Friday, November 19, 2004

Republican Party Machine Teaches Specter to Step in Line

Arlen Specter can finally breathe a sigh of relief. He has won the support of his fellow Republicans to become the next Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.

Over the past two weeks, Specter has learned that the GOP leadership, let alone the James Dobsons of the world, are not including the moderate wing of the party in decision-making. And Specter also learned that independent thought is not necessary in the current GOP.

It wasn't enough that Specter's track record suggested he would support whatever conservative judicial nominees. He led the fight for Clarence Thomas. He was a supportive voice for Antonin Scalia. He has never voted against a Bush nominee.

Specter, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, had to draft a statement -- a loyalty oath, if you will -- saying he would hold prompt hearings for Bush nominees, and that he would try to curtail Democratic filibusters (and potentially support a rules change to ban such filibusters).

He also made it clear, in statement after statement, that although he is personally pro-choice, he would not block anti-abortion nominees to the Supreme Court.

Now, you might remember during the presidential campaign how George W. Bush talked about John Kerry having a "litmus test" for "liberal activist judges." That was code for saying Kerry would only support judges who were pro-choice. Kerry never said that himself, of course.

But now Bush, through his henchmen in the Senate, has established that he will enforce a "litmus test" by only nominating those who are anti-abortion.

All of this is crucial, of course, because the Supreme Court is likely to have at least one opening, and perhaps more, during the next four years. Bush has said he expects to see as many as four openings.

***

Specter spent two weeks trying to appease the GOP Party machine, to secure a chairmanship that normally would have gone to him without question because of his 24 years of seniority on the panel.

"The ordeal demonstrated the clout of conservative groups within the GOP," wrote the San Francisco Chronicle.

Last week, the constroversial Dobson, founder of the nonprofit Christian organization Focus on the Family, said that Sen. Arlen Specter "is a big-time problem" and that his quest to serve as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee "must be derailed."

He was responding to what was possibly the last independent thought on judicial nominees from Specter: "When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, who'd overturn Roe versus Wade, I think that is unlikely," Specter said Nov. 3. "And I have said that bluntly during the course of the campaign, that Roe versus Wade was inviolate."

That comment sparked an avalanche of criticism from Christian conservatives who supported Bush's campaign. But Specter said Sunday that his remark was misconstrued and argued the uproar was fueled by people opposed to his "independence."

Dobson told ABC's This Week that Specter had made "one of the most foolish and ill-considered comments that a politician has made in a long time. There are many, many members of that committee that are more qualified and less of a problem than Senator Specter."

Specter remained in trouble with conservatives, even after clarifying his statement on CBS' Face the Nation, saying his comments were simply an acknowledgment that 60 votes are needed to end debate in the Senate and confirm a nominee. "But with 55 Republicans, you aren't at the magic number of 60, so you have to anticipate problems with the Democrats, as we had a lot of them in the past Congress."

***

And what about those Democrats? During Bush's first term, Democrats blocked a whopping 10 of his nominees to U.S. Appeals Courts, the nation's second-highest courts, The Associated Press reported. The Senate confirmed 203 of Bush's court appointments, according to the AP.

But then again, the GOP isn't really interested in independent thought. 203 out of 213 shows dissen.

And with the "political capital" their president claims the party has, the conservative wing of the GOP is showing that it will crush all dissent, whether from Democrats or moderate Republicans.

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