my pissant two cents

Friday, December 24, 2004

take a picture of your rights....

flush with victory, narrow though it was, bush and his rightwing puppetmasters are preparing for a fight to thrust ultra-conservative judges onto some of the most important positions on the federal bench.

expect it to get ugly.

according to the washington post, bush is planning on nominating 20 judges, 12 of them to appeals courts, eight to districts. this wouldn't be very newsworthy, except for the fact that several of them were nominated in his first term, but those nominations were blocked by democrats. the reason for the stonewall was their extremist positions. one, california supreme court justice janice rogers brown, is on record referring to fdr's new deal, which helped lift the nation out of the death spiral of the great depression, as "a socialist revolution." and that was among the milder marks against her.

article 3 judges, those given lifetime tenure in federal courts, are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the senate. as the rules presently hold, it takes 60 votes to overcome a senate filibuster; so, in effect, it takes 60 votes to confirm a judge. the democrats wielded the strength for filibusters on brown, texas supreme court justice priscilla richman owen (whom her colleagues on the texas court have described as an "unconscionable" judicial activist), former associate white house counsel brett m. kavanaugh (who has 14 years and zero trial experience since finishing law school) and others during bush's first term. but with republicans picking up four additional senate seats in november, that strength is waning.

the republicans are ready to beat the democrats into a procedural coma. the so-called "nuclear option" has been mentioned. in it, republicans change the rules of the senate to declare filibusters unconstitutional, thereby removing the sole bulwark against a majority in the chamber steamrolling its agenda over everything in its path. this is no small feat, and something the democrats never did in their half-century of senate dominion. but, as we have seen in the tom delay episode, republicans are not shy about changing the rules when it suits their expedient needs.

the democrats are in an interesting predicament. they can plant their feet and fight, opening themselves up for a smear campaign as obstructionists, or they can play the toothless role of the loyal opposition and rubber stamp bush's nominees. the new minority leader, harry reid of nevada, has indicated he's willing to pick a fight where it's necessary. but he's also known as a consensus builder.

if consensus means going along with the gop's pushing the federal courts ever rightward, or if opposition means nothing more than shaking one's fist, it's as good as a surrender. and this is no time for surrender. when you're talking about lifetime appointments of people who believe the social safety net built in the new deal-- or what's left of it-- is a communist plot, or who compare pro-choice advocates to nazis (arkansas district court nominee j. leon holmes), or who advocate tax-exempt status for racially discriminatory institutions (ninth circuit nominee carolyn kuhl), you're talking about a decades-long course of regression and repression.

these are not measured legal minds. these are advocates in black robes, with the authority to decide the fate, not only of the parties before them, but the fate of all those who fall under the the influence of the law. in short, it effects all of us.

should bush ram these nominees through the senate, i strongly urge you to take a picture of your rights. because you won't recognize them in a few years.


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