- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

No to Noriega

The article on Roger Noriega’s recent Senate confirmation hearing to become assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs predictably revolved around Cuba, and there is the problem (“Envoy nominee urges more aid to the dissidents,” World, May 2). If Mr. Noriega is confirmed, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s shocking indifference toward the full range of inter-American ties again will be stressed.

From the outset, Mr. Noriega’s nomination was motivated more on ideological grounds than on merit; more at having a “go” at Cuba than addressing the alarming deterioration of U.S.-Western Hemispheric ties under this administration. A staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1997 to 2001, Mr. Noriega served an apprenticeship under its then-chairman, Sen. Jesse Helms, a quintessential rightist on hemispheric issues. Thanks to Mr. Helms’ patronage and his Florida boosters, Mr. Noriega’s previous service in minor jobs he was eased out of his staff position with this country’s Organization of American States delegation was rewarded with the ambassadorship to the OAS. He then became a candidate for the State Department vacancy after the Senate blocked the nomination of Otto Reich, the favorite of Miami’s hard-line Cubans, because of his polarizing personality and tainted Iran-Contra background. While Mr. Noriega’s political profile slightly contrasts with Mr. Reich’s, they are as one in viewing Latin America, particularly Cuba, through a Cold War prism. Herein lies the danger.

At Mr. Noriega’s hearing, Sen. Christopher Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, hammered at the nominee’s fitness for the job, citing a dearth of management experience and a lack of demonstrated leadership. It’s difficult to fault Mr. Dodd’s conclusion that Mr. Noriega’s appointment was pushed in Miami. His hearty recommendation by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush all but proves it. The fear is that because Mr. Noriega shares Mr. Reich’s obsession with Cuba, the prospect of an attempted regime change there cannot be ruled out.

Mr. Noriega’s nomination came about because his demonstrable record of mediocrity and lack of convictions matched the low standards set by the Bush administration for the region. If the Senate is serious about addressing the United States’ troubled ties with Latin America not a single major regional nation, save a financially dependent Colombia, supported the U.S. policy on Iraq it will turn its back on this nomination.

LARRY BIRNS

Director

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Washington

Filibuster falsehoods

By defending something that is not happening today, letter writer Joseph Cocurullo (“Defending Democratic filibusters,” Wednesday) leaves intact columnist Nat Hentoff’s case against the current judicial nominee filibusters (“Judicial selection gone awry,” Op-Ed, Monday).

While Mr. Hentoff attacks permanent filibusters aimed at abolishing majority rule, Mr. Cocurullo defends taking cloture votes for other purposes. For example, his claim that Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s appeals court nomination was “filibustered” is false. On Dec. 9, 1980, the Senate voted 68-28 to invoke cloture on the Breyer nomination. Only if that cloture vote had failed could Mr. Cocurullo even potentially claim an actual filibuster was under way. Even then, it would not necessarily be the same as the attempted permanent filibusters today.

Mr. Cocurullo’s citation of the Constitution as authority for the current filibusters is similarly misguided. While Article I, Section 5 gives the House and Senate authority to “determine the rules of its proceedings,” those rules must still comply with the Constitution. Taking cloture votes may comply generally, but attempting a permanent filibuster is something else altogether. A permanent filibuster would insert into the Constitution a 60-vote supermajority in a situation where the Constitution does not already require one.

Being precise is important, both to diagnose the current crisis and to offer an effective solution. Mr. Hentoff had it right because he was writing about what is actually going on today. Mr. Cocurullo was wrong because he was writing about something else entirely.

THOMAS L. JIPPING

Director

Judicial Appointments Project

Concerned Women for America

Washington

Displaying the Center for Individual Freedom’s “Hypocrite” ad that ran in the May 9 edition on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, host Tim Russert asked Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota why he was acting against his own words in leading simultaneous filibusters against circuit court nominees Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen.

“Why not let the Republicans have a vote? You can vote no, but just give them a vote the way you thought they should have in 1999,” Mr. Russert said.

For those of us who work tirelessly to defend the Constitution, Mr. Daschle’s response was troubling, to say the least: “Tim, that should be the rule, but sometimes there are, as you know, exceptions to the rule.”

No, Mr. Daschle, we don’t know. Contrary to what he says, there are no exceptions to the Constitution.

In 1995, Mr. Daschle said on the Senate floor, “The Constitution is straightforward about the few instances in which more than a majority of the Congress must vote: a veto override, a treaty and a finding of guilt in an impeachment proceeding. Every other action by the Congress is taken by majority vote. … Democracy means majority rule, not minority gridlock.”

It’s past time for Mr. Daschle to end his hypocrisy and allow Senate Democrats to vote on the judges.

JEFFREY MAZZELLA

Senior vice president

Legislative affairs

Center for Individual Freedom

Alexandria

Texas Democrats just ‘runaway cowards’

It is utterly infantile of the Texas Democratic representatives to run away from their responsibilities as elected officials, and it is unbelievable that state business is being halted because of this silliness (“Texas Democrats stay on the lam,” Page 1, Wednesday).

Years ago, when the Democrats controlled the redistricting process, my area was carved out of the middle of one district and put into another just to get more minority votes for the Democrats in the second. Did state Republicans run away over this? No, because only Democrats do foolish things to win at any cost.

These runaway cowards must be penalized, as their temper tantrums are costing us taxpayers a lot of money.

HAZEL O. EDWARDS

Houston

Coal in columnist’s sock

Steve Chapman is guilty of shooting the message because of the messenger in his column “Energy themes from the past” (Commentary, Wednesday). Though Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, may be a novel and unexpected advocate for clean coal technology (CCT) and a hydrogen-based economy, his support of these initiatives is not misplaced.

During the past 20 years, the government-industry partnership on CCT research and development has resulted in 20 new, lower-cost, more efficient and cleaner technologies for electric utilities, steel mills, cement plants and other industries. By law, private industry is required to fund at least 50 percent of each project. The reality is that industry has provided two-thirds of the funding: $3.5 billion of a total of $5.3 billion.

For that investment, the American consumer has benefited from a 70 percent increase in affordable and reliable coal-based energy, while the emission rates of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide both have declined by 58 percent and 62 percent, respectively. The FutureGen project, announced by President Bush in February and committed to on April 22 by nine of the nation’s largest coal producers and coal-fired utilities and upon which Mr. Lieberman’s hydrogen proposal is based will culminate in a nearly emissions-free power plant and hydrogen production facility with integrated carbon dioxide management.

Mr. Chapman is correct on one point: The United States is blessed with an abundance of coal. However, full use of that resource is dependent upon appropriate management of our environment responsibilities. CCT and FutureGen are key to our success on both points.

JACK N. GERARD

President and chief executive officer

National Mining Association

Washington

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