The filibuster battlefield
I applaud the efforts of Sen. John Cornyn and others (“A broken tradition,” Op-Ed, Thursday) to end the filibuster of President Bush’s judicial nominees so they can have the up-or-down vote to which they are constitutionally entitled. Unfortunately, this abuse of the filibuster is symptomatic not simply of a breakdown in the judicial confirmation process, but of a wider disregard by both houses of Congress for proper constitutional limits on legislative power. After a 60-year hiatus, the Supreme Court finally reaffirmed 10 years ago that the powers of Congress are enumerated and finite, not open-ended and plenary, as most members seem to believe. From Congress’ usurpation of power under the commerce clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, to its irresponsible delegation of authority to unelected bureaucrats, to our disgracefully prolix tax code, the unwillingness of elected representatives to respect the constitutional framework painstakingly constructed by our Founders is a national tragedy. Demanding that senators stop their unconstitutional filibustering of the president’s judicial nominees is an important — but very small — step in the right direction in respecting our constitutional framework.
Institute for Justice
The Senate leadership will make a terrible mistake if it succeeds in diluting the power of the minority by banning the use of filibusters against executive nominees. Ignore for the moment the spectacle of the U.S. Senate imitating the People’s Republic of China or North Korea, automatically approving every nominee the president submits without consideration of qualification or suitability. The reality is that political winds shift, and it is inevitable that the Republicans will once again be in the minority. I, for one, would like them to have the ability to thwart selected nominees put forward by a Democratic president.
A better solution would be to stop all work in the Senate and let the Democrats try to sustain their filibuster in the glare of the 24-hour news cycle. Either they will fail, and President Bush’s judicial nominees will get confirmed, or they win, and we will be no worse off than we are today.
Turn up the heat and see who can stand it. This is the American way. I see no reason to change important Senate procedure for a short-term partisan victory.
JOSEPH F. BRANAN
La Mesa, Calif.
Hong Kong’s ‘national security’ bill
Your Thursday editorial “Wither Hong Kong” is shot through with inaccuracies and false allegations.
Our National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill compares favorably with similar legislation in other common-law jurisdictions and is in full accord with international human rights standards. Offenses such as subversion and treason would require the use of force or serious criminal acts similar to terrorist activities, or engaging in war. There is no truth to the claim that the government “would have the power to imprison someone for seven years without a trial” for alleged seditious activity. Nor is there any truth in the allegation that “journalists could be jailed for reporting any news unfavorable to the government.” Under the Official Secrets Ordinance, which is based on the United Kingdom Official Secrets Act, an offense of unlawful disclosure would be committed only if a person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that the information belongs to a protected category and that disclosure of such information would be damaging. Just four categories of information are protected under the Official Secrets Ordinance, namely, information relating to security and intelligence, defense, international relations, and commission of criminal offenses and investigation. The circumstances under which damage may be caused are strictly defined under the ordinance. “National security” is tightly defined under our laws, meaning only the protection of territorial integrity and independence of the People’s Republic of China. Fundamental rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people are fully protected under the basic law. It is clear that freedom of expression is not being suppressed.
Moreover, any person charged with treason, secession, sedition, subversion or any of the unlawful disclosure offenses could opt for trial by jury. Whether anyone is convicted would be determined ultimately by the jury.
Secretary for security
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Saddam’s attempt to control the future
The Washington Times performed a significant public service yesterday by publishing the Jan. 23 “extremely confidential” letter from Saddam Hussein’s director of central intelligence ordering sabotage against the U.S.-led coalition if the Iraqi government fell (“Iraqi ‘secret plan’ orders mayhem,” Page 1).
This brutish attempt to sabotage the future recalls Adolf Hitler’s order issued from his Berlin bunker for SS troops to blow up all remaining autobahn bridges. (Ironically, they all had built-in demolition chambers for this purpose.)
Saddam’s order went further than Hitler’s. The Iraqi tyrant directed his services to loot and burn all government offices, sabotage power and water facilities, and cut internal communications. He also ordered his intelligence services to infiltrate “reliable persons” into mosques and religious gatherings and to assassinate unreliable imams and preachers.
Never mind the irrationality and contradictions in these directives. While this emergency document ostensibly was designed to restore Saddam’s regime, its real impact was to sabotage the future by destroying the efforts to bring order and justice to the Iraqi people. It recalls Big Brother’s slogan in George Orwell’s “1984”: “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
ERNEST W. LEFEVER
Ethics and Public Policy Center
That vast right-wing conspiracy
“Why did you lie to me?” Hillary Rodham Clinton said she cried as she described in her new book, “Living History,” the August 1998 morning when her husband confessed to her that he “indeed did have an inappropriate relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Mrs. Clinton claims that from January 1998 through that August she believed her husband was telling her the truth and that the allegations were part of “a right-wing conspiracy” meant to railroad him.
Here’s why I don’t believe her: For more than two decades, she knew she was married to a sexual predator and serial adulterer.Yet, she’s trying to tell us that for seven months until these claims were proved true, she totally believed in his innocence, that the thought that he actually was guilty of this presidential disgrace never once entered her mind?
She’s telling us that this whole revelation of Bill’s indiscretion with a sassy 20-year-old intern was a complete shock to her?
If this is what she’s selling, I’m not buying. She’s either a boldfaced liar just like her husband or the world’s most gullible feminist. My money is on the lie, but either way, it doesn’t reflect well on her.
Instead of screaming, “Why did you lie to me?” to the president, she should have yelled, “I can’t believe I gave the perception that I believed you and publicly defended you.You made me look like the world’s biggest fool.”
Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Clinton, as part of the wrongfully accused “right-wing conspiracy,” after five years, I’m still waiting for my apology.
EUGENE R. DUNN