Saturday, January 14, 2006

''Supreme test for the Democrats''

"The nomination of Samuel Alito is the Supreme test for the Democrats. They have the power to stop this nomination, but if they fail to do so they should expect minority party status for a long time to come.

The Supreme Court will once again have "four horses of the apocalypse" -- four partisan justices who favor executive power, corporate power, expansive law enforcement authority, co-mingling of religion and government, and minimal individual rights. Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito will provide the foundation for right wing extremism for decades to come.

In his testimony Alito has certainly given the Democrats enough ammunition to filibuster his nomination. He has, not very artfully, evaded and dodged questions about critical issues – not only Roe v. Wade, but President Bush's eavesdropping on telephone conversations where one participant is in the United States and on his statements saying he may not follow the new ban on torture when he signed the bill into law. His testimony combined with his writings as a judge and as a Reagan administration functionary provide ample ammunition to stop this nomination.

Democrats should not fall for the canard that if they stop Alito they are likely to get a worse nominee. Exactly the opposite will happen. If Alito is stopped it will draw a line that makes it clear what is unacceptable in Supreme Court nominees. Remember the history of successful nominees being blocked. When two of President Nixon's nominees were stopped it resulted in Justice Harry Blackmun who wrote the decision in Roe v. Wade. When Judge Bork was blocked it resulted in the selection of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate-conservative. And, the right wing showed that by stopping Harriet Miers they got the nominee they wanted in Samuel Alito.

If the nomination of Alito is blocked there may only be time for one more nomination to be considered before the 2006 Congressional election. President Bush will realize that if he wants to get a conservative nominee through he will need to pick someone no less conservative that Justice O'Connor. The president will realize that if he misplays this next nominee there is a good chance he will have to deal with a more Democratic Senate when he puts forward his next choice.

The Democrats need to learn from their past failure to block Supreme Court nominees. Remember, Justice Antonin Scalia, the leader of the partisan conservative wing of the court was approved by a unanimous Senate controlled by the Democrats. And, Justice Clarence Thomas was approved by a Democratic Senate despite a lack luster record in the law and strong allegations of sexual harassment. These two nominations are the reason why the vote count was stopped in 2000 and President Bush was selected as president in a closely divided 5-4 decision.

Too often in recent years the Democrats have played their role of "loyal opposition" with too much loyalty and not enough opposition. Their approval of broad language for the use of force resolution has resulted in Condoleezza Rice testifying that no further Congressional mandate is needed to attack Syria or other countries. And, the approval of the Patriot Act, with near unanimous Democratic support, has broadened the powers of the president, police and prosecutors. The Democrats disdain Bush's 'imperial presidency' but they have helped created the new King George by ceding power to him and not taking responsibility themselves.

It is time for the Democrats to stand up and use their power. Stopping Alito is an opportunity to show that they believe in three equal branches of government that provide a check and balance on the actions of the others. Americans support the framework of the Constitution. It is a chance to show they represent the people against the powerful and want a court that reflects that reality.

And, the Democrats should continue their filibuster of the Patriot Act. The version under consideration, written by a conference committee controlled by conservative Republicans, is worse than the previous version. The old version was bad enough allowing for secret searches of private homes, and searches of our medical and business records as well as discovery of what books we are reading. But the new version contains provisions that will turn Red State Americans red with anger. The Democrats should highlight provisions that make it a crime to hold an "unauthorized sign" at the Democratic or Republican Convention, or at an event where the President or Vice President is speaking, or at an event where the Secret Service decides that unauthorized signs are illegal. What do these provisions have to do with preventing terrorism? How will veterans, who risked their lives to defend our freedoms, feel about such an affront to Freedom of Speech?

Of course these are challenges but it is out of challenges where we find our opportunities. And, the Alito nomination and the revised Patriot Act are excellent opportunities for Democrats to rise to the challenge and defend the noble purpose and moral vision of America. They are a chance for Democrats to show voters they stand for something."-from the article on Raw Story by Kevin Zeese, a candidate for Senate in Maryland and director of Democracy Rising.

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