Monday, October 31, 2005

No Surprise Here Part II, But the Worst Case Scenario

The last time we visited this topic the President was reeling from a 39% approval rating (2% among African Americans), a possible indictment (of top White House aids), soaring gas and heating prices (with record profits by Energy companies), an increasingly upopular war (with US deaths topping 2,000) and a sunk Supreme Court nomination (because his conservative base refused to support his friend and nominee Harrier Miers).

With those hurdles to cross and those burdens to bear the president had two options in replacing Ms. Miers. He could take the high road and appoint a moderate in the line of outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat he is filling, and watch the nomination sail through the Senate. Or he could bend to the will of the conservatives, who impaled the Miers appointment, and name a proven, active conservative and brace for a fight.

No surprise, the President bent and now we have the worst case scenario. A proven, active conservative nominee.

Early this morning President Bush named 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito to replace Associate Justice O'Connor. Judge Alito comes with the conservative credentials the Far Right so despitely wanted. In fact Mr. Alito is so conservative his nickname is "Scalito" after proven active conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The choice was hailed by conservatives, as they now see the opportunity to turn the Court right. A turn that will be seen and felt by African Americans as a turning back the clock. Justice O'Connor was the swing vote on many civil rights, civil liberties and some criminal justices issues. The early comments on Mr. Alito is that he is no Sandra Day O'Connor, and that the Supreme Court protection for many statutes that deal effectively and progressively with racism are now in severe trouble.

Since the Far Right did the Democrats dirty work on the Miers nomination, they should be well rested and edging for a fight to keep those protections. Senate Democrats will have to lead the charge against an a smart, savvy and experienced judge, which will cause them to have John Roberts nightmares and flashbacks. But this is why they are in the Senate, for times like this -- and if not now, when? And all 45 Senate Democrats better be on the same page if Judge Alito is as conservative the right has said and cheered.

The Dems said all the right things today, calling the nomination "needlessly provocative," and ignoring "the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives," but the proof of their spine will come when the hearings start and the voting begins. Will they have courage to shut down the Senate and demand better?

They haven't in past, but we're due for a surprise.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby's Loop & The Enemy Within ...

Two years of speculation will now culminate into another three years of legal wrangling, rumors, Beltway whispers, juicy healine grabbers and scarred reputations. It won't end till Inauguration Day 2009. But, we are concerned that it will do little to ameliorate the erosion of governing for the common good in Washington. Sound public policy is, these days, relegated to gladiatoresque partisan bloodsport; rare reflection on substance, lots of rumination on polls. Worship the game, dismiss integrity ...

In fact, the White House will circle its wagons. Don't be surprised by a very urgent and renewed focus on terrorism, elevated homeland security alerts and "evil" Islamic "radicals" as hawks will need something excessively scary to distract the American public from the awesome display of corruption unfolding before it. Persistence on a failed Iraq strategy will become abundantly stubborn. Syria may creep steadily into the spotlight and, oh, watch out for China and North Korea. We will need villains to overshadow the villains within ...

Most are eager to see what this latest debacle will do to an embattled Bush White House. Others are, as we speak, sharpening skilled campaign knives to figure how this can be used to discredit candidates or energize bases. The dark, hanging hurricane clouds of reality, however, show a scenario much bleaker than fodder for unimaginative West Wing writers. The indictment of VP Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has as much to do with the erosion of government as we think we've always known it. It reflects the backbiting, backstabbing, blacklisting and barbaric partisan rancor that characterizes the Washington those of us in the know know about. The at all costs attitude that diminshes the value of civility and democracy, even at the expense of national security. And Democrats are absolutely wrong to promote such as something exclusively Republican. The guilt runs thick on both sides of the aisle and through all halls of Congress, along K Street's traffic snarls and the crumbs on Pennsylvania Avenue power lunches. It's an American tradition - we dress it with draping red, white and blue flags, yellow ribbons and trumpets to make it look good as if we're above all that.

Attempts at personal destruction in Washington are commonplace and hardly show signs of abating.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

An All Black Senate Race?

The Senate race taking place in Maryland is significant not only in terms of the implications for a state with a Democratic edge of 2-to-1, but for its potential impact on the African American electorate. We are very encouraged by the recent surge of Black politicos placing their bids in statewide campaigns - this is becoming quite a trend since the blockbuster success of Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). And, we are even more encouraged that this may lead to Black elected officials further populating the U.S. Senate, thus resulting in greater representation in an institution dominated by a sea of graying White males. It is a sign that we have reached a certain pinnacle in our political development (albeit slow getting there) and that it's a major step toward reaching beyond an exclusively "civil rights" strategy and paradigm.

In Maryland, we find Black Republican and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (presently the highest ranking Black state elected official in the nation) taking center stage on the hopes and aspirations of a state GOP hungry for a Senate seat. It is possible Steele may win his state party's nomination if the Governor's political capital proves useful. Yet, Steele faces serious inquiries concerning a checkered professional past ...

To his left is the former Congressman and former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, who is challenged by charges of sexual indiscretions and corruption during his previous post with the nation's oldest civil rights organization. But, the real challenge is faced by an increasingly crowded and stuffy Democratic primary pool overflowing with a cast of characters. Mfume, however, is still considered a front runner due in part to the state's large, highly professional and high income African American population. In places like Prince George's County and Baltimore, Black voters hold major clout. And Steele - of Prince George's - is betting that Black voters will opt for him out of growing disillusionment with state Dems.

Steele is taking a considerable lead over Mfume in recent state polls. That's if Steele and Mfume face off - which would be extremely encouraging in having a modern, state-wide Senate race determined ultimately by two Black men. We look forward to that.

However, much of Steele's fate will ride on the fortunes or misfortunes of Mfume. if Mfume loses his primary bid (and he's got a lot of work to do), we envision a potential Senator Michael Steele, who has made considerable inroads with African American business and political leaders since being Lt. Gov. and didn't forget where he came from. If Mfume wins the Dem primary, we envision the former NAACP head taking full advantage of his political machine's ability to draw Black votes, which is what is needed to win anything statewide in Maryland ... which will result in Senator Kweisi Mfume. In that case, Steele needs to seriously reconsider his ties to the White House; we're seeing signs of this in his campaign speeches.

Smart move.

But, not enough. In order to draw Black Maryland voters, he will also need to carefully distance himself from hardcore conservative ideologues in his state and nationwide. That will prove to be a tremendous balancing act of which Steele may actually be rather capable.

Ultimately, an all Black Senate race in Maryland could result in a major shift in the Black political landscape, as it may steer African Americans closer to leveraging and coordinating interests in both political parties rather than clinging obstinately onto one.

On Miers Pulling Out ...

Although our general impression of Harriet Miers (as a high court pick) wasn't all that favorable, recent revelations concerning her past stands on affirmative action and diversity gave us reason to pause and, at least, consider what that would mean for the court, the country and African Americans.

Based on chatter both on and off the media board, we're inclined to suspect that much conservative opposition to her nomination was quietly influenced by that uncomfortably non-conservative item, and therefore may have served as more of a primary influence in Miers' demise than many (both left and right) are leading us to believe. Even though, in our assessment, the Black political establishment and electorate should re-evaluate placing so much stock in affirmative action as a major policy issue since we are seeing its gradual erosion, it still doesn't negate the fact that many White conservatives equate an affirmative action gain as a Black political win = potential re-generation of the Democratic base considering current electoral demographics. Most "old boy network" Southern Republicans (which do not represent the GOP as a whole, but certainly have a dominant grip on it) simply oppose even the faintest scent of a Black public policy gain and are irritated by the growth of Black elected officials.

Once again, that analysis would be considerably different if the African American political establishment learned to exercise leverage (and fundraising might) in both parties, rather than hanging on so zealously to one.

And, yes, timing is everything. How odd this drops on the heels of possible indictments in the CIA leak case. Which is why we raised a brow on this point raised by an unidentified Republican operative close to the White House in Chris Cillizza's latest The Fix blog:

Miers's departure comes 24 hours before special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to announce the results of his investigation into the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's name to the news media -- with the potential that one of several high-ranking White House officials could be indicted ... That coincidence of timing led Republican operatives to wonder whether White House insiders know something about the outcome of the leak investigation. "It wouldn't surprise me if the White House timed this to overshadow -- or at least compete with -- indictments today," said one high-level Republican consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the delicateness of the matter. "Even if the indictments come tomorrow, it's still smart timing because it divides the chattering class, weekend talk show focus between the open Supreme Court seat and the indictments, rather than spending all Sunday morning on the indictments."

The reaction from Democrats and advocates on the left is one of excessively premature elation. We'd be very concerned about who is picked by the administration next and whether the Senate will be forced to accept the nomination of someone so strictly conservative (lacking any sense of judicial moderation) that ideological gain is placed ahead of responsible jurisprudence. That wouldn't be acceptable if it were someone fervently liberal, either. Regardless, Bush will stubbornly stick with his next pick given his reputation for digging in.

No Surprise Here

The news yesterday morning that the nomination of Harriet Miers had been withdrawn was not a surprise. Weeks ago we speculated that this might be the outcome. From the moment President Bush made the announcement it was met with derision from the Far Right.

The moment the Right had been waiting for years, the chance to swing the highest court in the land to the right, may have been slipping through their hands. Sensing that possible missed opportunity they criticized the choice immediately and kept up the aggressive questioning publicly. Since Ms. Miers hadn't been a judge there was no paper trail to indicate what type of justice she would become.

That lack of a paper trail caused conservatives to want verifiable evidence that Ms. Miers was indeed a conservative. The support and statements of the President never took hold. The only way to alleviate those fanatical fears was for the White House to release her work for the President. Something the Dems also wanted to see to determine the same thing -- how conservative was she?

The White House wasn't about to release those papers and whiningly said the push for the release of the papers was what sunk the nomination.

What sunk the nomination wasn't the request to the White House for the Counsel's papers and the White House wanting to keep those papers under wraps , but the fact that the Far Right wanted a proven, active Conservative to turn the court in their specific direction and they felt Ms. Miers wasn't that proven conservative.

What sunk the nomination was the arrogance of the White House which even in its weakened state thought it could push the nomination through the process, but completely overreached in their ability to do so by failing to convince the conservatives that "she's the most qualified" candidate in the country.

Those "qualifications" never shone through and now the conservatives are claiming victory. With the White House severely diminished in its ability to wield power both perceived and actual will the next nomination bow the extreme pressure from the Right and name a proven, active conservative and brace for a fight with moderate Republicans and Democrats? Or do they name a proven moderate, cross their fingers the nominee will side with them on abortion, civil rights and civil liberties and totally alienate the Far Right, but see the nomination sail through with Roberts like speed? That is now the question.

We may soon see it answered as the President and the White House have said they will seek to name the next nominee in the very near future. In the time being Affirmation Action, civil rights, most civil liberties and abortion are safe with moderate Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor staying on highest bench.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"You May Do That"

How many people in the course of their life actually make a dramatic difference in the world in which they live? And do so with one monumental action? Think about it. One act, one time that altered the course of history.

The answer is very few. Very, very few. One who did and ignited a movement that changed the face of the world passed from labor to reward on Monday night. Rosa Parks, often called the "mother of the civil rights movement" changed the course of America by saying, when threatened with arrest for failing to move to the back of the bus, "[y]ou may do that."

Nearly 50 years ago on December 1, 1955 the unassuming Sunday School teacher and seamstress boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and sat down. Moments later a white man asked her to give up that seat and move to the back of the bus so he could sit down. She quietly refused, was arrested and four days later was convicted of violating segregation laws and fined $10 plus $4 in court cost.

Her refusal and conviction led to a year long boycott of the Montgomery bus system conducted by a young minister very few people had every heard of, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Parks' sole action on that day sparked a non-violent revolution that resulted in dramatic changes to the Jim Crow laws and statutes of America. That lone action also impacted South Africa's monumental retreat from apartheid and the unthinkable non-violent uprising in Tiananmen Square in China three and a half decades later.

That single event and moment of courage became a 381 day boycott, which resulted in a transformed America and transformed world. A country and a world that are not perfect or complete, but a better country and a better world nonetheless all because a young woman said "[y]ou may do that." Well done our good, faithful and courageous servant.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On Condoleeza Rice & the Troubling Way We Define "Being Black" ...

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson's recent piece on Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is compelling and provocative, to say the least:

Like a lot of African Americans, I've long wondered what the deal was with Condoleezza Rice and the issue of race. How does she work so loyally for George W. Bush, whose approval rating among blacks was measured in a recent poll at a negligible 2 percent? How did she come to a worldview so radically different from that of most black Americans? Is she blind, is she in denial, is she confused -- or what?

Though this blog is sometimes wrongfully accused of being somewhat "one dimensional" and "pro-Democratic Party" in its past assertions, we have to respectfully and, on some points, strongly disagree with Mr. Robinson.

It's not that we don't think Rice should be challenged on her policy positions or political affiliation. In fact, we're finding her somewhat lacking in some areas and too eager to maintain Administration status-quo. But, we are troubled when individuals such as Rice, or Powell or others we'll pass naming at this moment, are challenged based primarily on the degree of their perceived "Blackness" rather than on the merits of the policy. Shake her down because you disagree with her stand on, say, Kazakhstan. Engage her breadth of knowledge with yours. But, the I'm Blacker Than You rhyme gets tired, and frankly, looks foolish. This always sets a dangerous precedent. Robinson implies that Rice may be less Black because her foreign policy stands and career choices stray from some sort of unwritten covenant on what it is "to be Black."

How then is "Black" defined?

Based on Robinson's article, he seems troubled that Rice took up piano lessons and a brief stint at ballet. But, we have to ask, does that make her less Black. Serena Williams learned tennis (and plays it rather well) while growing up in a hard urban area not known for churning out tennis pros - because she didn't play basketball like many urban Black kids, does that make her less Black? Again, it depends on individual perceptions of "Blackness"? Is it typically associated with mainstream views of how we should be and act? Or, do we allow the "dumbing down" of our people, discouraging us from engaging intellectually stimulating activities considered culturally radioactive or "White"? Not to say basketball or football isn't - but, it certainly would be encouraging if there were more brothers and sisters in a science lab rather than on a sports field or an entertainment stage. Mr. Robinson works for a White-owned mainstream, Big 5 newspaper. Is he less Black for knowing how to write well and have his writings placed on the front page of a major international publication? Again, that doesn't make him less Black - but, what makes him more Black than Rice?

And, if we can questions Rice's "Black" qualifications (perhaps, as Robinson does in his column, force her to pull out her "Black" passport), then what's to stop us from questioning every African American's degree of cultural affinity. We can agree that Black people, in general, have a common bond through history, collective aspirations and struggles. But, the experiences are vastly different on many social, economic, regional and demographic levels. You may be Black and grew up in North Philly with one set of experiences, but you could also be Black and grow up in Denver with a set of experiences, expectations and goals that are less or more dramatic. It varies ...

Being Black, since its inception and use, has always been more of a political statement than a cultural term. Yet, the range of that statement is going to dramatically vary based on the many complexions, traditions, neighborhoods, islands, continents and income levels that make us "Black." We are a Diaspora - or did Mr. Robinson conveniently forget that detail? Which makes this article troubling. Let's not continue falling in the trap of our own hypocrisy. We get vexed when White people think we look and act alike. What makes us better when we do it to ourselves?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mulling Miers & Affirmative Action ...

Based on this latest Washington Times piece by Ralph Hallow and Charles Hurt:

The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday. "White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, 'We're not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?' " a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.

In addition to Sen. Charles Schumer's (D-NY) recent comments on Meet the Press (Bloomberg wire, 10.23.05):

Senator Charles Schumer ... said in a separate interview that Miers hasn't yet ``met the burden of proof'' to show she is qualified for the highest court and she likely would get rejected if a vote on her nomination were held now. ``The hearings are going to be make-or-break for Harriet Miers in a way that they have not been for any other nominee,'' Schumer, of New York, said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

... Miers is looking more like a political albatross. However, we think that recent public revelations regarding her past support of affirmative action programs is what is driving fanatical conservative opposition to her nomination, thus forcing a withdrawal. We suspect that this is the leading subtext of that opposition. Washington Post reports:

As president of the State Bar of Texas, Harriet Miers wrote that "our legal community must reflect our population as a whole," and under her leadership the organization embraced racial and gender set-asides and set numerical targets to achieve that goal. The Supreme Court nominee's words and actions from the early 1990s, when she held key leadership positions as president-elect and president of the state bar, provide the first window into her personal views on affirmative action, an area in which the Supreme Court is closely divided and where Miers could tip the court's balance.

This could potentially place the African American political establishment between a political rock and hard place. While seeking to revive leverage within Democratic Party circles, Black elected officials, advocates and organizational leaders may have to compromise traditional stands on affirmative action issues in an effort to placate partisan interests. This is one of many unfortunate outcomes when the modern Black political establishment refuses to exercise leverage in both Republican and Democratic parties and, instead, zealously affiliates with one. This strategy lacks foresight and occassionally catches community interests unaware when political landscapes change.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Marching Orders

Yesterday on the Mall in Washington, DC, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan closed a day long celebration commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Million Man March by giving marching orders to the hundreds of thousands that had gathered for what was called the Millions More Movement.

The idea of the day was to create a new movement to deal with the inequities that still exist in America. An eclectic and impressive mix of African American leaders followed one another to the podium perched in front of the United States Capitol to discuss the state of African Americans and outline new initiatives to close America's racial gap.

As impressive as the leaders, plans, strategies and speeches were, we are left to wonder what's next? Speakers were correct to say it now lies in the hands of each African American to implement the wide ranging plans. The speakers were also correct to call on the government and collective community to do better and assist in implementing the visions and the movement. We often speak here and on about the three concentric circles of responsibilities -- Individual, Community and Governmental -- and each of those were highlighted and called on throughout the day as the speakers spoke about creating a movement.

If the energy of yesterday remains or even grows it may very well turn into a movement, but it will not be an easy hill to climb, in fact as Mr. Farrakhan was giving "marching orders" at the end of the day a race riot was occurring in Toledo, Ohio as violence erupted during a Nazi march in the mid-size Midwestern city. A Nazi march, in America, in 2005, an ironic twist as myriad African American leaders spoke from the foot of democracy about the incompleteness of America and the need to creating a new movement.

A new movement that needs to march through Washington, Toledo and into the hearts of the rest of America may be on its way, only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Watch them Eat their Young or Give them a Fork?

It has been just over a week since President George W. Bush nominated his White House Counsel Harriet Miers to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

It has also been just over a week since conservatives have been expressing their disappoint in the appointment. Seeing this as the moment they begin reshaping the court in their conservative view for a generation.

Conservatives have waited for 5 long years for this moment. They thought the seat would that of the liberal and aging Justice John Paul Stevens. But it turned out to be the Republican appointee O'Connor.

It was sweet justice in a way since Justice O'Connor had disappointed the flock since she had become the court balancing moderate on critical issues like abortion, Affirmative Action and some civil liberties. The very cases they want to overturn.

Conservatives are frightened to death the they won't be able overturn those case if Bush 43 pulls a Bush 41 and appoints a "Con" - a conservative only in name - like the elder Bush did with now Justice David Souter.

That scenario has been a reoccuring nightmare for the Right since last Monday, causing Conservatives to express their angst loud and publicly for eight consecutive days. Commentators, elected officials and faith leaders of the Right have said they won't be "Soutered" again and are trying to apply pressure to the President and Ms. Miers to withdraw the nomination.

As the Right bickers and battles the Democrats must feel like the guy who finds himself in the middle of a Halle Berry and Beyonce sandwich, he can't believe he's there but there are worse places to be.

Dems expected to be in the place of leading the charge against the nomination once it was made, but after it was announced the Far Right went ballistic and is leading a not so quiet charge to derail the Miers nomination. Democrats can't believe what's going on and certainly know after the Roberts coronation there are certainly worse places to be. But how do the Democrats react? Do they join in the chorus of "we don't know who she really is?"or do they stand back and watch the theater of the absurd?

The answer is easy. Senate Democrats, their leader excluded, should sit back and watch the fireworks. Then prepare blistering questions to be offered at the hearing (if the nomination gets that far), but let the conservatives carry the water on this fight and keep their powder dry in the event the Far Right wins this incestuous struggle, Ms. Miers withdraws and the President appoints a demonstrated conservative.

Friday, October 07, 2005

They Wouldn't...They Couldn't...They Might

It has been 5 days since President George W. Bush nominated his White House Counsel Harriet Miers to replace Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. It is the moment the far right has been waiting for for 5 years. The moment their "conservative" president would shape the highest court in the land for a generation and turn the court backward (forward in their minds) and overturn many of the civil rights, civil liberties and criminal justice cases in recent history.

The top of their hit list is Roe v. Wade, the case that legalizes abortion. Shortly there after in the batting order is Affirmation Action, expanding police action, the Voting Rights Act, the separation of church and state, the juvenile death penalty, the Patriot Act and so on and so on.

The Right Wing went to extraordinary measures to ensure the election and reelection of a president who would nominate justices to start working on that hit list and dismantle the recent work of the court. The conservatives thought they were well on their way when Justice O'Connor retired. The Right just know that the president would nominate a solid conservative (especially after the John Roberts confirmation) to start the dismantling of current case law.

But they were shocked on Monday when the President nominate Ms. Miers. A capable attorney with no judicial experience and therefore no paper trial. No way to tell what type of justice she would be on the court. How would she handle the issues so important to the Right? That uncertainty and mystery has the Right in total panic. Despite repeated and now consistent reassurances from the President,conservative from Senators like Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) to conservative writers and commentators like Ann Coulter and George Will there is a great deal of unease about the president's appointment. Incompetent, inexperienced and unqualified are now words swirling around the White House with indictment, racism and croynism.

But how disappointed are conservatives? Are they just talking noise because the appointment wasn't a seasoned judicial conservative to actively move their legal agenda forward, or are they so disappointed that they will openly try to force the president to withdraw the appointment (or force Ms. Miers to "withdraw" from consideration) or will they actually not confirm her and force the president to give them what and whom they want.

If ever there was a time to force a president's hand, even a president of your own party and beliefs, it may be now. He is a weakened president, with seemingly no domestic agenda (what happened to Social Security Reform?), mired in a quagmire in Iraq, facing rising gas and soon heating prices, reeling from a slow and thus deadly response to a natural catastrophe, facing the possible indictment of his alter ego and political architect, critical midterm elections basically a year away and term limited George W. Bush may not have the political capital to save his friend and former personal attorney.

But even in that weakened state do the conservatives have the nerve to throw Ms. Miers, and the President with her, under the bus in their quest to control the United States Supreme Court for a generation? Their near four decade journey to control all three branches of government is near completion. Will they push Ms. Miers off the proverbial political cliff for ratification of the conservative agenda? Or will they cross their fingers, close their eyes and hope for the best? Time will tell and within the next six weeks we'll find out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Confirming Miers might be Unconstitutional ...

To say Supreme Court picks are not political is to express naivete; to say that they should not be political shows a needed degree of pragmatic idealism these days. Absent the modern political climate, these would be fair assumptions - but the unfortunate point is that they are not. Which concerns us. We are already overwhelmed with tales of corruption and political pull gone wild on Capitol Hill combined with the damaging consequences of unqualified partisan hacks receiving cushy appointments in critical federal agencies. Now, we're faced with a soft and quiet high court pick selected by the Administration merely because of her long-time association with the President. Yet, she displays none of the Constitutional jurisprudence or experience we thought was needed to qualify.

No doubt this is a very smart and cautious political move by the Administration. But, does that necessarily make it the right or most legally sound move? Perhaps: there is, indeed, precedent for non-judges and professional politicians being appointed to the high court (from Taft in 1921 to Warren in 1953 and even Rehnquist in 1971). And, since we have a conservative President promoting conservative ideals and a strict interpretation of the law to which we are all bound, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution offers that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint… judges of the Supreme Court.” That's a fairly straightforward mandate that gives no real or objective criteria to go by. An arguable flaw ...

However, we can't see how selecting White House staff simply based on their presumed political stealth through the Senate confirmation process expresses the type of solid legal reasoning we'd expect from any Administration. At least, with Chief Justice Roberts, we could say that he has a seasoned background in Constitutional law; we may disagree with where he might stand on certain issues, but we respect the fact that he is qualified. We don't know what to make of Harriet Miers except to say that she's a less controversial nominee - other than that, can the President demonstrate her qualifications as a Constitutional scholar? Will the Senate perform its duty to protect the Constitution by requiring a high level of Constitutional acumen or defy its oath by confirming safe, politically negotiable nominees? That's a reasonable question. Should we anticipate a pattern of future Presidents with low approval ratings, questionable foreign policies, bad performance metrics and embattled agendas to select Supreme Court nominees that are less controversial?

George Will is on point in the Washington Post today: "It is important that Miers not be confirmed unless, in her 61st year, she suddenly and unexpectedly is found to have hitherto undisclosed interests and talents pertinent to the court's role. Otherwise the sound principle of substantial deference to a president's choice of judicial nominees will dissolve into a rationalization for senatorial abdication of the duty to hold presidents to some standards of seriousness that will prevent them from reducing the Supreme Court to a private plaything useful for fulfilling whims on behalf of friends.

"The wisdom of presumptive opposition to Miers's confirmation flows from the fact that constitutional reasoning is a talent -- a skill acquired, as intellectual skills are, by years of practice sustained by intense interest. It is not usually acquired in the normal course of even a fine lawyer's career. The burden is on Miers to demonstrate such talents, and on senators to compel such a demonstration or reject the nomination."

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sweatin' Bill Bennett ...

Blasting a steady stream of condemnations, retorts and rhetorical ammo at former Education Secretary and "drug czar" (we despise this loose American usage of an anti-democratic term historically applied to oppressive Russian dictators) William Bennett does come off a bit like preaching to the choir. On the real: we've got a lot more to worry about than sweating Mr. Bennett. But, while we're on the subject, is it really surprising? Why not expect the self-labeled Godfather of Modern American "Virtues," later admitting to a gambling addiction, to continue his downward descent into public ignorance and hypocrisy.

Bennett claims he wants to engage in a "thought experiment," yet refuses to take the virtuous road through a humble apology that could take such an experiment to a next level discussion on race, perception and prejudice. We'd be open to that. Instead, he becomes the antithesis of hyper-conservative ideology: a victim. Plus, we know the whole history behind "thought experiments" and using intellectual dogma to serve nefarious agendas, from slavery to the Holocaust, from the Inquisition to Pol Pot. Words are powerful. There is a long, alarming history of certain population groups suffering at the whim of intellectuals who promote racially shady hypotheses based on screwy science.

This is a no-brainer. White conservatives simply can't excuse Bennett for catching a rash of foot-in-mouth disease. This is why they are always under suspicion from both Black left and right. It's a little deeper than that - he can't let this one go and admit verbal acid reflux. First: how do you go from discussing the relationship between Social Security and abortion (which was the initial argument) to suddenly putting Black folks in it. Out of all the suppositions to suppose in his Socratic argument, Bennett reaches Black, and even though he clearly realizes it's time to clean it up ("an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do"), he still insists on coming back to it, cutting his voice down and octave and slipping it in again quick and cool: "but ... your crime rate would go down."

It's understandable that conservatives would want this to go away. And we're not saying Bennett is racist. But, the particular mindset he espouses is enough to validate the racist claims of people who listen to him on the regular. We don't dispute that crime disproportionately impacts African American communities, especially African American males. We can't avoid that fact. But, we can only have a more honest and straightforward conversation about Black crime if we pay attention to the socio-economic factors, bias, profiling and oppression that contributes to certain conditions. Observes Tim Wise in this piece:

"Not only are blacks more likely to be arrested and imprisoned than their crime rates would justify, but whites are much less likely to wind up in prison despite their share of serious crime. More than half of all violent crimes are committed by non-Hispanic whites, but only a quarter of today's prison population is white, according to the Justice Department. Blacks, on the other hand, commit a little more than one-fourth of all violent crime (according to victim recollections), but comprise nearly half the jail and prison population."

Quoting Constructive Feedback ...

We couldn't help but cite a member of a well-populated message board known as where Black cyber riders may find some of the most intellectually stimulating Black discourse on the net. "Constructive Feedback," as he or she calls himself, puts nail to head in their response to our latest blog titled Missing the Point, 9.22.06:

"At the same time you have to understand - THESE SAME DISTRICTS continue to reelect people who year after year ECHO the same political rhetoric. The masses in the community are lead to believe that they are being SCREWED by some external adversary and the candidate at hand stands in the breach offering to FIGHT THEIR BATTLE FOR THEM."

Feedback might be on to something ...