Thursday, May 12, 2005

Selective outrage

“When the word ‘impeachment’ was uttered in March and April as an option for dealing with renegade judges, the guardians of conventional wisdom were quick to denounce ‘ideologues,’ who, in the words of the New York Times editorialists, ‘are trying to bully judges into following their political line,’ ” Hugh Hewitt writes at the Weekly Standard Web site (

“Now the folks who raised the possibility of impeachment were not themselves elected officials. A Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition thought that impeachment ‘needs to be put on the table.’ Phyllis Schlafly thought out loud that ‘Congress ought to talk about impeachment.’ Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association branded Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy a ‘poster boy for impeachment.’ When a reporter pressed Tom DeLay on the subject, DeLay’s response was an insufficiently Shermanesque rejection of the idea, and he was condemned as a threat to judicial independence as well,” Mr. Hewitt said.

“This collective onset of the horrors among the talking heads reflected a widespread and, I hasten to add, correct understanding of the role of impeachment in American history. Ever since John Randolph of Virginia launched a famously political — and unsuccessful — impeachment assault on Samuel Chase in January 1804, our tradition has been that judges are insulated from political payback for their rulings, no matter how wrong-headed we believe them to be. …

“Which leads those for whom consistency is a virtue to ask: Where is the outrage over the very real smashing of tradition with regard to the filibustering of judicial nominees?”

CAFTA dilemma

“The Bush administration is planning to submit CAFTA — the Central America Free Trade Agreement — to the Congress for approval. Democrats and labor unions are indicating their usual opposition, and a fight reminiscent of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) battle over trade with Mexico in the early ‘90s seems about to begin,” Dick Morris writes in the Hill newspaper.

“CAFTA is an attempt to bring to the poverty-stricken countries of Central America the benefits of free trade with the colossus of the north. These nations are among the world’s poorest, and free trade would be a tremendous boon to their economies,” Mr. Morris wrote.

“NAFTA has hurt them, since it has given Mexico a competitive advantage over its neighbors. Why build a factory in Guatemala and pay tariffs to import your products to the United States when you can build it next door in Mexico and import without levies or duties?”

“Those who oppose illegal immigration cannot have it both ways. Either you alleviate poverty in Central America and encourage would-be immigrants to stay home and share in the increasing wealth or you keep them in poverty and watch as they flock over our borders.

“With 2 million people who were born in Central America now living in the United States, the Democrats oppose CAFTA at their peril. These voters will not take kindly to nativist sentiment in the party that says it offers them opportunity and compassion.”

Pelosi’s shoe

It was a Cinderella story, Capitol Hill style.

Starring as Prince Charming, freshman Rep. Dave Reichert dropped to his knees yesterday during a press conference and handed over a beige leather slingback that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lost during the hasty evacuation of Congress on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

“I’m proud to be here, and proud to present you with your shoe,” said Mr. Reichert, Washington Republican.

“That is my shoe,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, exclaimed to laughter.

Mrs. Pelosi lost her shoes when Capitol Police lifted her out of them during the evacuation.

“I said, ‘I’m losing my shoe,’ and they said, ‘That’s too bad, just keep going,’ ” Mrs. Pelosi said.

The shoe flipped up in front of Mr. Reichert as he ran down a crowded stairway on his way out. Capitol Police officers found the other shoe the same day and returned it.

Pryor passes

Former Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor’s nomination to the federal appeals court was narrowly approved yesterday for a second time by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judge Pryor holds a temporary seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, to which President Bush nominated him while Congress was in recess.

“We stand here on the precipice of a constitutional crisis,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and committee member, referring to the so-called “nuclear option” that Republicans could employ as early as next week to break the filibusters. “Bill Pryor is the last of the four most controversial nominees that the president has sent our way.”

Democrats say Judge Pryor’s opposition to abortion prohibits him from following the law. Republicans rebut this by pointing to his role in removing Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for refusing to dismantle a Ten Commandments monument that had been deemed unconstitutional.

The winner

A Florida county Republican Party chairman won a defamation suit against a former county Republican executive committee member who wrote state party leaders about his many marriages and accused him of spousal abuse, the Associated Press reports.

Jim Stelling, who heads the Seminole County Republican Party, sued Nancy Goettman over the letter she sent just days before the 2003 election for chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Mr. Stelling narrowly lost to Carole Jean Jordan.

Besides the abuse accusation, Miss Goettman wrote in her letter that Mr. Stelling has been married six times. He actually has been married five times.

Judge Clayton Simmons ruled that a mistake on the number of Mr. Stelling’s marriages was harmless but concluded that the abuse accusation was false and defamatory.

Mr. Stelling won no financial damages, but Miss Goettman was ordered not to send the letter to anyone else. Mr. Stelling had asked for $99,000 plus legal fees and costs.

At the bottom

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft received the worst approval rating —19 percent — in the first national poll covering the chief executives of all 50 U.S. states.

New York-based SurveyUSA polled 600 adults in every state in the union Friday to Sunday and found the most popular governor to be Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota, with a 71 percent approval rating, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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