Lance Corporal, USMC, 25-Aug-2004 - Randolph, MA Connolly, David, S., Major, USA, 6-Apr-2005 - Boston, MA Cunningham, Darren J., Staff Sergeant, USA, 30-Sep-2004 - Groton, MA Depew, Cory R., Private, USA, 04-Jan-2005 - Haverhill, MA Desiato, Travis R. Lance Corporal, USMC, 15-Nov-2004 - Bedford, MA Farrar Jr., Andrew K., Sergeant, USMC, 28-Jan-2005 - Weymouth, MA Fontecchio, Elia P., Gunnery Sergeant, USMC, 04-Aug-2004 - Milford, MA Fuller, Travis J., 1st Lieutenant, USMC, 26-Jan-2005 - Granville, MA Gavriel, Dimitrios, Lance Corporal, USMC, 18-Nov-2004 - Haverhill, MA Johnson, Markus J., Private, USA, 1st Class 01-Jun-2004 - Springfield, MA Lusk, Joe F. II, Captain, USA, 21-Jan-2005 - Framingham, MA Moore, James M., Colonel, USA, 29-November-2004 - Peabody, MA Oliveira, Brian, Corporal, USMC, 25-Oct-2004 - Raynham, MA Ouellette, Brian J., Petty Officer, 1st Class, USN, 29-May-2004 - Needham, MA Palacios, Gabriel T., Specialist, USA, 21-Jan-2004 - Lynn, MA Schamberg, Kurt D. Sergeant, USA, 20-May-2005 - Melrose, MA Sullivan, Christopher J., Captain, USA, 18-Jan-2005 - Princeton, MA Vangyzen IV, John J. Lance Corporal, USMC, 05-Jul-2004 - Bristol, MA Zabierek, Andrew J., Lance Corporal, USMC, 21-May-2004 - Chelmsford, MA.”
- Americans have learned to expect little from Congress, and by that standard the 109th version controlled by Republicans has met expectations. On the other hand, anyone who hoped that the GOP would make something of its historic governing opportunity is bound to be disappointed so far.
- Five months in, Congress can point to the following achievements: a bankruptcy bill 10 years in the making, and a class-action reform watered down essentially to a jurisdictional change to federal from state courts. That's about it. Among the 2004 campaign promises that aren't close to being fulfilled are making the Bush tax cuts permanent, reforming Social Security and expanding the market for private health care. Instead of any of those big three, Congress next seems poised to pass a subsidy-laden energy bill and a highway bill with some 4,000 earmarks for individual Members. For this we elected Republicans?
- The Democratic/media explanation for this performance is that Republicans are "overreaching" and trying to "govern from the right." We should be so lucky. The fact is that they are governing from nowhere at all. Far from pushing their agenda, they seem cowed by their opposition into playing it safe and attempting too little.
It is thanks to the lack of public support for their policies that they must write of developing an "exit strategy" on the Social Security issue with hopes of reviving it in 2006. Should they be so foolish as to take their goals to the voters, this could result in a change in control of Congress similar to what occurred after the Democrats offered a health care plan as poorly conceived in its own way as the Republican's Social Security plan.
They conclude by noting that, "Above all, the fight over Mr. Bush's Supreme Court nominations will determine whether the GOP's Senate majority counts for anything at all. The voters don't expect miracles, but they do expect better than what Republicans have so far been able to produce." They are again wrong if they believe the public wants the type of far right extremist judges they desire. Fortunately the threat of a filibuster remains alive after last weeks deal, which will likely reduce the rightward drift of the court which we would have seen if Reid hadn't outsmarted Frist.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."
The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.
Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.
Amnesty takes aim at GitmoBY JOHN RILEY
May 25, 2005, 8:01 PM EDT
Amnesty International Thursday called the U.S. military's anti-terror prison at Guantanamo Bay the "gulag of our times" and warned that American leaders may face international prosecution for mistreating prisoners.
"When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity," said Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan at a London news conference releasing the group's annual report on global human rights, a blistering, 308-page survey.
The influential human-rights monitoring group has criticized U.S. detention practices before. But Tuesday marked its first call to close Guantanamo, and the group used unusually sharp language in demanding an independent investigation of torture and abuse of prisoners there and at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If U.S. officials don't act, other countries will, warned Amnesty's U.S. director, William Schultz. "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera, because they may find themselves under arrest," he said.
From the May 25 edition of Fox News Live:
ASMAN: You're the chairman of the rules committee. Did Senator [Bill] Frist [R-TN] have the votes to end the filibuster?
LOTT: I believe that he did. It would have been very close. We would have probably gotten a 50-50 tie vote, with the vice president breaking the tie. Perhaps we'd have had 51 before it was over. I do think it's a rule that should be in place because what the Democrats have been doing is not, you know, protecting a rule, they have been causing something different. The filibusters on a serial basis, federal judicial nominees to the appellate courts, was unprecedented for 214 years. So, to put that rule in place saying that it only takes 51 votes to confirm these judges was something I thought we should do. Remember now --
ASMAN: So, Senator, if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate -- if you guys in the Republican Party did -- then why did you need a compromise?
LOTT: Well, you know, I would argue that we probably should have gone forward with the vote, all things considered.
Christian Reformed Professor Backs Gay Marriage
The book is causing causing quite a bit of controversy in conservative West Michigan. While the views of the religious right remain in the majority, we are seeing increasing signs of dissent. As a sign of how things are changing, in 1995 Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan was forced to split from the Reformed Church of America largely due to its acceptance of gay members. Last week a sizable minority of students and faculty members at Calvin College in Grand Rapids protested against George Bush as he delivered the commencement speech.
The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president's judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.Later in the article:
Bush created a top-down system in the White House much like the one his colleagues have in Congress. He has constructed what many scholars said amounts to a virtual oligarchy with Cheney, Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., Joshua Bolton, himself and only a few others setting policy, while he looks to Congress and the agencies mostly to promote and institute his policies.
President Bill Clinton oversaw a transition of government away from strong agencies, which historically provided a greater variety of opinions in policymaking. "On the surface it looks like Bush is doing this better than Clinton, but there is much more going on," said Paul C. Light, an expert on the executive branch.
Light said Bush has essentially turned most of the agencies into political arms of the White House. "It's not just weakening agencies but strengthening political control of the agencies," he said.
Secrecy has also increased:
This has coincided with a dramatic increase in overall government secrecy. In 1995, the government created about 3.6 million secrets. In 2004, there more than 15.5 million, according to the government's Information Security Oversight Office. The White House attributes the rise in information the public cannot see to the security threats in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.
But experts on government secrecy say it goes beyond protecting sensitive security documents, to creating new classes of information kept private and denying researchers access to documents from past presidents.
"We have never had this kind of control over information," said Allan J. Lichtman, a professor of history at American University. "It means policy is being made by a small clique without much public scrutiny."
Having increased their control over the Executive and Legislative branches, they are also seeking to reduce the independence of the Judicial branch:
Now, the Republicans, with the support of the White House, are looking to reshape the courts in their image. The Senate's bipartisan compromise on judges will cost the president a few of his nominees to the appeals court but will require him to secure only 50 votes for future picks for the Supreme Court and other openings. If Democrats filibuster, Bush and Republican senators can move again to pull the trigger on the "nuclear option" and, if successful, prevent the minority party from ever again using the filibuster on judges. "I will not hesitate to use it if necessary," Frist said this week.
Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) has been assigned by GOP leaders to look for new ways to provide oversight of the federal courts and tougher discipline for judges. In a recent interview he said some judges have "deliberately decided to be in the face of the president and Congress." Senate Republicans are weighing legislation to limit court authority, as well.
This is a must-read article on the increased control of the Executive and Legislative branches by a small oligarchy, as well as the risk of the same happening to theJudicial branch. To fully show the dangers to liberty which is now occuring under Republican rule, I wish it had also discussed the K Street Project and the increased power of the Republican propaganda machine which has greatly reduced the ability of the media to keep a check on excessive government power.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
"It would be an irrevocable mistake to confirm Priscilla Owen for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. She is an activist judge with a history of rewriting the law based on her personal political ideology.
"Priscilla Owen, a former oil and gas attorney, has consistently ruled in favor of big business and against working people. She took contributions from Enron and Halliburton and ruled in their favor. Her decisions have been called 'an unconscionable act of judicial activism' by her former colleague and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and as 'nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric' by a majority of her colleagues on the Texas Supreme Court. Even Republican Senator and then Justice John Cornyn said her decision in a medical malpractice case was contrary to the Texas constitution. I question her ability to set her personal beliefs aside and follow the Constitution when deciding the important issues of our time. We need judges who make legal decisions and not political decrees from the bench.
"As a Senator, I have a Constitutional obligation to withhold my consent for such a nominee."
America faces a huge set of challenges if it is going to retain its competitive edge. As a nation, we have a mounting education deficit, energy deficit, budget deficit, health care deficit and ambition deficit. The administration is in denial on this, and Congress is off on Mars. And yet, when I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive - America's business leaders - they seem to be missing in action. I am not worried about the rise of the cultural conservatives. I am worried about the disappearance of an internationalist, pro-American business elite.
Is there any company in America that should be more involved in lobbying for some form of national health coverage than General Motors, which is being strangled by its health care costs? Is there any group of companies that should have been picketing the White House more than our high-tech firms, after the Bush team cut the National Science Foundation budget by $100 million in 2005 and in 2006 has proposed shrinking the Department of Energy science programs and basic and applied research in the Department of Defense - key sources of innovation?
Is there any constituency that should be clamoring for a sane energy policy more than U.S. industry? Is there any group that should be mobilizing voters to lobby Congress to pass the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement and complete the Doha round more than U.S. multinationals? Should anyone be more concerned about the fiscally reckless deficits we are leaving our children than Wall Street?
Yet, with a few admirable exceptions, American business has not gotten out front on these issues. In part, this is because boardrooms tend to be culturally Republican - both uncomfortable and a little afraid to challenge this administration. In part, this is because of the post-Enron keep-your-head-down effect. And in part, this is because in today's flatter world, many key U.S. companies now make most of their profits abroad and can increasingly recruit the best talent in the world today without ever hiring another American.
So with business with its head in the clouds, labor with its head in the sand, the administration focused on terrorism and Congress catering to people who think "intelligent design" is something done by God and not by Intel, it's not surprising that "we don't have a strategy for making America competitive in the 21st century - a century of three billion new capitalists," as Clyde Prestowitz put it. He is the author of a smart new book about the rise of China and India, called, appropriately, "Three Billion New Capitalists."
Statement by John Kerry on Stem Cell Research
Statement by John Kerry on Stem Cell Research
“President Bush’s threat to veto potentially life-saving stem cell research marks a sad break with our best values and a refusal to listen to leaders of both parties committed to finding cures for the deadliest diseases. Ideological rigidity in Washington should not be allowed to stand in the way of promising work on spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and diseases affecting millions of Americans. 100 million Americans are suffering today from illnesses that might one day be treated or cured with stem cell therapy, but only if Washington will allow doctors to pursue promising research balanced by strict ethical guidelines.
“From heart transplants to polio vaccines, throughout our history America’s progress has been defined by our sense of limitless possibility and our commitment to use the power of science to improve the lives of all our people. It’s wrong to turn away from stem cell research that offers some of the best hopes for the future.”
The NHSA gathering is serving as the largest commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the successful and popular Head Start program, which gets America's most at-risk children ready to learn in kindergarten and beyond.
More than 5,000 Head Start educators and parents from across the United States will participate in the intensive five-day program, which includes more than 400 educational training sessions and several celebrations to mark the fourth decade of success for Head Start. During the NHSA gathering, the spotlight will focus at several points on Head Start success stories, including both students and parent volunteers.
“John Kerry will discuss the future of Head Start and the new “Kids First Act” that he has introduced in Congress. If enacted, the act will provide health insurance to nearly 11 million children who currently have none.”
Action Alert: Visit SaveHeadStart.org and help Save Head Start!
From IGotaHeadStart.org: New success stories available this week at IGotAHeadStart.org include: a Fortune 250 company senior loan officer in Texas ... the California daughter of a California mother serving in the military ... and a Massachusetts woman who was encouraged by Head Start to get a degree and become a Boston school teacher ...
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
By E&P Staff
Published: May 24, 2005 1:10 PM ET
NEW YORK At a White House press briefing Monday, Press Secretary Scott McClellan, pressed by reporters and with Afghan President Karzai in disagreement, retreated on claims that Newsweek's retracted story on Koran abuse cost lives in Afghanistan.
He also claimed that he had never said it did, even though a check of transcripts disputes that. On May 16, for example, he said, "people have lost their lives." On May 17, he said, "People did lose their lives," and, "People lost their lives" due to the Newsweek report.
Here are a few quips from his commencement address:
"You and everyone here understand better than anyone that healthcare is the real crisis of our country. Premiums have gone up over $3,500 for the average family. Over 45 million Americans have no healthcare at all. Benefits are going down while deductibles and co-pays are going up. Doctors increasingly perform services that cost more than they are likely to be paid."
"How do I change all this? The answer is you have to make your issues the voting issues of this nation. That may sound corny, but you’re not the first generation to face significant challenges. Women wouldn’t have gained the right to vote if they hadn’t fought for it. No one gave blacks civil rights out of the goodness of their hearts – they demanded it."
By 47%-36%, those polled say the country would be better off if Democrats controlled Congress. That's the best showing for Democrats since the GOP won control of both houses of Congress in 1994.
Bush's overall approval rating was 46%, down 4 percentage points since early May but higher than the 45% low in March. On specific issues, 40% approved of his handling of Iraq and the economy, 33% of his handling of Social Security.
Only on handling terrorism did Bush receive a net positive rating: 55% approve, 40% disapprove.
There are red flags for Bush on two standard measures of a president's political health. The proportion that says he has "the personality and leadership qualities a president should have" fell to a new low of 52%. A record 57% say they disagree with him on the issues that matter the most to them.
On the filibuster confrontation--defused by a compromise announced late Monday--those surveyed favored the Democrats by 48%-40%. But they saw merit in the arguments of each side. A 53% majority say the filibuster-- the ability of at least 41 senators to continue debate and delay a vote--should be preserved. Still, 69% wanted the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.
This is also presented as a negative by the author, but if read objectively the article also demonstrates how Kerry is sticking to principles while many other Democrats are trying to move to the right since the election:
Later, Kerry said, ''Let me be crystal clear. We do not have to reformulate or redefine the Democratic Party. I'm tired of hearing that the Democratic Party doesn't stand for anything." The party, he said, stands for healthcare for every single American; public education that works and gets the necessary resources, with strict accountability; foreign policy that demonstrates both strength and respect for multinationalism; a tax structure that is fair; protecting the environment, and energy independence.
Fallout from 'nuclear option'
THE REPUBLICAN leadership's ''nuclear option" would eliminate the filibuster and turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for even the most controversial of President Bush's judicial nominations. The arguments can seem obscure, but there will be consequences for all of us.
The Bush administration's new plan on mercury pollution, for example, illustrates the importance of maintaining a strong and independent judiciary. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin harmful to fetuses' and infants' nervous systems.
Frighteningly, one in six American women carries enough accumulated mercury to potentially harm her children. Mercury has been linked to developmental disabilities such as autism, and researchers suspect a connection with cardiovascular disease in adult men.
The Bush administration does not seem particularly concerned with the mercury threat and proposes rolling back current law and allowing more of this toxic chemical to stay in the environment. The administration's corporate-driven plan does too little, too late to protect our families and our communities. Their plan may also violate environmental and health laws.
Eleven state attorneys general, including Tom Reilly, recognize that mercury pollution presents a danger to the public health and have taken the only course of action available to stop the president's harmful plan: filing suit in federal court.
This is exactly why the federal courts exist and why an independent and fair-minded judiciary matters. Our courts are obligated to objectively review actions like the mercury plan to ensure consistency with federal law and our Constitution. The courts are a vital check on abuse of power from Washington. If the Republican leadership triggers its nuclear option, the administration will gain unprecedented power over the selection of federal judges and leave our democracy in a weaker position.
Imagine, for example, that the mercury challenge came before Janice Rogers Brown, who has been nominated to the very court set to hear the mercury case. Justice Brown has little faith in government's ability to do good, calling our government a ''leviathan" that is ''crushing everything in its path." She called New Deal programs such as Social Security ''the triumph of our own socialist revolution." Her legal views are hostile to bedrock laws that protect public health, workplace safety, and our environment.
Or consider what might happen when a critical environmental case comes before William Myers, another of Bush's controversial nominees. Myers called environmental laws ''outright, top-down coercion" and has criticized ''the fallacious belief that centralized government can promote environmentalism." Myers has repeatedly voiced his extreme opposition to almost any environmental protection based on an activist interpretation of the Constitution.
It's hard to see how Attorney General Reilly or any citizen concerned with mercury pollution would get a fair hearing before Myers or Justice Brown. Both seem ready to set precedent and fact aside to promote their personal political agenda.
The filibuster fight is more than a beltway battle. The very foundation of our government -- an effective system of checks and balances -- is at stake. Over 200 years ago James Madison warned us: ''The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." We must remember that warning, and remember that the greatest strength and virtue of our democracy is the protection it provides to the minority.
If the Republican leadership gets its way, America will lose the protection of a strong, independent judiciary for the first time in history. In 1937, President Roosevelt attempted a court-packing scheme to assert his influence on the courts. His own party said no. Thomas Jefferson once attempted to impeach a Supreme Court justice who disagreed with his political agenda. His own party said no. I hope some Republican senators look at history and find the courage to speak truth to power in defense of our democracy.
John F. Kerry is the junior senator from Massachusetts.
Monday, May 23, 2005
In the letter, Kerry and Harkin expressed concerns that's private accounts for Social Security would be mandatory for small businesses "because employers would have to accommodate the wishes of employees who want to have a private account." Private accounts, they wrote, could potentially further complicate the payroll system, place unnecessary burdens on small businesses such as new administrative costs like those associated with 401(k) plans, increase paperwork, and hold small businesses accountable for any financial losses due to reporting errors.
"In December 2001, the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security acknowledged that establishing and maintaining a system of private accounts could impose new costs on small businesses," they wrote. "Since then, the structure of private accounts and the increased administrative, regulatory and cost requirements have not been addressed."
Harkin is a member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. To read the full letter, visit the Committee's website at http://sbc.senate.gov/democrat/correspondence.cfm
Let's Make a Deal
Unfortunately the only thing that would have made us happy--stopping these judges without Frist having the votes to end filibusters--might have been impossible. We had two bad choices. Either this deal or and end to the filibuster, and the far right wing judges still would have gone through
The real questions remain whether the threat of the filibuster remaining will have any impact in keeping out the most extreme judges, and whether this will have an impact politically which is harmful to the Republicans. A comment from First Read today provides hope that this might turn out to be harmful to the Republicans:
- Social conservative leaders are warning that "a failure to end judicial filibusters would leave rank-and-file activists dispirited after having worked to re-elect President Bush and expand Republican majorities in the House and Senate last year," Roll Call reports. "In fact, they suggest a loss in the judicial battle might be enough to drive these activists away from the polls in 2006 and perhaps in 2008, denying Republicans a loyal political base seen as vital to GOP victories.
Hopefully the Democrats can also use this as an argument that a Democratic-controlled Senate is the only way to keep the far right judges off the Supreme Court. In the past I don't think people really thought Rowe v. Wade was in danger. It now may be possible to get them to think along these lines.
Kerry also spoke at BU's medical school commencement yesterday on health care reform. He told the new doctors, ''pound the pavement, get your hands dirty, endure real sacrifice, take on antiquated thinking, and lead the public debate."
According to the Seattle Times, "That finding undercuts what has been the most prominent element of the Republicans' case to overturn the election. The case moves to trial in Wenatchee tomorrow."
Sunday, May 22, 2005
The article continues to report:
Last year, Army lieutenants and captains left the service at an annual rate of 8.7% — the highest since 2001. Pentagon officials say they expect the attrition rate to improve slightly this year. Yet interviews with several dozen military officers revealed an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture.Officiers are looking at other alternatives, such as pitches from the private sector:
Young captains in the Army are looking ahead to repeated combat tours, years away from their families and a global war that their commanders tell them could last for decades. Like other college grads in their mid-20s, they are making decisions about what to do with their lives.
And many officers, who until recently had planned to pursue careers in the military, are deciding that it's a future they can't sign up for.
It's not the money he's after. It's the fact that an Army that was gutted after the Cold War was promising him a future of perpetual deployments fighting a war that could last for decades.
That is not a future he is sure he can commit to.
"What's the end point?" he asked. "When do you declare victory?"
Neocons: Sith or Vogons?
Today's interview with Richard Perle and Wesley Clark on CNN provided evidence that perhaps we should look at an additional alien race as models for the neoconservatives--the Vogons of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Vogons composed the bulk of the galactic bureaucracy and are described as "one of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy. Not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters. The best way to get a drink out of a Vogon is stick your finger down his throat, and the best way to irritate him is to feed his grandmother to the ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal."
While Clark argued that going into Iraq was a "strategic blunder" and showed how the intelligence was misused, Perle provided yet in another in the long list of reasons for going to war, failing to provide the proper paperwork after destroying the weapons of mass destruction. "The fact is if Saddam Hussein had documented the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction, the war would not have taken place."
So there we have it. Saddam's crime, for which we rushed to war, was that the proper paperwork had not been completed to document the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction. Anywhere other than on the Bizzaro World we know as Bushworld, actual evidence of being threatened by WMD would have been the standard for deciding whether to go to war.
By DOUG GROSS
Associated Press Writer
May 22, 2005, 5:57 PM EDT
ATLANTA -- Representatives of the nation's top psychiatric group approved a statement Sunday urging legal recognition of gay marriage. If approved by the association's directors in July, the measure would make the American Psychiatric Association the first major medical group to take such a stance.
The statement supports same-sex marriage "in the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health."
It follows a similar measure by the American Psychological Association last year, little more than three decades after that group removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
The psychiatric association's statement, approved by voice vote on the first day of its weeklong annual meeting in Atlanta, cites the "positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members."
The resolution recognizes "that gay men and lesbians are full human beings who should be afforded the same human and civil rights," said Margery Sved, a Raleigh, N.C., psychiatrist and member of the assembly's committee on gay and lesbian issues.
The document clarifies that the association is addressing same-sex civil marriage, not religious marriages. It takes no position on any religion's views on marriage.
Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage. Eighteen states have passed constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage.
Prewar Findings Worried Analysts
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 22, 2005; A26
On Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.
The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that "the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak," according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group -- a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq -- that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.
The question of prewar intelligence has been thrust back into the public eye with the disclosure of a secret British memo showing that, eight months before the March 2003 start of the war, a senior British intelligence official reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that U.S. intelligence was being shaped to support a policy of invading Iraq.
Moreover, a close reading of the recent 600-page report by the president's commission on intelligence, and the previous report by the Senate panel, shows that as war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs.MORE
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Calvin Students Tell Bush: God Is Not A Democrat or Republican
The White House seeks out safe audiences for George Bush, as we described yesterday. A Dutch Reformed Christian College in heavily Republican West Michigan seemed as safe as you could get. Although he was apparently unaware of it when the speech was scheduled. Karl Rove's own grandmother had attended Calvin College around the end of World War I. Calvin graduates include Jay Van Andel, founder of Alticore (formerly Amway), and Betsy DeVos, until recently chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.
While a majority of students supported George Bush for reelection, not all agreed with his policies. Students, alumni, and one third of the faculty took out ads in the Grand Rapids Press yesterday and today (text of both ads here) protesting President Bush's visit, telling Bush that they "see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration."
Some students and faculty members expressed concern that, being a Christian College, they would be mistaken for members of the religious right. David Crump, a professor of religion for the last eight years, said, "The largest part of our concern is the way in which our religious discourse in this country has largely been co-opted by the religious right and their wholesale endorsement of this administration."
Writing in today's Grand Rapids Press (not available on line) religion editor Charles Honey noted that Calvin College has had conflicts with the Christian Reformed Church in the past "on issues such as teaching of evolution but has landed on the side of academic freedom." Two weeks ago Jim Wallis spoke at Calvin before a packed college chapel.
The social conservativism of other Christian colleges in West Michigan was noted here last week. The Dutch Reformed Church has also been typically conservative on social issues. For example, in 1995 Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan was forced to split from the Reformed Church of America due to being open to gays and questioning other aspects of conservative religious dogma. In 2004 Christ Community showed that not all religious organizations believed God was a Republican. Although prohibited from openly campaigning for Kerry, their message was clear. During the campaign they ran an ad in local newspapers advising readers to check out the web sites of both candidates to answer a series of questions. Those who conducted this research with an open mind would find that John Kerry was the candidate who better represented moral values.
If members of the faculty and student body at Calvin College are protesting George Bush, it raises questions as to how firmly the Republicans really have won the long term support of religious voters. Many show interest in Democratic values such as a just foreign policy, protecting the environment, and helping the poor. These values may win more votes for Democrats who stick to their moral values in the future.
Christians Protest Bush's Anti-Christian Policies
The following letter, with more than 800 signatures, was published in an ad Friday in The Grand Rapids Press:
Dear President Bush:Today's Grand Rapids Press has the following ad:
We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin on May 21st. In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College.
Calvin is a rigorous intellectual institution and a truly Christian one. Since its inception in 1876, Calvin has educated its students to use their minds and hearts to transform the world into a "beloved community" where no one is an outcast and all of God's children are cared for. Calvin teaches its students to work for peace and justice, and to be good stewards of God's creation.
By their deeds ye shall know them, says the Bible. Your deeds, Mr. President – neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the environment, and misleading the country into war – do not exemplify the faith we live by.
Moreover, many of your supporters are using religion as a weapon to divide our nation and advance a narrow partisan agenda. We are deeply disappointed in your failure to renounce their inflammatory rhetoric.
We urge you not to use Calvin College as a platform to advance policies that violate the school's religious principles. Furthermore, we urge you to repudiate the false claims of supporters who say that those who oppose your policies are the enemies of religion.
An open letter to the President of the United States of America, George W. BushOn May 21, 2005 you will give the commencement address at Calvin College. We, the undersigned, respect your office,a d we join the college in welcoming you to our campus. Like you, we recognize the importance of religious commitment in American political life. We seek open and honest dialogue about the Christian faith and how it is best expressed in the political sphere. While recognizing God as sovereign over individuals and institutions alike, we understand that no single political position should be identified with God's will, and we are conscious that this applies to our own views as well as those of others. At the same time we see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration.As Christians we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort. We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq.As Christians we are called to lift up the hungry and impoverished. We believe your administration has taken actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor.As Christians we are called to actions characterized by love, gentleness and concern for the most vulnerable among us. We believe your administration has fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees.As Christians we are called to be caretakers of God's creation. We believe your environmental policies have harmed creation and have not promoted long-term stewardship of our natural environment.Our passion for these matters arises out of Christian faith that we share with you. We ask you, Mr. President, to re-examine your policies in light of or God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy, and we pray for wisdom for you and all world leaders.Concerned faculty, staff and emeriti of Calvin College.
Friday, May 20, 2005
From the Boston Herald:
Shortly before the show began Sen. John Kerry took his seat to a big round of applause from the sold-out crowd.
While this splendid evening of music was not about politics, the presence of the former presidential hopeful - for whom the rocker campaigned - lent a palpable heft to Springsteen's later editorializing on the policies of President George W. Bush.
Some of his more piquant comments included admonitions for the president regarding his immigration policies prior to "Matamoros Banks," the aching tale of one who didn't make it across the border, and musings on the president's agnosticism on the matter of evolution.
"In New Jersey, we believe in evolution. It's our only hope,'' Springsteen quipped, before launching into the galloping "Part Man, Part Monkey."
From the Boston Globe:
Springsteen's intimate two-plus-hour set was filled with anecdotes and memories, reflections on the mysteries of parenting and songwriting, and more than a few political comments -- one in particular involving a certain windsurfing incident in honor of audience member John Kerry, whose entrance earned the evening's first standing ovation.
Also in the news in Boston…
Senator JOHN KERRY will once again ride his bike 90-plus miles from the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston to Hyannisport today. Fellow riders report that Kerry, a ride regular, is an awesome athlete who finishes the sometimes arduous course in good time. The Hyannisport Challenge, founded by TONY SHRIVER -- EUNICE and Sargent's son -- benefits Best Buddies, an organization that helps developmentally disabled youth.
"The Administration’s willingness to consistently abandon the truth has done great damage. Americans are less willing to listen – less likely to trust or take anything that is said in Washington seriously."
The battle for the hearts and minds of America has taken a great toll. We’re inundated with fake news, mis-reported news and a grave lack coverage of some news. Yesterday MSNBC reported Voters dissatisfied with Bush, Congress. That story quickly got buried by other news, lest we find out that an NBC/WSJ poll reveals 'angry electorate'.
“The public is exceptionally displeased with the Congress,” Hart said. “It is [its] lowest set of numbers since May of 1994,” the year when congressional Republicans defeated their Democratic counterparts in the midterm elections to take control of both the House and Senate. According to this poll, by 47 percent to 40 percent the public says it would prefer Democrats controlling Congress after the 2006 elections.
As President Bush resumes his cross-country campaign to promote his vision of Social Security restructuring, it's no secret that he is relying on outside organizations to help provide the supporting cast.
Yet a memo circulated this week among members of one group, Women Impacting Public Policy, illustrates the lengths to which the White House has gone to make sure the right points are made at the president's public appearances.
"President Bush will be in Rochester, N.Y., for an upcoming event and has called on WIPP for help," said the memo to New York-area members, from one of the group's leaders. "He would like to visit with local workers about their views on Social Security."
The memo went on to solicit several types of people "who he would like to visit with" — including a young worker who "knows that [Social Security] could run out before they retire," a young couple with children who like "the idea of leaving something behind to the family" and a single parent who believes Bush's proposal for individual investment accounts "would provide more retirement options and security" than the current system.
The people solicited appeared to represent various arguments that Bush has been making for why Social Security should be overhauled. The memo requested an immediate response, because "we will need to get names to the White House."
Crier concluded her comments on this interview, and the goals of the right wing, with:
The real fight is not over the lower courts in the federal system, but instead, the ultimate prize--the highest court in the land. There is no question that President Bush will have the opportunity to appoint several justices to that Court during his second term. He has made his ideological preferences clear. Conservative justices aren’t enough. He wants jurists of a particular persuasion. They must satisfy the requirements of fundamentalist Christians, with a willingness to roll back the clock to a time where children prayed to Jesus in public school, gays were back in the closet and women were forced into back alleys.
Those with different religious beliefs, (forget those with none at all), are dismissed entirely. Those who assert they are moral without believing in the Scriptures, verbatim, go straight to Hell.
If we want a Theocracy in this country, then ignore the assault on our nation’s judges. If you believe in the Republic that our Founding Fathers bequeathed, then prepare to battle for the one remaining branch of the government that has not yet been co-opted -- the federal Judiciary.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
While the Unites States is lagging behind countries such as South Korea and Great Britian in stem cell research, it appears likely the House will pass legislation to relax the restrictions imposed by George Bush. With many Republicans being influenced by the business benefits of such research, if not the medical benefits, it appears that both Houses of Congress may have enough support for stem cell research to be able to over ride a threatened veto of any legislation from President Bush.
WASHINGTON, May 19 - Robert C. Pozen, the business executive who developed the theory behind President Bush's plan to trim Social Security benefits in the future, urged the president on Thursday to drop his insistence on using part of workers' taxes to pay for individual investment accounts.
This was one of two blows during the day to Mr. Bush's policies on Social Security and retirement saving. In the House, Representative Bill Thomas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, disregarded the methods favored by the president to encourage workers to save for retirement - mostly tax incentives for the affluent - and offered completely different proposals of his own.
The president's Social Security and retirement measures have faced trouble in Congress all year, and the developments on Thursday raised further doubt about their prospects.
On the question of Mr. Pozen's new position, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said, "The president is committed to a voluntary personal account as part of a comprehensive Social Security modernization plan."
On Mr. Thomas's stance on retirement saving, Mr. Duffy said Mr. Bush "understands and welcomes the chairman's ideas."
Mr. Pozen, a member of Mr. Bush's advisory commission on Social Security in 2001, said at a forum at the Treasury Department that the president's approach to investment accounts would destroy the chances for a Social Security bill in Congress and would make it more difficult to resolve the long-term financial problems facing the system.
Stopping Right Wing Judicial Activism
Priscilla R. Owen, nominated for the 5th Circuit Court
A strident opponent of reproductive rights, workers' rights, civil rights, consumers' rights and environmental protection.
Priscilla Owen hired Karl Rove to run her first campaign for the Texas Supreme Court, where she has served as a justice since 1995. Critics charge that her confirmation to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will unduly favor the oil and gas industry she represented as a lawyer for the bulk of her legal career with Andrews & Kurth, for whom she worked from 1978 to 1994. Her opinions thus far on the Texas court suggest strident opposition to reproductive rights, workers' rights, civil rights, consumers' rights and environmental protection.Of special note has been White House counsel Alberto Gonzales' criticism of Owen as trying to implement "an unconscionable act of judicial activism" when they served on the Texas Supreme Court together, for interpreting a parental-consent statute to please antiabortion interests. Owen has proposed a particular view that abortion law be interpreted with a "religious awareness" standard.
While working at Andrews & Kurth in Houston, Owens was involved repeatedly on behalf of oil, gas and other energy-industry clients -- who later became prime donors to her campaigns for the Texas Supreme Court. Texans for Public Justice, a legal watchdog group, reports that Owen favored donors to her judicial campaigns 85 percent of the time when they appeared before her in court.
Owens' hometown newspaper the Houston Chronicle has editorialized that Owen is "less interested in impartially interpreting the law than in pushing an agenda."
“Mr. President, we are here at a remarkable moment of confrontation. This is a great institution – at least it always has been – and is looked up to by people all over the world. But caught up as we are now in this moment of partisan, ideological quest for power, the Congress itself is dropping lower and lower in the view of the public.
Rather than reaching across the aisle to grapple with real crises, the Republican leadership moves unilaterally, shutting Senators out of Conference Committees, wasting energy and countless hours to change the rules by breaking the rules.
It’s a stunning moment. Words spoken in this chamber have trouble don’t fully convey the full importance of this moment. This is in fact one of those times that the founding fathers and countless other statesmen in history warned us against.
Henry Clay: “The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries and in all ages. It marks its victim; denounces it; and excites the public odium and the public hatred, to conceal its own abuses and encroachments.”
James Madison: “Where the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department, the fundamental principles of a free constitution, are subverted.” … “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Lord Acton: “All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Thomas Jefferson: “I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”
We are a nation that listened to remarkable men in remarkable debates argue how we as a nation would be different in balancing power and protecting the people and the institutions we set up to protect them. Now, in 2005, feeling the flush of victory in controlling two branches of government, elected officials are prepared to serve the moment – not to serve history – not precedent – not common sense – not the real interests of the American people.
The real interests of Americans are served by remembering that the greatest strength and virtue of our democracy is the protection it provides to the minority. That’s what’s special about America. That’s what make’s us different. That’s what makes our democracy so respected and even awesome to people all around the world.
So, this is a dangerous time for our democracy. What’s at stake here is something far greater than the confirmation of these judges. No matter how much time is spent on the life story of Priscilla Owen, we all know it’s nothing more than a smoke screen for what this is really about. It’s not about these few judges. We could have confirmed four judges this morning, but Republican leadership is determined to deny the minority the right to hold the executive accountable for lifetime appointments to the judiciary. It’s about George Bush and Karl Rove and the Republican leadership and their quest for absolute power over the Supreme Court and this Congress. It’s about the gratification of immediate ideological goals and the pursuit of power regardless of the long-term consequences for the Senate – Congress – or our Constitution.
To get what they want the leadership has acquiesced to outside forces. John Danforth, a greatly respected former Republican Senator, George Bush’s choice as UN Ambassador, and most importantly a respected minister and leader in his church, wrote: “The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.”
Yet despite Senator Danforth’s warning most of my colleagues stay on script in this fight for history, for principle, for rights. They allow our cherished principles to be abused and glossed over as the debate devolves into a competition of hollow sound-bytes. But script and sound-byte should not dictate what happens here. Not here in the United States Senate. Conscience and principle should dictate what happens here. There must be Senators prepared to stand up and do their duty as Senators of the United States, not Senators of their Party.
My distinguished colleague, Senator Voinovich, recently showed such courage, but such acts, sadly, are increasingly rare. And now Senator Voinovich is being vilified on talk radio and the Internet for having the audacity to vote with his conscience. That doesn’t seem so controversial, but my distinguished colleague, Senator Chafee said he had never seen such an act as Senator Voinovich’s in his four years in Washington . That’s a sad statement about our Senate, and how ironic that Senator Voinovich is subjected to widespread denigration in partisan circles, when Americans should be admiring and respecting his independence.
And independence is what this is about. Independence of the Senate and Judiciary from an Administration bent on getting its way – bent on gaining total control notwithstanding the rules. And members of Republican leadership who know what’s at stake work with the Administration to spread mistruths. But none of leadership’s arguments stand up to Constitutional scrutiny. None of them. None of these hollow, tortured, poll-tested statements like “up or down votes” or “unprecedented” are valid. They sound good, but they’re not true, and we all know it. Yet Senators continue to fall in line, turning this into a debate about twisted terminology, not the Constitution, history, and rights of Senators.
And I think there would be more outrage if the value of truth had not been so diminished by this Administration. We have a budget that comes trillions short of counting every dollar we plan to spend. We had a Medicare actuary forced to fudge the numbers and lie to Congress to keep his job. We had falsified numbers in Iraq on everything from the cost of the war to the number of trained Iraqi troops to a “slam dunk” case for weapons of mass destruction. We have an Administration that continues to want to fund fake newscasts to mislead people all across America.
The Administration’s willingness to consistently abandon the truth has done great damage. Americans are less willing to listen – less likely to trust or take anything that is said in Washington seriously. They know, as many of us have said, that we ought to be wrestling with a crisis in healthcare and nuclear proliferation in North Korea. The people know what’s wrong with our politics, and sadly here in the Senate the leadership isn’t listening.
So now we find ourselves in a struggle between a great political tradition in the United States that seeks common ground so we can do the common good – and a new ethic that, on any given issue, will use any means to justify the end of absolute victory over whatever and whoever stands in the way.
The new view says if you don’t like the facts, just change them; if you can’t win playing by the rules, just rewrite them. The new view says if you can’t win a debate on the strength of your argument, demonize your opponents. The new view says it’s ok to ignore the overwhelming public interest as long as you can get away with it.
And this time the Republican leadership has gone farthest of all to get away with it, hoping to convince Americans that by breaking the Senate rules they are acting to defend the Constitution, honor the words of our Founding Fathers, and avert a judicial crisis.
But we all know this debate is fueled by ideology, not by defense of democratic principle or some shortage of judges on the bench. The facts have been repeated clearly again and again, and are repeatedly brushed aside and ignored. But with over 95% of the judges already approved, we all know this is nothing more than a power grab by an Administration bent on controlling every aspect of our government, even if that means weakening it.
The Bush Administration and their allies in Congress hope to get away with it by playing with words to sell the public on a scheme the public would never buy if we had an honest debate. Words with great meaning – Constitution – Founding Fathers – Votes – History – Precedent – are being twisted and robbed of their meaning. The Administration underestimates the American people on this. Americans value the Constitution. They understand its intent. They understand that the strength of our democracy is best judged by the enduring strength of the minority.
When people heard the term “nuclear option” they rightfully recoiled. They were confident that dismantling the filibuster and silencing the minority would have as catastrophic an effect on their democracy as a nuclear blast would on our security. But the majority’s reaction was not to play by the rules, but rather to change slogans. So in an act of transparent hypocrisy, the majority changed the slogan to “constitutional option” and embarked on a series of hollow arguments based on mythical constitutional provisions – confident in their belief that if you speak an untruth enough eventually you’ll confuse enough people. Well, you can change the slogan, but you can’t change the fact that diminishing the rights of the minority diminishes the spirit of our Constitution
The Bush-Republican leadership arguments are false. I have heard it argued that our Constitution mandates specific voting protocol for all judges. They’ve used their new catch phrase “up or down votes” hundreds of times in recent days. Those words don’t appear once in our Constitution. No one should be fooled. It doesn’t mean constitutional. It doesn’t mean democratic and it doesn’t mean fair. It’s code for dissent-proof, minority-proof and filibuster-proof. And there is nothing in our Constitution or our history to suggest that the nominee of any president is so special as to be excused from the scrutiny of the minority – or granted immunity from the tools of democracy that protect that minority.
My colleagues are well aware that the power of advice and consent is granted to the Senate, and that the Constitution says nothing about how the Senate shall provide that advise and consent. They know the Senate is free to make its own rules, as the Constitution clearly states. They know the Senate’s role in the nominating process was designed to be active and decisive.
Benjamin Franklin was so concerned about ceding excessive power to the executive that he advocated that nominations originate in the Senate. He was not alone. At our Constitutional Convention the process for appointments was one of the last and most difficult accords reached by our Founding Fathers.
And it did not take long before the new Congress exercised its Constitutional powers. In 1795, Senators who were friends and colleagues of the founders themselves, and who surely knew their intent, defeated George Washington’s nomination of John Rutledge to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
In 1968, Republican Senator Robert Griffin captured the spirit of this event when he said: “That action in 1795 said to the President then in office and to future Presidents: ‘Don’t expect the Senate to be a rubberstamp. We have an independent and coequal responsibility in the appointing process; and we intend to exercise that responsibility, as those who drafted the Constitution so clearly intended.’”
The Constitution didn’t mandate a rubber stamp for George Washington, and the Constitution doesn’t mandate a rubber stamp for George Bush. In 1795, the rejection of Washington’s nominee was heralded as the Constitution working, not failing. There is no doubt that an active, coequal partnership was intended.
This resounding rejection of George Washington, our revolutionary leader, helped seal the death of monarchy in this country. The genius of empowering the Senate and the minority was that, by limiting the executive, the Senate legitimized the executive.
So when I hear my colleagues arguing that the Constitution mandates that the will of the majority always trump the minority, I don’t hear the wisdom of our Founding Fathers - I hear the same blind activism that characterizes the judges they intend to force on the federal bench. The actions of some Senators come closer to rewriting the Constitution than defending it.
Another argument we have heard is that the filibuster itself is unconstitutional. That argument is also deeply flawed. The Constitution, in Article I, Section V, grants each house the power to “determine the Rules of its proceedings.” The framers deferred rule-making responsibility to us.
Over the past 200 hundred years, our predecessors in the Senate have taken the role of consent very seriously, and created time-tested rules to assure the rights of the minority and balance the power of government.
With a “hold” a single Senator can delay a presidential nominee. A single committee chairman can block a nomination by simply refusing to hold hearings. Until recently the Blue Slip process allowed Senators to reject nominees from their home state. And the right to extended debate, or the filibuster, is granted to any group of more than two-fifths of the Senate – making it more inclusive than any of these other accepted and oft-used practices.
These rules were not created by the Democratic Party when George Bush was elected. The filibuster was used as early as 1790 when Senators from Virginia and South Carolina filibustered against a bill to locate the first Congress in Philadelphia. That was a filibuster of one, because in 1790 unanimous consent was needed to end debate. Think about that. Those legislators, who were friends and even founders themselves, permitted a filibuster of one. Knowing that, today’s activist arguments buckle under the weight of history.
The unfortunate truth is that some Senators have fashioned themselves activist legal scholars, using a false reading of the Constitution to paint their opponents as obstructionists while pursuing their political agenda at the expense of our democracy. I think some of my colleagues forget the Senate was designed specifically to be a moderating check on the President, not a rubberstamp for executive will.
My colleagues also forget, as they demonize the filibuster, that it has been a force for good. But farmers don’t forget. Farmers don’t forget when Senators from rural states used the filibuster to force Congress to respond to a crisis that left thousands of farmers on the brink of bankruptcy in 1985. The big oil companies don’t forget. The big oil companies don’t forget when Senators used the filibuster to defeat massive tax giveaways they lobbied for in 1981. And I don’t forget when 10 years ago I came to the floor and filibustered to prevent a bill that would have gutted public health, safety, consumer and environmental protections. That bill never passed, and we know the country is better for it.
Some Senators come to the floor with a practical argument about our courts. They claim that because we have not rubberstamped each and every one of George Bush’s nominees, the nation faces a crisis because of a shortage of judges on the bench. They ignore that over 95% of the president’s nominees have already been confirmed. They ignore the fact that our courts have the lowest vacancy rate in decades.
What is threatened is a delicately balanced system that for 214 years successfully prevented the Executive from usurping power granted in good faith by the American people. And that threat manifests itself in a nuclear option that threatens the character of this Senate. The integrity of this Senate is threatened when the majority attempts to change the rules by breaking the rules. The balance of power is threatened when the power of advice and consent is gutted. Our democracy is threatened when we set the dangerous precedent that minority rights can be silenced whenever they inconvenience the majority. And I believe that our courts and the justice they are meant to deliver are threatened by some of the judges President Bush has nominated.
But some of my colleagues have argued that Democrats filibuster these judges because we simply dislike them, or disagree on ideology or policy. That’s couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have confirmed countless judges who we disagree with, but respect as responsible, impartial arbiters of the law. It is these activist judges that we seek to keep off the federal bench. It is these judges who want to rewrite our laws from the bench that we believe are unqualified for lifetime appointments. And we stand against them in defense, not as a threat to the Constitution.
We have also been accused of unprecedented acts with respect to these nominations. Surely my colleagues have not forgotten that 69 of President Clinton’s judges were buried in Committee. Was it fair? Maybe not… Did you hear the minority hiding behind mythical constitutional values in a short-sighted attempt to break the rules? Of course not…
The Majority Leader himself has voted to filibuster a nominee, yet now he tells us he is moved by deeply held constitutional principles.
President Johnson’s nominee to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Abe Fortas, was defeated in a filibuster. Tennessee Republican Howard Baker articulated the minority’s position, saying, “The majority is not always right all of the time. And it is clear and predictable that the people of America, in their compassionate wisdom, require the protection of the rights of the minority as well as the implementation of the will of the majority.”
Throughout our history Presidents and majorities have always had to govern a nation where minority rights were protected. Until this day Presidents and majorities have respected that tradition. They were humbled and inspired by lessons from history that some of my colleagues seem to have forgotten.
In 1937, President Roosevelt attempted a court-packing scheme to assert his influence on the courts. His own party said no. Thomas Jefferson once attempted to impeach a Supreme Court Justice who disagreed with his political agenda. His own party said no.
When my colleagues complain of lack of precedent, remember these precedents. They were fair. They were just. They affirmed the rights of the minority. And they did it all in respect of the Constitution and in defense of the judiciary. Our predecessors stood up to their own Party leaders because they valued the real strength of this democracy more than the short-term success of their partisan agenda. The question is – will we live up to that test?
Recent predecessors of Senate Republicans have repeatedly urged respect for this legacy. Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker said destroying the right to filibuster “would topple one of the pillars of American Democracy: the protection of minority rights from majority rule.” Former Republican Senator Charles Mathias said, “The Senate is not a parliamentary speedway. Nor should it be.” Former Republican Senator Bill Armstrong said, “Having served in the majority and in the minority, I know it’s worthwhile to have the minority empowered. As a conservative, I think there is a value to having a constraint on the majority.”
My colleagues should defend their judges, but defend them without tearing down our Constitution and our Founding Fathers, or destroying the rules and character of the United States Senate. Defend your judges without ceding dangerous and corruptive levels of power to this Administration. Defend your judges without erasing 214 years of wisdom and sacrifice that raised this nation from tyranny and spread freedom across the globe.
Our Founding Fathers would shudder to see how easily forces outside the mainstream now seem to effortlessly push some Senate leaders toward conduct the American people don't want from their elected leaders: Abusing power…Inserting the government into our private lives…Injecting religion into debates about public policy…Jumping through hoops to ingratiate themselves to their party’s base, while step by step, day by day, real problems that keep American families up at night fall by the wayside here in Washington.
Congress, Washington , and our democracy itself are being tested. We each have to ask ourselves, will we let this continue? To those in this chamber who have reservations about the choices their leadership has made, and who worry about the possible repercussions on our Constitution and democracy, look at history and find the courage to do what’s right. History has always remembered those who are courageous, and will remember the courageous few who lived up to their responsibility and spoke truth to power when the Senate was tested – so that power did not go unchecked.
The Senate and the country need Senators of courage who are prepared to make their mark on history by standing with past profiles in courage, and defending not party, not partisanship, but defending principle and democracy itself.”