11/22/2004

Frightening Specter

After some early irrational exuberance on my part that Arlen Specter's chairmainship of the Senate Judiciary Committee might settle the frayed nerves of pro-abortion advocates, it appears that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has extracted written oaths of fealty from Specter.

Frist told Specter he must produce a written statement pledging his cooperation as chairman. What he wrote pledged only that judicial nominations would get out of his committee. That was not good enough, Frist told him Wednesday night. He would have to pledge support for Bush judges and declare himself open to a rules change blocking filibusters of judicial nominations. Specter must have been frightened. He wrote a new four-paragraph statement incorporating the majority leader's demands.

Even so, when Judiciary Committee Republicans assembled behind closed doors Thursday, two conservative Southerners still had their doubts about him: Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas believe voters across the country on Nov. 2 voted for an end to the tactics that have blocked action in the Senate. Although he never mentions it, Sessions has to remember that Specter helped block his nomination to the appellate court before he ran for the Senate.
Although I'm not so naive to think that this sort of strong-arming is uncommon or exclusive to the Republicans, it still dismays me to see it.

After the 1994 elections, Congressional Republicans misread the national mood and took their success as an indicator that they had the overwhelming support of the people. Many of the House Republicans came from safe districts with overwhelming majorities and all they heard whenever they went home was "get the bastard!" This misconception led to the ordeal of the Clinton impeachment - an enormous waste of political capital considering that there was never a chance of securing a conviction.

Now, I fear that Congressional Republicans are on the verge of repeating their historical mistake. Coming off a hard-fought election, some people are unadvisedly throwing around the word mandate and conducting business as though the American people are lining up behind the GOP.

Yes, the GOP has the Oval Office, the House, the Senate, and a majority in the governorships. They have the advantage, but they must not make the mistake of trying to snuff out their opponents completely. Nor must they foster the perception that they are not willing to tolerate differences of opinion within their own ranks.

Democrats are already have a great deal of success portraying us as Nazi thugs goose-stepping up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. We shouldn't give them ammunition with which to do so.