- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Proxy war

The feud between Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, “may next play out in proxy-war fashion in a race for Democratic caucus vice chair,”Michael Crowley writes in the New Republic.

“The current front-runner is New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, one of Hoyer’s top allies. Democrats are watching to see how much weight Pelosi throws behind another candidate, her friend [Rep. Jan] Schakowsky [of Illinois]. The position itself is fairly meaningless, but its outcome could be symbolic for Pelosi — especially if she fears, as some suspect, that Hoyer might someday challenge her position as House leader. That becomes more likely if House Democrats don’t meet soaring expectations in the 2006 midterm elections,” Mr. Crowley said.

Liberalism first

The prophets have spoken, and it is time to retreat from Babylon. Or so says the Union for Reform Judaism, speaking for the largest branch of American Judaism,” Lawrence F. Kaplan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“The union’s ‘prophetic mission and God’s call to us to be a “light to the nations”’ has, in its own telling, compelled it to demand ‘a clear exit strategy with specific goals for troop withdrawal’ from Iraq,” Mr. Kaplan said.

“The task of halting the union’s foray into politics has fallen mostly to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which, unlike the union, bills itself for what it is: a partisan organization.

“As a result of all this, President Bush, already bogged down in Iraq’s sectarian divisions, finds himself ensnared in a religious feud right here at home. In a major address on Iraq earlier this month, the president was reduced to playing the Israel card, pleading with its supporters to acknowledge that ‘Israel’s long-term survival depends upon the spread of democracy in the Middle East.’

“In one sense at least, the union’s outburst amounts to something more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. Recall that on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, the claim that the Jewish state and its American co-religionists were manufacturing war had become canonical in certain quarters. From the right, Robert Novak described the conflict as ‘Sharon’s war,’ while from the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nation reported that the war’s promoters subscribed to ‘articles of faith that effectively hold there is no difference between U.S. and Israeli national security interests.’

“Nevermind that Israeli officials were lukewarm about the war from the outset, being far more concerned with the threat from Iran. Nevermind, too, that American Jews were more likely to be among the war’s most vocal opponents than among its boosters. (A Yeshiva University poll earlier this year found that two-thirds of American Jews disapprove of the U.S. enterprise in Iraq.) The union’s stand demolishes the canard that American Jews cannot distinguish between Israel’s interests and their own.

“Judging by the union’s vocal opposition to the war, the problem, if anything, appears to be the reverse: What is ‘good for the Jews’ seems to concern the organization less than what is good for American liberalism. A premature withdrawal from Iraq would be devastating to the cause of the Jewish state.

“That observation does not reflect the motives for having gone to war, but simply the outcome of abandoning a fellow democracy without condition and regardless of consequence — and the obvious consequence would be Iraq’s transformation into a den of terror. None of this seems to have made an impression on the reform Jewish organization.”

Alito’s chances

“Any assessment of the prospects for the Alito nomination must begin with the fact that Republicans hold the Senate. That matters — a lot,”Terry Eastland writes in the Weekly Standard.

“Under the Constitution, the president and the Senate play the key roles in Supreme Court appointments. Simply put, the president nominates and the Senate approves — or fails to approve — the nominee. It makes sense to think that when members of the same party control both the White House and the Senate, a Supreme Court nomination is likely to succeed. And the history of Supreme Court nominations backs that up.

David Brady, a professor of political science at Stanford and deputy director of the Hoover Institution, says that while two-thirds of all high court nominations have succeeded, the percentage goes up to 85 percent when senators of the same party as the president’s are in the majority.

“The Republican Senate is an obvious impediment for the liberal interest groups that have made judicial appointments a chief concern ever since Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987. It is hardly a news flash to report that those groups work intimately with Democratic senators and especially their staffs. When they succeeded in their effort to block the Bork nomination, it bears remembering, the Democrats controlled the Senate, 55 to 45.

“Today, the Republicans are at 55. And so the influence of the anti-Alito groups stands to be limited. Earlier this year, only 22 senators — all Democrats — wound up voting against John Roberts, President Bush’s choice to be chief justice. And among the Democrats who did vote for him was, surprisingly, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judge Samuel Alito will take his seat before that committee on January 9. But while it seems likely that more than 22 Democrats will oppose the judge, the nomination doesn’t appear to be in trouble,” Mr. Eastland said.

Look around

“Spying on e-mail and cell phone traffic without a warrant. Searching offices and residences without a court order. Locking citizens away for weeks or months without filing charges.

“Sound like your worst nightmare about the supposedly lawless Bush administration? Perhaps. But I refer to restrictions on civil liberties that are taking place not in the United States but, in the order in which I cited them, Canada, France and Great Britain,”Thomas Bray writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“All three countries are cited as moral superiors to the rogue regime in Washington, where the fascist leaders George Bush and Dick Cheney are said to be intent on fastening a reign of terror on the United States. But a brief scan of newspaper Web sites in those countries — something that the American mainstream media could easily have done before unleashing its own reign of terror on unsuspecting readers — reveals that their governments have in many cases gone far beyond where Bush-Cheney could ever dream of going,” Mr. Bray said.

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

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