WILL THE REPUBLICANS BITE THE BULLET IN TIME TO AVOID GOING OVER THE CLIFF?
By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
With the news that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted yesterday by identical 10-8 party-line votes to send the nomination of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown to a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia and that of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to the full Senate for confirmation, this coming week is fish-or-cut-bait time for Senate Majority Leader Bill "Kitten-Killer" Frist.
This Sunday he's set to appear on the "Justice Sunday" program set up by the sawdust-covered snake-handlers of the Rapture Right, to set the stage for implementing the "nuclear option" to end judicial filibusters by demonizing the Senate Democrats for running a campaign against "people of faith" nominated to judicial office. Senator Kitten-Killer has a Real Problem here: if he can't prove to the snake-handlers that he can do this, his would-be 2008 presidential campaign starts circling the toilet bowl.
At the same time, his willingness to join with the ultra-extremists has just made the likelihood of getting any sort of compromise from the Democrats on this issue absolutely impossible - even if he had the competence to do so, which he doesn't - not to mention it gives them every reason to cease cooperating with him on anything else. This ultimately makes his fellow corporate country-clubbers upset with him for making it more difficult to complete enactment of the No Corporation Left Behind Legal Reform Program.
This is put-up-or-shut-up time for Senator Kitten-Killer, and he's finally at the point where everyone can see him as the guy who managed to paint himself into a corner without realizing he was doing so over the past few months he spent huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the house down.
While I don't know that much about Priscilla Owen, Justice Brown is an African American jurist who has yet to meet a civil rights law or a civil rights legal decision - going back to Brown vs. Board of Education! - that she believes is constitutional. With these views, she easily appeals to such far right activists as Michael Schwartz - Chief of Staff of Oklahoma GOP Senator Tom Coburn - who was heard outside the recent "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference held by the Far Right in Washington last month saying, "I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"
However loud the Schwartzes are in the halls of the Senate Office Building, the simple truth Senator Kitten-Killer can't admit is that a far larger number of Republican senators than those who have publicly stated either ambivalence or outright opposition to "going nuclear" don't want this insanity. To them, Bush has nominated 205 judges and gotten 195 approved - one of the highest rates of any president in the past 30 years - and ramming through ten nominees whose support is concentrated in a small number of hardcore Senate fire-breathers and a huge array of radical-right social-conservative interest groups (most of whom make these Senators privately nervous to be in the same room with) just isn't worth the potential of wrecking enactment of the Republican program while they can get away with it in the remainder of this year's session. This year is make-or-break time for them, too, since it will be much harder to get support for what's left on the list next year, as even the loonies in the House will start sniffing public opinion polls as the elections near.
Senator Kitten-Killer's presidential ego, working in tandem with his reliably-clumsy negotiating style, now has a lot of Republicans sitting in an unwelcome spot.
Even Senator Rick "Man-on-Dog" Santorum, who's been the leading fire-breather on the "nuclear option" since at least 2003, has woken up and sniffed the wind coming from the outhouse. No doubt the increasing lead in polls over him of his most probable Democratic challenger next year has had no small part in this growing awareness of how close he is to the cliff. Reports have him now privately arguing for a delay by Frist after reading adverse internal party polls showing that - while a majority of Americans oppose the filibuster - most also accept the Democratic message that Republicans are trying to destroy the tradition of debate in the Senate. The chickens released during the Schiavo Circus are coming home to roost.
Not only is the wind shifting so much that even Santorum can get a whiff, Senator Kitten-Killer's math isn't adding up. In addition to Senators McCain and Lugar who have already announced opposition to this, the Republicans are down to wondering if Senator Hagel will be the 51st vote in opposition. With what Hagel has been learning about the far right fringe of the party in the Bolton hearings this past week, and the fact that no one is certain where Senator Mike DeWine is since he refuses to take a public position, Frist is in the position of having to push the plunger without knowing if the bomb will actually explode.
If only the problems the Far Right Republicans are facing were limited to this, they might weather the coming crisis. Fortunately, their corrupt incompetence is in evidence not only in the Senate but also the House of Representatives and the White House.
This writer predicted that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay would not only not leave his office, but would make a political fight of things during which he would rip off the mask and reveal himself publicly as the Rapture Right Texas Lunatic he is - a figure that is very scary to the rest of the country. Every time he opens his mouth, I tell myself "he can't go further," and he continues to amaze me by going further and further. His assaults against the federal judiciary - and in particular his absolute looniness in going after Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy - are now so extreme that no less a dyed-in-the-wool conservative legal scholar than former Solicitor General and anti-Clinton activist Ted Olson has written in the New York Times that: "Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular decisions are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would undermine the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial systems... Federal judges are highly unlikely to submit to such a demeaning process and, if push came to shove, the public would undoubtedly support the judges."
Olson went on to specifically denounce "a prominent member of the leadership of the House of Representatives" who has "characterized another justice's approach to adjudication as 'incredibly outrageous,'" then went on to make this crucial point:
"[A]bsent lawlessness or corruption in the judiciary, which is astonishingly rare in this country, impeaching judges who render decisions we do not like is not the answer. Nor is the wholesale removal of jurisdiction from federal courts over such matters as prayer, abortion, or flag-burning. While Congress certainly has the constitutional power, indeed responsibility, to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts to ensure that judges decide only matters that are properly within their constitutional role and expertise, restricting the jurisdiction of courts in response to unpopular decisions is an overreaction that ill-serves the long-term interests of the nation. As much as we deplore incidents of bad judging, we are not necessarily better off with - and may dislike even more - adjudications made by presidents or this year's majority in Congress."
When actual for-real conservatives like Olson arrive at this point, the Far Radical Right's belief that a 2% electoral victory last November constitutes a "mandate" stands revealed for the fantasy it is.
For the White House, the recent economic numbers reveal that what has been at best an anemic economy under the program of No Billionaire Left Behind tax cuts is now an economy in real danger of heading into recession as Harry and Sally attempt to make ends meet with a 2 percent pay cut from inflation on top of only a 2.3 percent pay increase in the four years of Bush's presidency while they now face healthcare increases of 14 percent and a $75 tab to fill up the family SUV. The rubber band of the middle class is close to snapping. This week it became very likely that no less than General Motors is contemplating Chapter 11 bankruptcy. To top that off, in the face of economic conditions that have historically been dealt with by "forgiveness" through the bankruptcy laws, the middle class that will be forced into bankruptcy through loss of a job or catastrophic medical bills has now been thrown - by a bipartisan congressional majority - into a system where the legal loan sharks can turn them into indentured servants for the rest of their lives, rather than provide them the second chance they'll so desperately need.
As Balz and Weisman said in Thursday's Washington Post:
"Inflation and interest rates are rising, stock values have plunged, a tank of gas induces sticker shock, and for nearly a year, wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living."
"Yet in Washington, the political class has been consumed with the death of a brain-damaged woman in Florida, the ethics of the House majority leader, and the fate of the Senate filibuster."
"The disconnect between pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans and the preoccupations of their politicians has helped send President Bush's approval ratings on the economy down, while breeding discontent with Congress. The problem has yet to grow into a political wave that could sweep significant numbers of lawmakers from power next year, but both parties face risks if they fail to pivot their attention to economic issues."
Not to mention that every report out of Iraq puts the lie to the optimism of the Pentagon's "Five O'Clock Follies" in claiming the tide has turned and the swamp is now draining. Not only do Harry and Sally have to worry about their daily lives, there's the possibility Harry could be called up, or their kid will be going on his or her third tour to the war. No wonder 60% of the public now think the war wasn't worth the effort and that the Bush administration actively lied to get us into it.
Every poll of the American public on these issues has shown overwhelming public disapproval of Republican extremism. Americans may be conservative, but they have never been supportive of full-bore far right "conservatism," and the extremist over-reaching since the ?landslide of 2004" has more and more of them asking themselves "what did we do?"
There's a certain amount of satisfaction to be had, watching the Republicans put their foot on the accelerator as they speed toward the cliff. The sad thing is, they're going to take a lot of people with them in the process - not all of whom are deserving of the punishment (though watching the lower classes of the Christian Far Right get their economic clocks cleaned will be proof to me that there is indeed justice in the universe).
But the fact remains - that great big Chevy Suburban with the yellow "Support The Troops" sticker and all the bells and whistles is kicking dirt as the tires squeal and the dust flies. And that really is a cliff out there ahead.
Cleaning up the mess in the bottom of the canyon afterwards is going to take a strong stomach. One hopes the Democrats will jump out of the speeding Suburban in time to participate in that task.UPDATE: SENATOR KITTEN-KILLER BLINKS
According to a report in the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader "Dr." Bill "Kitten-Killer" Frist has made a Command Decision about the business of the Senate next week:
There were signs, though, that Dr. Frist was planning to postpone the confrontation for at least another two weeks, when the Senate returns from apring recess.
Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, said Dr. Frist had told him he would up a transportation measure next week, an indication that he did not expect a filibuster fight before the Congressional recess.
Evidently, even the most famous Kitten-Killer to sit in the Senate can read the polls that show collaborating with the Theocras of the Rapture Right is not the way to "win friends and influence people."
Another recent article in the Los Angeles Times quotes "Dr." James C. Dobbs (who is not a minister, but rather a "Doctor" of psychiatry who is generally considered a fraud and charlatan by his professional peers) as saying that Republicans have only an 18-month "window of opportunity" before Bush becomes a "lame duck." Dobson went on to say, "If we let that 18 months get away from us and then maybe we get Hillary to dealwith or who knows what, we absolutely will not recover from that."
We can only hope. Defeating the Rapture Right, who want to impose a
theological dictatorship on America worse than that the Taliban inflicted on Afghanistan, isas important as was the defeat of their traitor ancestors 140 years ago. The eighteen months between now and the elections of 2006 are as crucial as any in the history of the Republic.
at 1:16 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, April 22, 2005 3:13 PM EDT