Saturday, April 09, 2005


What Color is the Sky in Your World, Joe? Really.

Is there a more politically tone-deaf person than Joe "Primary Colors" Klein? He's so obtuse he makes Tom Friedman look good. By the way: Even as Joe Klein was telling the Democrats to kneel down and let Tom DeLay trash the judiciary (even after Dick Cheney and Bill Frist spent most of last week distancing themselves from DeLay's comments), we find an actual reporter back in the reality-based community, the WP's Charles Babington, telling us about the Big Ass Rift that DeLay's opened up in the GOP: GOP Is Fracturing Over Power of Judiciary Democrats Say Conservatives Are Targeting Filibuster Rules on Court Nominees By Charles Babington Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A04 The Terri Schiavo case has reinvigorated a drive by congressional conservatives to discipline and curtail the power of federal judges, just as Senate Republicans are trying to repel Democratic claims that the GOP is extremist and overreaching in its bid to shape the federal judiciary. The debate is causing tensions within the Republican Party, whose Senate leaders distanced themselves this week from an attack on judges leveled by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). Party insiders say Congress is unlikely to impeach judges or dramatically limit the courts' jurisdiction, as DeLay has repeatedly threatened to do. But Democrats, sensing a political opening, have pounced on DeLay's comments -- and similar remarks made by other conservatives -- in their campaign to prevent Senate Republicans from changing filibuster rules that have enabled Democrats to block several of President Bush's appellate court nominees. "If they don't get what they want, they attack whoever's around," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters this week. "Now they're after the courts, and I think it goes back to this arrogance of power." [...] Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said yesterday, "The Schiavo case cast a bright light on the dark forces behind the . . . campaign" to change Senate rules and bar judicial filibusters. Noting that federal judges are asking Congress for an extra $12 million for security systems in most of their homes, Kennedy said: "I urge President Bush and [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist to call a halt to the reckless Republican rhetoric that is endangering judges' lives." Frist (R-Tenn.) played a central role in Congress's Palm Sunday legislation directing a federal court to step into the Schiavo case, but this week he distanced himself from criticisms such as DeLay's and Cornyn's. "I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary," he said. DeLay and his allies, however, remain infuriated that the Atlanta-based Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit refused Congress's orders to take control of Schiavo's case from Florida courts. Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., who was appointed to the appellate court by President George H.W. Bush, criticized Congress's actions as being "at odds" with the Constitution. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a Judiciary Committee member and DeLay ally, said in an interview: "That kind of judge needs to be worried about what kind of role Congress will play in his future." King said it is not clear what steps his committee might take, but he said most people do not realize the power Congress can exert over courts if it chooses. [...] GOP attacks on the federal judiciary could prove politically tricky. Well more than half of the nation's 266 U.S. appellate court judges and approximately 1,000 district court judges were appointed by Republican presidents. Senate Democrats cite such facts to depict Republican activists as extremists who will stop at nothing to turn the federal judiciary into a conservative bastion. "Apparently, it's not enough for Republicans to rule the White House and the Congress," Kennedy said. "They want power over the independent judiciary, too. The checks and balances so vital to our democracy are for them merely an inconvenience." Democratic-affiliated groups are spending millions of dollars on TV ads and collecting thousands of petitions to oppose Frist's threat to change the filibuster rules for judicial nominees. Frist and others say the Democrats' use of the filibuster is an unconstitutional strategy that prevents senators from providing the president "advice and consent" on judges.

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