Jewish World Review May 20, 2003 / 18 Iyar, 5763

Peter A. Brown

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Lawyers' party hits a new low | Perhaps they are just isolated incidents. But if the aren't, Democrats ought seriously to consider the long-term damage they may be doing to our political system with their ends-justify-the-means mentality.

I'm talking about Democrats in the U.S. Senate using a parliamentary device to block confirmation of federal judges who have the number of votes needed for confirmation, and the laughable - if it weren't so serious - decision by Texas House members to flee the state to stop the legislature from doing its business.

In both cases, Democrats are making a mockery of majority rule. Say what you want about Republicans giving Bill Clinton's nominees a hard time, but the GOP held the congressional majority then.

Throw in the Democrats' threat earlier this year that unless they were given equal committee membership and staffing - virtually unheard of for a minority party - they would shut down U.S. Senate business. And what about the case of Robert Torricelli, a scandal-tainted U.S. senator from New Jersey? Last fall he was forced off the ballot by his party on the correct assumption that a Democratic court would ignore filing deadlines and let the party substitute a candidate more electable than Torricelli.

You have to wonder if there's more legal sleight of hand and disdain for democracy to come from a party that has sold its soul to trial lawyers. When "Larry and Laurie Lawyer" replace "Joe and Jill Sixpack" as the Democrats' driving force, chicanery is no surprise.

Obviously, unrelenting partisanship has increased on both sides of the aisle in recent years. But the Democrats' actions take it to a whole new level and threaten our government's ability to function.

For those screaming "What about the 2000 election?", remember that it was Al Gore's campaign that began the court fight. And Democrats insisted on a recount only in Florida's four largest Democratic counties, not statewide. If they had wanted the truth, not just victory, they would have sought a statewide recount.

The Supreme Court, a narrow majority of whose members were appointed by Republican presidents, merely reversed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court, six of whose seven members were Democratic appointees.

Senate Democrats are holding up the confirmations of Miguel Estrada and Patricia Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals. They can't defeat the nominees, but they have the 41 senators needed to make sure no vote is taken.

Democratic senators acknowledge that their tactics - and the likelihood they will filibuster more of Bush's nominees, perhaps even his eventual Supreme Court choice - are not about qualifications. Both judges-in-waiting have the stamp of approval of the American Bar Association, not exactly a GOP-friendly body.

This is all about politics. Democrats are candid that they don't like the ideology of the Bush nominees. But so what. When the American people elected George Bush, they didn't mean for Teddy Kennedy to decide who sits on the federal bench.

In Texas, where Republicans control both the legislature and governorship for the first time in 130 years, Democrats ruled with an iron fist for a century. During their reign, they treated Republicans like dirt. Until 20 years ago, Republicans could caucus in a phone booth.

But with Texas Republicans trying to implement their policies - as presumably voters who elected them desire - virtually all House Democrats skipped the state to deny the quorum necessary to do business. They holed up in an Oklahoma hotel, beyond the jurisdiction of state troopers empowered to arrest them and return them to the capitol.

Since the deadline for the Texas House to pass legislation was Thursday, their plan was to thwart the House's ability to function. Of course, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has promised to call special sessions to do the business not dealt with.

The Democratic tactics reek of the "win-at-all-costs" trial-lawyer mentality. Not only are they the largest source of Democratic campaign contributions, but whether it's governors or state or federal lawmakers, you see lawyers much more dominating party ranks than among Republicans. Four of the last five Democratic presidential candidates were lawyers, but just one of the five Republican candidates was.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a filibuster leader, claims "history will look kindly on us." You have to wonder whether he actually believes that horse manure.

Peter A. Brown is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Comment by clicking here.


05/13/03: Bush mimics Nixon, Reagan by going against the political grain

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