Thursday, October 30, 2003

Bypass Constitution?

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor predicts that the U.S. Supreme Court will increasingly base its decisions on international law rather than the U.S. Constitution, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

By doing so, the court will make a good impression among people from other countries, she said.

“The impressions we create in this world are important and they can leave their mark,” Justice O’Connor said.

On the whole, the U.S. judicial system leaves a favorable impression around the world, she said “but when it comes to the impression created by the treatment of foreign and international law and the United States court, the jury is still out.”

The 73-year-old justice made her remarks at a dinner in Atlanta sponsored by the Southern Center for International Studies.

The first cited case was decided in 2002 when the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded, she said. In arriving at that decision, Justice O’Connor said, the high court noted that the world community overwhelmingly disapproved of the practice.

Also influential was a court brief filed by American diplomats who discussed the difficulties confronted in their foreign missions due to U.S. death-penalty practices, she said.

The second ruling cited by Justice O’Connor was the striking down of the Texas antisodomy law, relying partly on a series of decisions by European courts on the same issue.

“I suspect,” Justice O’Connor said, “that over time we will rely increasingly — or take notice, at least — increasingly on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues.”

Miller to back Bush

Sen. Zell Miller, the conservative Georgia Democrat who often bucks his party leadership, said he is going to buck it on a big vote next year by supporting President Bush for re-election.

Mr. Miller told The Washington Times in an interview this week he cannot support any of the nine Democrats currently running for president.

“I’ve thought about this a lot. I think the next five years are going to be crucial in deciding what kind of world my grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in. And I cannot support any of these. I can’t leave that crucial decision to any of these Democrats who are running,” he said.

“That does not mean I’m going to become a Republican. It just means in 2004 this Democrat’s going to vote for George Bush,” the senator said.

“I think President Bush is the right man in the right place at the right time. I see some Churchill in the man,” Mr. Miller said. “Down South, we’d call it ‘he’s got a little grit in his craw.’ I like that very much.”

Deadline to CIA

The leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday demanded that the CIA produce documents and schedule interviews for the panel’s assessment of prewar intelligence on Iraq by noon tomorrow.

“It is our desire that the committee’s review will serve to validate the good work of the intelligence community and, where necessary, provide corrective suggestions where the intelligence product might have been better,” said a joint letter from the committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the panel’s ranking Democrat.

“We expect to receive all documents and schedule all interviews by 12 p.m. Oct. 31, 2003,” the letter to CIA Director George J. Tenet said.

The senators were responding to an Oct. 24 letter from Mr. Tenet, obtained by Reuters news agency, that said the CIA had provided the committee with “binders of material relating to the October 2002 NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism and possible acquisition of yellowcake from Niger.”

Pickering’s plight

Senate Democrats are expected to lodge a filibuster today against the nomination of Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and a close Pickering friend, has lobbied Democrats in recent weeks trying to round up the 60 votes required to avoid a filibuster. A vote on Judge Pickering, a federal district judge in Mississippi, has been postponed several times in recent days with Mr. Lott saying he’s hopeful of getting his votes.

Judge Pickering was originally nominated by President Bush two years ago, but he was defeated in committee last year when Democrats were in charge. Mr. Bush renominated the judge earlier this year.

Judge Pickering’s predicament has become an issue in the Nov. 4 Mississippi governor’s election. Though both Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Republican candidate Haley Barbour have expressed support for Judge Pickering, Republicans hope to link Mr. Musgrove to the actions of the national party.

Said Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice: “If Democrats fail to approve Judge Pickering, voters might fail to approve Ronnie Musgrove.”

Another whopper?

“What warning? That’s what head-scratching Bush-administration officials were wondering after Bill Clinton said a week or so ago that he had warned incoming President George W. Bush about the threat from Osama bin Laden,” Rich Lowry writes at National Review Online (

“According to Clinton’s account, he tried to convince Bush to abandon his other national-security priorities to focus on al Qaeda during an ‘exit interview’ with the newly elected president. ‘In his campaign, Bush had said he thought the biggest security issue was Iraq and national missile defense,’ Clinton remarked. ‘I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden.’ Clinton maintained that his inability to budge Bush was ‘one of the two or three of the biggest disappointments that I had.’

“This is almost certainly a lie. A Bush official familiar with the meeting and its content says it focused on other foreign and domestic matters. According to the official, if al Qaeda came up at all, it was in passing as President Clinton lobbied Bush on other matters, most importantly North Korea.”

I’ve Got A Secret’

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday that the Bush administration was undermining the country’s democracy by its secretive attitude with regard to the September 11 terror attacks and the Iraq war.

“There is always tension,” Mrs. Clinton told a conference organized by the new liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, “between the information that the executive branch needs to keep secret and the information that must be provided to the public to have an informed citizenry.”

United Press International reports that Mrs. Clinton said the Bush administration’s secrecy about September 11 and prewar intelligence on Iraq was “more about political embarrassment than national security.”

As a result, “the pillars of [our] democracy are shaking,” said the former first lady, who invoked executive secrecy to protect discussions by her health care task force.

She said the White House’s refusal to hand over documents to the commission “unnecessarily raises suspicions that it has something to hide — that it might use national security to hide mistakes.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-285 or

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