Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Mission accomplished

“By pushing a filibuster vote upon their fellow Democrats, John Kerry and Teddy Kennedy have achieved quite a bit already,” Ed Whelan writes at National Review Online (

“Among other things:

“1. Absent the filibuster effort, lots of attention would mistakenly have been focused on whether Judge Alito would reach the filibuster-proof level of 60 votes on final confirmation. If he were to fall short of that, the media would proclaim that the vote level sends a warning shot that another nominee like Alito could be filibustered. By forcing an actual vote on cloture, Kerry and Kennedy have deprived the left of this pretend-filibuster argument. The starting point now for analysis of the politics of any subsequent nomination is that a nominee like Alito can expect to receive more than 70 votes on cloture.

“2. Kerry and Kennedy have turned the wrath of the left against those 19 Democrats (nearly half the caucus) who voted for cloture. …

“3. By using the filibuster weapon against a nominee whom the public rightly recognizes to be superbly qualified, Kerry and Kennedy have undermined Democrats’ future use of that weapon.”

Ginsburg’s religion

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while not at all religious, says she takes pride in her Jewish heritage. And she says that has changed some traditions at the Supreme Court and how she ruled in at least one case involving Christianity.

“Think of how many prominent people in different fields identify themselves proudly as Jews but don’t take part in the rituals,” Justice Ginsburg told Abigail Pogrebin, who writes about the jurist in her book “Stars of David.”

An excerpt in the February issue of the Jewish magazine Moment focuses on the author’s interview with Justice Ginsburg in the jurist’s chambers at the Supreme Court.

Although she is not religiously observant, Justice Ginsburg said that being Jewish matters greatly to her.

“I’ll show you one symbol of that which is here,” she told the writer, guiding her to the main office door, where a gold mezuzah was nailed prominently to its frame. “At Christmas around here, every door has a wreath. I received this mezuzah from the Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn, and it’s a way of saying, ‘This is my space, and please don’t put a wreath on this door.’”

Justice Ginsburg said she boycotts the annual Red Mass, because of the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion.

“Before every session [of the court], there’s a Red Mass. And the justices get invitations from the cardinal to attend that. And a good number of the justices show up every year. I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion. Even the Scalias — although they’re very much of that persuasion — were embarrassed for me.”

Justice Ginsburg said that she and her Jewish colleague, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, succeeded in blacking out the first Monday in October when the date conflicts with the Jewish religious calendar.

“We will not sit on any first Monday that coincides with Yom Kippur,” she said.

Justice Ginsburg also said that her Jewish heritage influenced her ruling in at least one case involving another religion.

“We had one case where I was in dissent — it was about a cross in front of the statehouse in Ohio. And to me, the photograph of that statehouse told the whole story of the case: Here is the Capitol in Columbus, and here is this giant cross. And what is the perception of a Jewish child who is passing by the Capitol? It’s certainly that this is a Christian country. A person’s reaction could be: ‘There’s something wrong with me.’ It’s not a symbol that includes you.”

Judging Republicans

A new poll taken in 20 Republican-held “swing” congressional districts finds that half of voters say they will judge Republicans in Congress by whom they choose for their next majority leader, reports Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times.

The poll also found that 77 percent would prefer the next majority leader have no connection to current Republican leaders and have a distance from lobbyists — a description that most closely fits Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, one of three men running for majority leader.

The poll of 1,000 voters was sponsored by the Club for Growth, which has endorsed Mr. Shadegg in the race. The other two candidates are Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio.

The poll had bad news for Republicans overall.

By 47 percent to 36 percent, the voters said they would prefer Democrats to take control of Congress, and 42 percent said they expect to vote for a Democrat for Congress, while 36 percent said they will vote for a Republican.

Iran debate

The American Conservative magazine, saying it was right in predicting that the Iraq war would be a historic blunder, takes aim at the Weekly Standard for urging the Bush administration to prepare for military action to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

Patrick J. Buchanan, in a piece written for the American Conservative, quoted from the Jan. 23 issue of the Weekly Standard: “Advocates of containment and deterrence should step forward to make their case openly and honestly. We look forward to the debate.”

Said Mr. Buchanan: “Fine, we accept.”

Mr. Buchanan said there is little evidence that Iran is close to producing a nuclear bomb, and in any case it would be vastly outgunned by Israel and the United States.

“And how might Tehran respond” to a U.S. attack? Mr. Buchanan asked. “Iranian volunteers pouring into Iraq inciting the Shia to attack U.S. troops. The green zone turned into Fort Apache. A debacle, unless we send in more troops. Iranian oil exports halted. Terror attacks on U.S. installations and Gulf allies. Silkworm missiles fired at tankers. Oil at $100-$200 a barrel. A worldwide depression. That’s for openers.”

Hillary’s cash

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, raised $21.4 million last year for her re-election campaign and has $17 million in cash on hand, totals driven in part by her front-runner reputation if she decides to pursue the presidency in 2008.

The former first lady collected $6 million from 56,899 donors in the final three months of 2005, bringing her total to more than $21 million for the year, according to reports filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission.

She spent about $9.3 million, leaving her with $17,101,626 and no major opposition in her bid for a second Senate term, the Associated Press reports.

Patriot extension

Congress is poised to extend the USA Patriot Act into March to give the White House and conservative Senate Republicans time to strike a deal that would strengthen civil liberties protections without weakening the war on terror, the Associated Press reports.

The House is set to vote today on extending the law until March 10, rather than let it expire Friday. The Senate was expected to follow before the deadline.

It would be the second time Congress has extended the law. Originally passed five weeks after the September 11 attacks, the Patriot Act was due to expire Dec. 31.

Just before leaving for Christmas, Congress extended the law until Feb. 3 because Senate Democrats and four libertarian-leaning Republicans blocked a final vote on a measure negotiated by the White House that would have made most expiring provisions permanent. The Republicans were concerned about excessive police powers.

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

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