COURTING DISASTER. For a while yesterday I kidded myself into thinking that George W. Bush wouldn't be able to nominate just any right-wing lunatic he pleases to the Supreme Court. After all, the Republicans' 55-44 edge in the Senate is short of the 60 votes it takes to end a Democratic filibuster. Besides, moderate Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (who may become a Democrat), and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are presumably not going to stand by while Bush tries to use the courts to undo Roe v. Wade.
Well, that was yesterday. Charlie Savage reports in today's Boston Globe that Specter has backed off his earlier threat to block any anti-choice nominee after his fellow Republicans threatened to deny him the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter is quoted as saying, "Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the president about anything and was very respectful of his constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges." Apparently he was offered a deal he couldn't refuse.
And Josh Marshall notes that the Bushies are already talking about getting rid of that little old 60-vote impediment. Marshall is way too easy on these thugs, writing that the 60-vote rule is "subject to a lot of very valid criticism." Come on, Josh. The rule is there for a reason: the idea is that neither side gets to do anything and everything it wants unless it has an overwhelming majority, which the Republicans clearly do not have. If the Republicans want to get rid of the filibuster, let them elect five or six more members in 2006. (I shouldn't have said that. Maybe they will!)
We live in a constitutional system. The rights of the minority are supposed to be balanced with the will of the majority. If Bush is going to use his very real but very slim victory to take away our civil and personal liberties, it's up to the Democrats - and to the few remaining Republicans of conscience - to fight him and his allies like crazed weasels.
One of the stories going around this week is that, if Chief Justice William Rehnquist has to leave, then Bush will replace him by elevating Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - a move that would be popular with moderates - and then replace O'Connor with a wingnut. Presumably the Democrats would roll over like puppy dogs because the president had given them half a can of Alpo.
The hell with that. Making O'Connor chief justice would be nothing but symbolism. Good symbolism, but symbolism nevertheless. Well-qualified moderate conservatives - the best we can hope for - should get a respectful hearing. Right-wingers should be filibustered into oblivion. It's as simple as that.
NEWS? WHAT NEWS? The Boston Herald today has a front-page blowout headline, DYING FOR A DEAL, with the subhead "Is an ailing Whitey trying to turn himself in?" Inside is a column (sub. req.) by Howie Carr reporting that Whitey Bulger may or may not be terminally ill, may or may not be having sex with teenage male prostitutes in Thailand, and may or may not be seeking to surrender in return for not having to face the death penalty - which, in any case, Carr notes, is an impossibility because Oklahoma authorities are determined to see him executed.
Carr does manage to get in a shot at John Kerry, though. Piling insult upon speculation, Carr writes:
According to sources, Whitey's agents were hopeful current U.S. Attorney Mike Sullivan would be replaced next year by some liberal puke Democrat. But Bush won, and the rumor in D.C. yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani, a guy who used to get death threats from the mob on an almost weekly basis, may succeed John Ashcroft as attorney general.
If there's any news here, it's news to me.
Media Log caveat: regardless of what you think of Carr, he's a pretty good reporter. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a real story in the days and weeks ahead. But this is utterly worthless.
THE MEDIA AND THE ELECTION. My old Phoenix colleague Al Giordano has a four-letter word for what we ought to do to the media, and it doesn't begin with "F."
ELLIS ON KERRY. Bush cousin John Ellis has some thoughts on why Kerry lost. I disagree with the premise - Kerry didn't lose, Bush won. I also disagree strongly with Ellis's first three points ("Culture," "Lifestyle," and "Rationale.") But Ellis makes some good arguments on "Strategy" (Kerry let Karl Rove sucker him into running in just 17 states) and "War" (leaving aside the merits of General Anthony Zinni as a potential Kerry running mate, I never liked the Edwards choice).
But I continue to doubt very much whether any Democrat could have done much better than Kerry. Just because he lost doesn't mean he did anything drastically wrong.
REPORT FROM OHIO. Homophobia really did put Bush over the top.
SUITABLE FOR FRAMING. This week's Boston Phoenix cover of the Great Leader is now available at BostonPhoenix.com as a high-quality PDF. Just choose your size. (Look under "Web Exclusives.")