- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Judicial massacre

"Although it was overshadowed by the beginning of war, on Capitol Hill Wednesday there was a major escalation in the conflict between Senate Democrats and the White House over the president's judicial nominees," Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

"The escalation had nothing to do with the ongoing Democratic filibuster over appeals-court candidate Miguel Estrada. Instead, it involved a Democratic decision to block, and, at least for the moment, kill a total of four Bush nominees to the federal courts of appeals," Mr. York said.

"Acting in concert, Michigan Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow told the Judiciary Committee they will block the nominations of Richard Griffin, David McKeague, Susan Bieke Neilson, and Henry Saad to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, Levin and Stabenow said they will block the nomination of Thomas Ludington to a seat on the U.S. District Court. That means the two senators are attempting to kill every Bush nominee from the state of Michigan.

"Levin and Stabenow stopped the nominations by returning negative blue slips, which are the documents in which senators indicate approval or disapproval of judicial nominees from their home states.

"Blue slips are a Senate custom with a long and controversial history, but both parties concede it is nearly impossible for a nominee of either party to win confirmation over the objections of both of his or her home-state senators. That means the nominations of Griffin, McKeague, Neilson, Saad and Ludington are effectively dead.

"It was an extraordinary move on the part of Levin and Stabenow, a kind of Wednesday-night massacre that sent Republicans scrambling to research whether such wholesale obstruction had any precedent in Senate history, and what a GOP response might be."

Mr. York added: "The move suggests that the Democratic strategy to block Bush judges extends far beyond selected targets like Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen. Indeed, it appears that Democrats may plan to use a variety of techniques to try to block every, or nearly every, Bush nominee to the federal appeals courts."

Looking ahead

"The long-term implications of the imminent Iraqi war are far more profound than those that followed the Persian Gulf conflict. But the short-term similarities are striking," Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt wrote yesterday.

"That suggests President Bush, under most likely scenarios, will be riding high in the near future. American reservations over this war deeper and more intense than polls suggest will subside as American men and women go into harm's way," Mr. Hunt said.

"There basically are two ways war will evolve. Probably it will be swift; some top administration officials believe Baghdad will be taken within a week. Or it could be more protracted if the Iraqi dictator uses weapons of mass destruction, blows up the oil fields and uses civilians as human shields.

"Either way, George W. Bush will claim vindication.

"A quick Iraqi collapse would legitimate the president's argument that the Iraqi people want to be liberated. …

"A more protracted war … may well create a backlash on the Arab street and even shock many Americans. But it would reinforce everything President Bush has said about Saddam Hussein."

While Mr. Hunt thinks Mr. Bush will be in big political trouble in 2004, "In the foreseeable future, the Bush critics will be very much on the defensive."

Scalawags Inc.?

Atlanta business leaders are stepping up efforts to block Gov. Sonny Perdue's plan to allow Georgians to vote on the design of their state flag.

"A lengthy debate, followed by a referendum, is not a healing process," Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday, according to the Associated Press. "It serves only to harm the worldwide reputation of this state and our metro area and our local economy."

Two years ago, Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes pushed through a new flag design, shrinking the Confederate symbol that had dominated the state flag for 45 years to a tiny speck.

Last year, Mr. Perdue, who pledged to let voters decide the flag issue, defeated Mr. Barnes to become the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Atlanta business leaders gave millions of dollars to Mr. Barnes' losing campaign.

"In a democracy, I believe that you resolve disagreements by creating the opportunity for dialogue, not by ignoring the difficult challenges and putting your head in the sand," Mr. Perdue said.

A recent poll shows 67 percent of Georgians favor a flag referendum. Republicans in the state General Assembly yesterday presented a bill to hold a nonbinding referendum in March 2004.

Candidate search

A group of Kansas City Democrats held a fund-raiser last week for Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, Roll Call reports.

The fund-raiser highlights "the difficulty the Democrats have recruiting a top-tier candidate to take on the three-term senator next year," reporter Chris Cillizza writes.

"The attendees included Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes and several state representatives and city councilmen, among others," the reporter said.

"Recently, in an unusual public attempt to recruit a candidate into the race, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a poll that purported to show that Bond is in a weak position.

"Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell seems the most interested Democrat at this point, though state Auditor Claire McCaskill's name remains in the mix. There is also a rumor of a wealthy fund-raiser waiting in the wings to run, sources said."

Backing the Pledge

The House voted yesterday to condemn a federal appeals court's rulings that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of its reference to God.

The nonbinding resolution, passed 400-7 with 15 members voting "present," states that the phrase "one nation under God" in the Pledge reflects the religious faith central to the founding of the nation and that its recitation is a patriotic act, not a statement of religious faith.

It urged the attorney general to appeal the decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court and encouraged the continued voluntary recitation of the Pledge in school classrooms, the Associated Press reports.

"The 9th Circuit continues to get it wrong," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican. He said the court had refused to rehear the case at a time when the nation is preparing for "an impending war to defend the values upon which our great nation is founded."

The seven who voted against the resolution were all Democrats: Robert C. Scott of Virginia, Jim McDermott of Washington, Pete Stark and Michael M. Honda of California, Jerrold Nadler and Gary L. Ackerman of New York and Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

Monica's TV gig

Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky has a new job: reality-TV host.

Miss Lewinsky has been hired for the Fox series "Mr. Personality," a dating show in which a female contestant is courted by men whose looks are kept hidden, the Associated Press reports.

The men "must rely strictly on their personalities to captivate" the woman, Fox said.

"Since Fox is the network that has had the greatest success with this genre, I was very excited when they approached me to host the show," Miss Lewinsky said in a statement. "It sounds like good fun."

The series is scheduled to begin April 21 on Fox, which has scored ratings hits with reality shows such as "American Idol" and "Joe Millionaire."

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