Sunday, May 22, 2005

Howard Dean

Howard Dean referred to the filibuster on Meet the Press today as a protection of the rights of the minority. This is a silly claim for several reasons:

1. Minority rights as protected by the constitution have to do with civil rights of the American people not political parties.

2. Nothing the Republicans propose to do violates any right of the Democrats guaranteed by the constitution.

3. We have been oft reminded by Democrats and their surrogates that the number of citizens represented by Republicans in the senate is actually substantially less than the number of citizens represented by Democrat senators. This being the case, if a senate rule is to protect the minority, then it should protect the interests of those who are represented by Republican senators.

There was much else in Dean's appearance for which he could be faulted. For example, he repeatedly blasted Tom Delay in harsh language for the House Majority Leader's alleged ethical shortcomings. Dean then went on to criticize Rush Limbaugh for Limbaugh's criticisms of the ethics of Democratic politicians. He argued that Limbaugh certainly has had his own ethical problems, as we all do, Dean noted, and that no one who has ethical shortcomings should criticize the lapses of others. Well, if we all have ethical faults then Mr. Dean has ethical faults, so, by his own logic, why is he criticizing Tom Delay?

He also sought to make political hay from the Terri Schiavo case. He criticized Republicans for intruding into an intensely personal matter that should have been off-limits to government officials. Mr. Dean misrepresented the problem here, however. It wasn't that Terri's family wasn't left alone by government, it was that one branch of government, the courts, actively prevented her family from protecting and caring for her. The debate in the Schiavo affair was about who should have the right to determine Terri's fate, a man who was her husband in the purely legal sense only, who advanced a highly suspicious claim to know Terri's wishes about life and death, and who had demonstrated no real concern for Terri's well-being over the years, or her parents and siblings who stood by her throughout the whole ordeal and stood to gain nothing at all from their fight to protect Terri except to keep their loved one alive.

It wasn't that politicians were sticking their nose into private family matters, it was that Terri's family urged politicians to get involved when the judiciary refused to save Terri's life. I think we should be proud of those who responded to that desperate plea for help rather than ignore it, as Mr. Dean would have had them do.

Mr. Dean also accuses the Republicans in general, and the president in particular, of being dishonest. Tim Russert ran a clip in which Dean says that he "hates Republicans" and states by inference that they're "evil." Yet, during the show an ad by People For the American Way was run which accused the Republicans ("the radical right") of placing the constitution "under attack" and wanting to "break senate rules" in order to impose their will on the country. If Mr. Dean wanted to point out dishonesty, he could have called the viewer's attention to the mendacity of this ad. The majority party in the senate has the constitutional right to change the rules of the senate and, indeed, the Democrats have done so themselves in the past. There is no threat to the constitution in either what the Republicans are trying to do to secure an up or down vote for GWB's judicial nominees on the senate floor or in the kind of judges GWB has nominated. They are nominees who believe that the constitution should not be interpreted according to current political fashion, and are much more respectful of the authority of this document than are the men and women whom the Democrats wish to have placed on the federal bench and the Supreme Court.

If there is a threat to the constitution it is to be found in the sort of judges who espy in the words of that document rights that clearly are not there. The Democrats will not vote to seat anyone who does not accept the right to an abortion, for example, but that right is nowhere in the constitution. The Democrats also approve of the creation of a right not to be executed if one is under the age of 18 notwithstanding that the constitution is silent about such matters.

The reason why Democrats are so hostile to Bush's nominees is precisely because they fear that his judges will be strict constructionists who will rule according to what the constitution says and not according to the tastes and dictates of the New York Times. It is liberal jurists who threaten the integrity of the constitution and whose rulings have created so much dissatisfaction and divisiveness in this country. Hopefully, on Tuesday we'll see the beginning of the end of that threat.