- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Red-faced Democrats

“Here’s a way to understand the dilemma Democrats face over whether to support John Roberts as chief justice: Put it in personal terms,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Imagine an argument with your spouse over something silly, like who lost the car keys. ‘You did it,’ you start, finger jabbing the air. ‘No, you did it,’ she says with that righteous sneer. Voices are raised, nasty things said, until she slams the door and leaves the room. You get your coat and head out for a walk.

“Then you find them — the car keys. They’re in your coat.

“Boy, is your face red. Your mind fills with remorse: You screwed up, you’re an idiot, you do it all the time, blaming her, getting angry. Now what? How do you admit it and apologize without feeling like a bigger jerk?

“That’s how the 44 Democrats in the U.S. Senate must feel,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“As the Judiciary Committee prepares to vote [today] on Roberts, Dems are stuck in an embarrassing situation. President Bush was right — Roberts is supremely qualified to be head honcho of the Supreme Court. And they were wrong to jump the gun with their criticisms, as three days of hearings proved. …

“But for Democrats, admitting Bush was right by voting yes is shaping up as a fate worse than well, saying sorry. That’s a no-no in Washington, even when it’s obviously the right thing to do.”

Back to the ‘70s

“If you closed your eyes tight — to ignore the fashion differences — and merely listened to news broadcasts, you’d swear you were in the 1970s,” Nick Schulz writes at www.techcentralstation.com.

On Capitol Hill last week, debate swirled around the Supreme Court and a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Anti-war protesters continue to bleat about U.S. soldiers being mired in a ‘quagmire.’ And just this summer, George Lucas once again saw a ‘Star Wars’ film go boffo at the box office.

“What’s more — and more troubling — economic policies from the disco era are being raised from the dead,” Mr. Schulz said.

“In response to recent increased prices at the pump, the Hawaii legislature imposed caps on the wholesale cost of gasoline. Say aloha to an economic disaster. Energy price controls, embraced in the 1970s by Presidents Nixon and Carter, were a bipartisan failure. … Despite this history, Massachusetts is also considering such a move, as is Utah.

“Adding economic insult to the injury of higher prices, Sen. Byron Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, is calling for, of all things, a tax increase. The tax would apply to what he dubs ‘windfall profits’ for the energy industry. The windfall profits tax is another brainchild of the 1970s fever for micromanaging energy markets. It was implemented back in 1980, partly as a political trade-off to get rid of the price controls.

“The respected Congressional Research Service concluded the tax simply replaced one harmful economic policy with another and increased American dependence on foreign oil. Congress had the good sense to jettison the tax in the late 1980s. And yet Sen. Dorgan joins the chorus of enthusiasts for ‘70s-era energy policy by calling for its reinstatement.”

Agonizingly close

“Few decisions by President Bush have generated as much agony among conservatives as his selection of Supreme Court nominees,” Fred Barnes writes at the Weekly Standard’s Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“With the nomination and likely confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice, Bush has satisfied conservatives, even thrilled some of them. But it’s his next pick — the person to replace Sandra Day O’Connor — that matters more. In choosing that nominee, the president has an opportunity to achieve a goal that has eluded conservatives for nearly four decades: a Supreme Court with a conservative majority on most issues,” Mr. Barnes said.

“The agony comes from having come so tantalizingly close to realizing that goal in the past. Conservatives fear their hopes will be dashed once more. They feel like Charlie Brown. The football has been pulled away from them at the last moment time after time and may again. President Nixon tried to engineer a conservative-dominated court and fell short. President George H.W. Bush also tried and failed. President Reagan had the creation of a conservative court within his grasp, but couldn’t pull it off.

“Two things have thwarted conservatives. First, nominees of their liking have been denied confirmation by the Senate. The most famous of these was Robert Bork in 1987. Second, nominees thought to fit the conservative mold have turned out to be moderate swing justices or, worse, liberals. Here, the most frustrating example was the elder President Bush’s selection of David Souter in 1990.

“The current President Bush is aware of these pitfalls. And he’s especially eager to avoid nominating another Souter. But he’s also under political pressure, mostly from Democrats, to pick a ‘consensus’ nominee in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The reasoning is that Bush took a political hit by his administration’s slow reaction to the flooding of New Orleans. By avoiding a bitter fight over a conservative nominee, he would supposedly get political credit.

“Bush is not likely to give much credence to this idea.”

Making it personal

“CBS on Tuesday night delivered a sarcastic look at President Bush’s visit to the Gulf Coast,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org.

“After reciting a list of problems people are having in New Orleans, reporter Sharyn Alfonsi jumped to a sound bite of Bush in Mississippi, declaring: ‘Every time I come back here, I see progress.’ Alfonsi gratuitously pointed out that Bush was ‘speaking inside an air-conditioned tent’ and noted how ‘he toured a Folgers plant in Louisiana’ but, she stressed, ‘small-business owners say this kind of progress is the exception.’

“Then, over video of a row of damaged and abandoned storefronts in New Orleans, she countered: ‘This is the reality.’ Alfonsi made it personal, holding Bush responsible for the frustrations of a French Quarter restaurant owner: ‘After five visits in three weeks, they want the president to wake up and smell the coffee.’ (That cute line ran over video of Bush, in a sweat-soaked shirt, shaking hands at the coffee plant.) Restaurant owner Arly Questa demanded: ‘Hang out, no air-conditioning, eat some MRE’s every day, and then you might really understand what it’s been like down here in New Orleans.’”

Rattled on the left

“The hysteria of the Democratic Left is understandable,” Robert Bork and David Rivkin Jr. write in USA Today, referring to Supreme Court nominations.

“It has lost confidence in its ability to compete in the political arena and sees a politicized judiciary as its only hope to advance its agenda,” the writers said.

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

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