- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Moral arbiters

Critics of the Supreme Court decision to declare a constitutional right to sodomy are wrong to conclude that the ruling “means the end of morals legislation,” Jonathan Cohn writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“Paradoxically, the decision confirms that morality is a viable basis for law. The court’s decision was all about morality — the justices’ morality. There is no other way to explain the result,” said Mr. Cohn, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, a dissenter in the case.

“Looked at in that light, the court’s holding does not signal the end of morality but merely the transfer of decision-making power” from the public to the high court, the writer said.

The Democrats’ future

“Republicans are looking forward to next year’s elections with a song in their hearts and a smile on their faces,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“They were happy when Nancy Pelosi became the leader of the House Democrats, and they are even happier about Howard Dean’s momentum in the Democratic presidential primaries. They are happy about every sign that the Democratic party is lurching leftward, since they think a left turn would create the possibility for a Republican landslide. It will be 1972 all over again.

“I have an article in the latest issue of National Review analyzing what’s behind the Dean insurgency, and what may be ahead of it. I write here to suggest that those Republicans who are conservatives ought not to be so cheery about what’s going on. Conservative and Republican interests converge quite frequently, but not entirely. The resurgence of the Democratic Left is one of the places where they don’t. It is something that would indeed help the Republican party, but not the conservative cause,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“One of the reasons that parties benefit when the other party becomes extreme is that it allows it to hug the center. But if Republicans are moving to the center and Democrats to the left, that means both parties are moving leftward — that the center of gravity of American politics is moving leftward. Isn’t that, too, part of the story of 1972?”

Mr. Ponnuru added: “It is possible, of course, that the Democrats could suffer so massive a repudiation that conservatives would come out ahead, even given their left turn and the Republicans’ reaction to it. But it is a lot less obvious to me than people seem to assume.

“And there’s another issue. People ask me sometimes whether I’m happy about the Democrats’ current predicaments. But let’s rephrase the question. Should we be happy that one of our two major parties is going off the deep end? I don’t think so.”

Frost shrugs

Republicans in Texas released a redistricting plan Tuesday night that could increase their strength by four to seven seats in Congress.

The proposed map would move U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, a Democrat, into the overwhelmingly Republican district represented by U.S. Rep. Joe L. Barton, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Democrats hold a 17-15 edge in the Texas congressional delegation.

Mr. Frost said he is not sure which district he would seek to represent if the map is approved, but he is betting that the proposed districts will be rejected either by the Legislature, or ultimately in federal court.

“My overall reaction is it does not have a … chance … of being approved by the federal courts,” Mr. Frost said. The GOP-drawn map, he added, “really disenfranchises the black community in Fort Worth because it submerges the black community into a Republican district.”

Mr. Frost predicted that the proposal will be revised several times before anything is sent to the final drawing board. “This is just another shot in the battle,” he said.

Supreme legislature

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn asked the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday to order the Legislature to raise taxes after lawmakers failed to fund a new public schools budget.

Mr. Guinn made the request as the new fiscal year opened without legislative approval of $864 million in new taxes or a K-12 schools budget. The lawmakers’ negotiations to resolve an impasse over the taxes broke down late Monday.

Mr. Guinn, a Republican, wants the additional tax money to balance an already approved $5 billion, two-year state budget. The state constitution requires adequate funding for public schools and enough taxes to balance the entire budget.

State Supreme Court justices, meeting in Las Vegas, agreed to consider the governor’s request. Chief Justice Deborah Agosti called for written comments by Monday and said a decision would be expedited.

The impasse in the Legislature came after 15 Republicans in the 42-seat Assembly refused to support a version of the governor’s tax proposal that called for more than $700 million in higher taxes. That left the bill’s supporters one vote short of a required two-thirds majority.

String of disasters

“Andrew Cuomo’s marital crackup may leave the son of one of New York’s most famous governors wishing he had never left Washington,” the New York Post’s Fredric U. Dicker writes.

“Since returning to New York nearly three years ago after serving as President Clinton’s housing secretary, Cuomo’s public life has been largely a string of disasters,” Mr. Dicker said.

“He came back to New York amid considerable excitement, vowing to recapture his father’s throne from Gov. [George E.] Pataki.

“Cuomo presented himself as a rare combination of the wisdom, ideals and political skills of his dad and former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, his wife Kerry’s martyred father.

“A hint of Camelot-reclaimed was in the air.

“But Cuomo’s campaign proved amateurish, and he himself quickly fell on his face. …

“Since dropping out of last year’s campaign, Cuomo has appeared to many to be stunned and even lost. …

“And now his split with his wife — and his harsh accusation that he was ‘betrayed and saddened’ by her — have left many wondering if Cuomo is washed up for good as a player in New York politics.”

Staying in Congress

Rep. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering Jr. said yesterday he will remain in Congress rather than pursue a lucrative opportunity to lobby for the telecommunications industry.

The Mississippi Republican said he made the decision after talking to his wife and five sons, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Pickering, 39, had been rumored for two weeks to be the leading candidate to replace Thomas Wheeler, who is stepping down at year’s end as president of the Washington-based Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

The job pays at least $1 million a year. Mr. Pickering makes $154,700 in Congress, where he has served since 1997.

“My family and I did feel an obligation to have a serious discussion about this opportunity, and to consider the impact on our five boys,” Mr. Pickering said in a statement. The boys are ages 4 to 13.

Before he joined Congress, Mr. Pickering worked for Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and helped push an overhaul of the nation’s telecommunications law in 1996.

Fans of Kucinich

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat and presidential hopeful, has won the endorsement of singer and Farm Aid activist Willie Nelson.

“I will be doing all I can to raise [Mr. Kucinichs] profile with voters,” Mr. Nelson said in a prepared statement yesterday. “I plan to do concerts to benefit the campaign.”

The Kucinich campaign also played up a comment that former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader made on CNN’s “Crossfire” this week: “If Dennis Kucinich gets the nomination, it’ll be less reason to have a third-party challenge. He’s a very progressive Democrat.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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