- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Roberts hearings

The ridiculous scrutiny Judge John G. Roberts Jr. is enduring in order to determine whether he should be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court exemplifies once again the absurd lengths to which the more liberal element within Congress will go to undermine the form of government our Founding Fathers worked so hard to establish (“Democrats hit Roberts’ ambiguity,” Page 1, Friday). What is at stake here is the integrity of the nomination process, which, unfortunately, has been reduced to a type of political campaign in which the candidate, Judge Roberts, is expected to divulge his personal views on abortion, homosexuality and other issues.

Two key issues should be the exclusive focus of the hearings: What is Judge Roberts’ understanding of the function of the Supreme Court in relation to the other two branches of government, and second, how will he handle the Constitution? Questions regarding a person’s views on public-policy issues such as abortion and homosexuality are appropriate within the context of a political campaign because candidates for political office will be expected to legislate. However, Judge Roberts is not running for political office, and to treat him as if he were by demanding that he divulge his personal views on moral and social issues is an unfortunate abuse of the nomination process.

It appears the liberals, who have used the Supreme Court as a second legislative branch of government, are desperate to make sure the sword doesn’t cut both ways. Hopefully Judge Roberts will be confirmed and then work hard to restore the Supreme Court to its original purpose.

STEPHEN ROST

Dixon, Calif.

During his recent hearings, Judge Roberts refused to provide the Senate (and the public) with his personal opinions on a number of key court cases. In withholding this information, the judge followed an unfortunate pattern typical of many liberal and conservative nominees. This strategy is often justified by saying that nominee candor will injure the nominee’s independence or somehow constrain a nominee’s flexibility in a future court case. However, these claims have little foundation.

Everyone knows that the justices’ personal views and opinions largely dictate Supreme Court decisions. Supreme Court law is clearly not science. Few court decisions are predictable based upon first legal principles. Also, the Supreme Court has reversed its past directions on a number of occasions, as the justices’ personal beliefs have changed. Such radical change in direction almost never happens in science.

A nominee’s current opinions (though they may change) are the single most reliable predictors of his or her future votes. Stating them during confirmation hearings harms neither the court’s independence nor a nominee’s future flexibility. The Senate and the public should not be denied this vital information when considering a confirmation to a Supreme Court lifetime appointment.

Our country will be much better off when a Supreme Court nominee’s need for independence and flexibility and the taxpayer’s need for government accountability are considered: (1) legitimate, (2) of equal importance and (3) totally compatible.

MARTIN MCBRIDE

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Michael Brown was rather typical

A lot has been said criticizing the president for appointing a man with little previous experience in emergency management to head the federal agency with that responsibility (“Brown quits as head of FEMA,” Nation, Tuesday). This is a common practice, however — to head federal agencies and programs with those having little previous experience in the areas they are supposed to manage. Political connection becomes the basis upon which many become selected. It has been that way for many years, from my observations working for a major government agency. (I am now retired, or I wouldn’t be saying this.)

If not for the GS-15-and-above “shopkeep” group that surrounds and provides ongoing support for the mission programs and keeps agencies functioning, these agency heads would often fall flat on their faces — especially in times like this, when leadership must be provided on an immediate, ongoing and ad hoc basis. How could it be otherwise when the leaders change every four years and there is an immediate need for the newly elected politicians to get on top of the agency and exercise control over it? (Agencies are, indeed, a “fourth arm of government.”) This means, usually, finding someone outside the agency to run it, often a crony who can be trusted, quite frequently one without experience. So, you could end up with a dentist selected to head an energy agency, etc.

With the recent widespread change of principal mission of many agencies to protection against terrorism, things that were more important earlier are less important now. In this context, the important agency maxim prevails: Mission goals drive out agency-perceived non-mission goals. Drug control becomes less important than terrorist control. Also, flood control and emergency management in the city of New Orleans have to compete financially with the need to pursue terrorists in Iraq. How could it be otherwise?

GLENN ELLIS

Damascus

In New Orleans, buck stops with Bush

Thepresident’sspeech Thursday from New Orleans was designed to restore confidence in his ability to lead, to establish in the minds of the American people a belief that he cares about the people in the area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. He is expected to demonstrate his concern by pouring in tens, if not hundreds, of billions of federal dollars to rebuild the region (“U.S. to pick up rebuilding tab,” Page 1, Friday).

The words uttered by the president were fine. This was a well-written presentation that, of course, was produced not by him, but by a team of skilled writers. It will require far more than words, though, to begin to set aside the horror of the abandonment of so many of society’s most vulnerable individuals.

It is ironic that a president who touted a program that has as its lofty goal “no child left behind” ultimately left behind not only children, but the elderly, the infirm and the poor to suffer hideously and to die before our eyes on national television.

In fairness, it should be noted that President Bush did not create the situation that caused New Orleans to be a city teetering on the verge of obliteration through flooding and that the federal government headed by the president shares culpability in this catastrophe with the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana, who also froze in the face of disaster.

In the final analysis, though, the buck must stop with Mr. Bush.

The horrific images of delay, death and abject human misery that were beamed all over the world from the most powerful and richest nation in the world are commonly and accurately attributed to him.

The president has paid lip service to taking responsibility for the catastrophic failures in providing rescue and relief and has stated that he will “make it right.” How in God’s name will he “make it right” to those who died and their survivors and to those who suffered what no human being should ever have to endure? The president has more than three long years left in his second term, but it will take far longer than that for the United States to recover from Hurricane Katrina, our latest international shame.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

Against horse slaughter

Proponents of horse slaughter tend to be those who stand to profit from it (“Save the horses,” Editorial, Thursday). They try to convince the public that slaughter is a “necessary evil” — that it’s a humane way to dispose of unwanted and surplus horses. However, there is nothing humane about slaughter. It is not euthanasia. Also, the cruelty of horse slaughter is not limited to the procedure used to kill the animals. Transport to the slaughterhouse is a gut-wrenching nightmare.

Our government has the opportunity to ban this despicable practice. Failure to do so will be a betrayal of the horses and a disgrace to our nation.

Thank you for speaking out against horse slaughter.

CHERYL THOMAS

Silver Spring


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