Sunday, January 30, 2005

New Letter in the Jewish Press

I had a letter in the Jewish Press last week, but for some reason they forgot to put the January 19 letters on the website. The letter criticizes the Press's chastisement of Senate Democrats for occasionally using the filibuster to squelch particularly ideological Bush nominees. As I point out, Republicans did exactly the same thing during the Clinton administration, and far more often too, except that because they had a slight majority, they could bottle nominees up in Committee. This was done to the point of leaving Appeals Courts short of judges.

Anyway, here's my letter:

To the editor:

The Jewish Press is incorrect to join conservative hacks in
complaining about the Democratic use of the filibuster to deny
President Bush a few radical judicial appointments. The truth is that
Republican leaders blocked far more appointments during the Clinton
administration. The difference is that these nominees never made it
to the floor for a vote; Republicans used their majority on the Seante
Judiciary Committee to make sure that never happened. I could be
wrong, but I don't recall the Jewish Press complaining about use of
antidemocratic procedures like these before 2000.

The vast majority of President Bush's judicial nominees have been
overwhelmingly approved. The few that were not were highly partisan
appointments, judges with reputations for being judicial activists
rather than temperate interpreters of the law. Since Democrats do not
have the power to misuse the Senate Judiciary Committee as Republicans
did in the 1990s, the filibuster is the only tool left to them to stop
the President from politicizing the judiciary with conservative
activist judges. Judicial nominees should be uncontroversial enough
to get 60 votes from a body that normally gives judicial nominees far
more than that.

While it is true that the filibuster was used to quash civil rights
legislation through the 1960s, it is also true that the passage of
civil rights with the two-thirds majority to gain cloture of debate
and defeat the filibuster made clear the overwhelming support of
Americans for comprehensive civil rights legislation in 1964. Had
such important legislation passed with a close majority, it might very
well have denied the President the political capital necessary to
enforce the Civil Rights Act properly in Southern states, and we might
have had a continuation of Jim Crow policies. When the Brown v. Board
of Ed decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice
Earl Warren worked hard to make sure that the decision was unanimous,
because he realized the risk that a close decision might be ignored in
the South, undermining the rule of law.

A final note: regardless of Bush's reelection in 2004, it is utterly
disingenuous to suggest that this signalled public approval of
Administration policy on treatment of detainee at Guantanamo Bay and
Abu Ghraib. The overwhelming majority of Americans were outraged by
the Abu Ghraib pictures, and it is more than fair to surmise
Gonzales's role in forming policy on the detainees. Many Democrats,
and conservative Republicans such as Lindsay Graham and Chuck Hegel,
want are straight answers to fair questions on these issues, and Mr.
Gonzales has rightly garnered criticism for not providing them.

Michael Brenner, Woodmere

The original editorial is here. It starts around the middle of the page.


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