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Jewish World Review April 24, 2002 / 13 Iyar, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Consumer Reports

Medal of diss-honor | One place Democrats and Republicans fail to find common ground is the exact whereabouts of America's cultural "mainstream." Is it, as Democrats claim, a locale where abortion rights, gay rights, multiculturalism and affirmative action are celebrated landmarks? Or is it, as Republicans believe, a quota-free zone where fetal rights, heterosexual marriage, and Western culture are revered? This dispute, brought to a nearly perfect mathematical stalemate by the 2000 election, has been largely overshadowed since Sept. 11, but that doesn't mean it has gone away. The battle of the mainstream rages on, hotter than ever, on the frontline of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That's where nine Senate Republicans, led by Utah's Orrin Hatch, try and try again to avert the vacancy crisis on the federal bench by championing Bush nominees from the conservative mainstream. And that's where 10 Senate Democrats, led by Vermont's Patrick Leahy, block Bush nominees, declaring that their very conservatism marks them as fish out of mainstream waters. Who's right? Who's got a finger on the American pulse?

No one will really know the answer until the next election, but it's a good bet that it's not Patrick Leahy -- and not just because of his judicial philosophy. This hunch boils down to something more basic: the sheer, jaw-dropping grumpiness that drove Leahy to nix legislation awarding the nearly 400 police and firemen who gave their lives on Sept. 11 the first recipients of a new public-safety medal for valor that was created last May. According to a recent story in the New York Post, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman has refused for five months to bring a House medals-for-heroes measure to a committee vote -- "effectively killing it," as the newspaper reported. Looks like it isn't just conservative judicial nominees who suffer at Leahy's obstructionist hands.

But why the inexplicable and, dare we say, out-of-the-mainstream churlishness? In a statement to the newspaper, the Vermont senator explained that proper protocol hadn't been followed in parceling out the awards: The 11-member advisory board behind the Presidential Medal of Valor didn't recommend the medals distribution; just 409 members of the House of Representatives did. (The House voted unanimously last October to approve the medals bill sponsored by New York Democrat Joseph Crowley, whose fireman-cousin died in the attack.) According to the Post, Leahy aides also said that under the legislation creating the medal, "a maximum of only five per year are supposed to be doled out." Does that mean that either Leahy or his aides believe that there was "a maximum" of only five heroes on Sept. 11?

In the end, it turns out there was nothing here that a lot of bad publicity couldn't fix. After Leahy's "DISS-HONOR" of the heroes of 9/11 became a New York tabloid headline -- and after "getting flooded with complaints at his office," as a Post follow-up story reported -- the Vermont senator reversed himself and decided to bring the measure to a vote this week after all.

What a good idea. Still, it makes you wonder what Bush's judicial nominees have to go through to get similar treatment.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West