« Dubya's mandate | Main | Ex-CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg compares blogs to CB radio and to ticks on a dog »

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Opposing Specter for Judiciary

I've just finished Hugh Hewitt's If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat.  I wish I'd finished it before the November 2nd election, but I heartily recommend the book to anyone — including Democrats! — who's interested in politics.  Hugh's prose is crisp, concise, and lively — in other words, he doesn't write in a style that would immediately lead you to conclude that he's a lawyer or a policy wonk.  A comparatively small part of the book is specific to the election just past, and in particular his Chapter 12, entitled "Parties Can't Govern Without Majorities or Pluralities of Seats," contains little-appreciated wisdom for the ages:

Americans generally have very firm opinions on everything and want what they want to be "just so."

Unfortunate this demand for particularity doesn't work at all when applied to politics. In fact, insistence on personal taste is disastrous for political parties. There are only two real choices in America — Republican or Democrat. To demand more is to be disappointed before you begin, and to hand a victory to the set of choices most repellent to you.

Hugh explains the overwhelming importance of having one's own party in majority status, from which position it can choose the members and in particular the leaders of key House and Senate committees. Because of this, Hugh argues that as a general rule, one should almost always support the politicians of one's own party — even those who frequently desert its ranks on particular votes and issues — because

[i]t is an individual who governs as president, but it is the party with a majority that legislates. It is simply foolish to condemn as unsuitable any denominated member of a party of grounds of issue divergence.

Speaking of two particular Republican senators who've been challenged within their own party as insufficiently conservative, Hugh writes:

Neither [Pennsylvania's Arlen] Specter nor [Arizona's John] McCain is a weak incumbent in general elections. Conservative purists should not only leave both men alone; they should enthusiastically support their reelection efforts....

Please absorb this basic fact about American politics: majorities, not individuals, govern. Without an understanding of this, the GOP's return to near permanent minority status — and the powerlessness it includes — is all but guaranteed.

I entirely agree with Hugh's book on this general point, and thus was pleased to see both Senators Specter and McCain cruise to easy re-elections last Tuesday. But does this principle of supporting party-over-particulars also extend to the majority party's selection of key committee chairmanships in the House and Senate? This week, Hugh offers the following thoughts on his blog:

I see that there is a blog swarm forming around the expected assumption of the chairmanship of the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary by Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. The opposition to Specter seems headquartered at [NRO's in-house blog,] The Corner. Many friends post at The Corner, so I paused, considered their arguments, and thought it through. On reflection, it seems to me a very bad idea to try and topple Senator Specter from what in the ordinary course of events would be his Chairmanship. I hope my colleagues on the center-right that embrace pro-life politics will reconsider.

For probably any other Senate or House committee, I would agree that it would be unduly destructive — an example of devouring one's own young — to undercut particular legislators of one's own party to prevent them from ascending to a chairmanship that seniority would otherwise prescribe. But I must respectfully disagree with Hugh as to Sen. Specter and the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

My own opposition to Sen. Specter's Judiciary chairmanship isn't based on his pro-choice views. Rather, it's based on my perception of Sen. Specter as not being a reliable "team player" in general. Dubya expended substantial political capital and showed remarkable party loyalty in supporting Sen. Specter in a tough primary fight; I think he was wise to do so, on grounds that if Sen. Specter had lost in the primary, his successor candidate might well have lost in the general election, handing that seat over to the Democrats. But in marked contrast to other Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Specter refused to risk any of his own political capital on behalf of President Bush's re-election — and in a battleground state that Dubya lost by only two percent, and might well have won had Sen. Specter campaigned aggressively for him.

John J. Miller makes a compelling and fact-specific case that Sen. Specter's only true and reliable allegiance is to Arlen Specter.  But the chairman of the next Judiciary Committee has to be the sharp point of the President's spear in getting his judicial nominees confirmed. He needs to be not just a dutiful warrior for President and party, but an enthusiastic and creative one — both in his public pronouncements and in his backroom arm-twisting. The Democrats will again field their "first team" to oppose Dubya's nominees — a team that has positively tied the President's plans in knots, and that may still have the practical power to continue doing so if not more skillfully opposed than they have been. And not just the occasional important piece of legislation is affected by this committee chairmanship, but the long-term trend and fate of an entire branch of our government.

The Republican Party simply can't afford to have this key position in the hands of someone whose loyalty to party and President is intermittent at best.  It's not a question of the Republicans devouring one of its young, but rather of giving an unruly and untrustworthy rebel a bit of a "time out."

My candidate for the chairmanship?  Texas' John Cornyn, whose own background includes distinguished service as both a trial and appellate judge and a state attorney general.  Arizona's Jon Kyl would also suit me fine.

Posted by Beldar at 12:01 PM in Books, Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Opposing Specter for Judiciary and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Specter Mini-Roundup from Patterico's Pontifications

Tracked on Nov 7, 2004 3:02:30 PM

» More On Specter from Sue Bob's Diary

Tracked on Nov 7, 2004 4:58:55 PM

» It's not just about abortion and gay "marriage" from Trolling in Shallow Water

Tracked on Nov 7, 2004 10:24:58 PM

» Change the Rule not the People from Truth, Lies & Common Sense

Tracked on Nov 7, 2004 11:17:25 PM

» Arlen Specter & Judiciary Chairmanship from Liberty's Century

Tracked on Nov 8, 2004 12:02:54 AM

» Opposing Specter for Judiciary from Southern Fried News Junkie

Tracked on Nov 8, 2004 10:36:02 AM

» More reasons to oppose Specter from

Tracked on Nov 8, 2004 11:01:57 AM

» Arlen Specter: The Latest from The Caretaker

Tracked on Nov 8, 2004 11:11:58 AM

» Your Gateway to the Specter Debate from Stones Cry Out

Tracked on Nov 10, 2004 9:53:48 AM


(1) DRJ made the following comment | Nov 7, 2004 1:26:06 PM | Permalink

Absolutely right, Beldar. The Judiciary Committee and Senate confirmations of judicial appointments will be the final battleground for the Democrats. Democrats will be willing to fight to the death on judicial appointments because it's all they have left. Specter is not committed to the fight and, in fact, has proven he will twist with the political winds for his own advancement. To me, this is not about Roe v Wade. I want President Bush's judicial nominees to get a fair hearing and not be pre-judged by the Democrats, let alone the Republicans.

(2) The Old Coot made the following comment | Nov 7, 2004 2:00:10 PM | Permalink

Beldar: Well said, many thanks. What is your opinion as to the efficacy of "us" telephoning/e-mailing, etc. the White House, other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, Dr. Frist, etc. regarding this issue? Seems like they must already know about the problem, do they need our messages to provide cover?

(3) mcg made the following comment | Nov 7, 2004 2:53:31 PM | Permalink

You say Specter didn't spend any of his political capital to help Bush get re-elected.

Well, it's worse than that:

(4) Roy Lofquist made the following comment | Nov 7, 2004 7:40:24 PM | Permalink

Jon Kyl is perhaps the most underappreciated member of the Senate.

(5) Carrick Talmadge made the following comment | Nov 7, 2004 11:00:02 PM | Permalink

I have a somewhat differing opinion on this one. A plurality of voices and viewpoints is not just a luxury in a democracy, it is a necessity. I don't regard Specter's past behavior as being so much "disloyal" as "divergent".

At 55-44-1, the Republican's don't own enough votes to have any legislation be filibuster proof. Consequently, if an unpalatable choice for a justice is put forward, it will be killed on the Senate floor. For this reason, justices (as well as any legislation in general) will need to be chose (or crafted) in such a way as to bring enough Democrats on board to terminate any threatened filibuster.

My best example of the dangers we run into with removing Specter is the treatment Senator Lott received after his foolish remarks about Strom Thurman. In my opinion, the main reason that Lott lost the Senate Majority position was because of a withdrawal of support from the President and senior Republicans in the Senate. This withdrawal of support, I think, was a consequence of the perception that he was not "supportive enough of the President's policies"

The laugh about this is that Lott was much more successful that Frist has been since in pushing through Bush's legislation. Indeed the great domestic triumphs of the Bush administration occurred while Lott was Majority Leader. What some of you may regard as obstructism on the part of the Democrats, may also be regarded as a failure of leadership on the part of Bill Frist. I think most people will admit that Lott was a much more successful bridge builder than Frist has been since, though I'm sure that many people blame the "bogey man" Tom Daschle for Frist's failures.

An element of the President's success with Lott as Senator Majority Leader was related (again in my opinion) to the feedback that Lott gave the Whitehouse on how to craft the language to bring enough Democrats on board. I'm not trying to make him a superhero or exaggerate his role, but having multiple viewpoints usually benefits an organization in the long run, even while it can be sometimes frustrating in the short run.

I do not have a detailed understand of the issues relating to Specter, though I agree his recent remarks weren't very wise or well-timed. However, if he can keep the President from expending political capital on a DOA nominee, then he is an asset not a liability.

No single person, including the President, is wise enough to see all possible angles on any given issue. Having divergence in viewpoints and opinion is generally beneficial to the American style of democracy, just as it is for any committee based decision making.

Thus, if on careful look, Specter is another Kerry in disguise (as some of the hard-right-wingers suggest), I would agree that he is a poor choice. If we can agree, however, that the distinction I have drawn between disloyalty and dissenting positions exists, and if Specter falls into this latter group, then I argue it will harm the Republican Party to block him from this position. (It may still harm the Republican Party for purely political reasons, if they decide to block him, but that is another question).

(6) Palooka made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 12:22:51 AM | Permalink

I would almost prefer Spectre had lost so we didn't have to worry about him.

It's interesting how he touts his support for Clarence Thomas' nomination, yet anybody who follows the courts closely knows Spectre has on numerous occasions expressed his disappointment in Thomas.

Notwithstanding his borking Robert Bork and harping on the most conservative of justices, I have reservations about tossing him.

The media will go nuts, depicting the President as an idealogue and a radical, making it harder for him to push his most desired nominess forward even before he nominates them.

Of all the possible scenarios--Spectre switching parties, alienating pro-choice Republicans--it is the media causing trouble for the President before he even nominates a single individual that worries me most.

Drudge is reporting Bush is considering Thomas for the position of Chief Justice, this seems to have put Spectre in a potentially tough position. Could he oppose his elevation to Chief Justice when he so recently touted his support of him in the past?

(7) ed made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 1:04:05 AM | Permalink


I don't trust Specter as far as I can throw him. The President chose to support Specter instead of conservative Toomey. I didn't like that and I still don't. If the Republicans appoint Specter as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and he F**Ks up, like he has in the past, then whose fault is it?

The White House and Frist.

Frankly Frist is a jackass and incapable of being the Senate Majority Leader.

sigh. I wish there were some Republicans in the Senate with some balls. But with Orin Hatch, Bill Frist and Arlen Specter, I have no hope for that. Where do we find these gutless wonders to stick in the Senate?

(8) Skip McRae made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 7:34:46 AM | Permalink

While Hewitt makes a good point, the thrust of my telephone calls this morning to Senate leaders will go a little deeper and different.

Our constitution is about 7200 words in length, and it takes an average person (like me) about 30 minutes to read it in its entirety. But, here are some observations worth noting, to my way of thinking:

a) You will not find the word "filibuster" anywhere in the document. So, in the practice of legislating, a filibuster should not exist as part of the debate.

b) Nowhere will you find a 60 vote requirement to pass anything. The constitution provides for a simple majority of those voting - nothing more or less, unless it is a measure to overturn a veto, or to pass legislation for a federal amendment.

c) Nowhere in the constitution does it provide for a member of the Senate to issue a "blue slip" blocking the nomination of a person for office.

I just want all of our senators, including Senator Spector, to perform their work in the Senate on our behalf as it is written in the US Constitution. Do that, and we will climb mountains in this great experiment of ours that we call democracy.

(9) David Blue made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 11:31:30 AM | Permalink

What are the worst cases?

If Arlen Specter does not become Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, what's the worst he can do in revenge? Because he likely will do it. He has a harsh temperament and is a fierce enemy of causes that George W. Bush holds dear. And he will have on his side a mainstream media still angry that it didn't beat George W. Bush in the election. So what will you do to fix this, and how long will it take, and what will the price tag be, and how will you explain it?

If Arlen Specter does become Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, what's the worst he can do, acting in cunning and secret as well as publicly? Or rather from his point of view, since he is a hard-core pro-lifer and in general a fierce enemy of causes that George W. Bush holds dear, what's the best he can do? If that happens, what will you do to fix this? How long will it take, and what will the price tag be, and how will you explain it?

Suppose the real answer is: "For the sake of party unity and to avoid paying the price of an early confrontation with Arlen Specter we're ready to risk him; and if he acts as his record indicates he likely might, for the sake of party unity and to avoid the much higher cost of a confrontation with the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee we'll grit our teeth and accept that too."

I think that's what the position Hugh Hewitt has chosen leads to. If it leads anywhere else, can you explain it to me?

In this case, assuming we've followed the Hugh Hewitt road to its logical end, how would you explain this scale of values to people who volunteer, who give to the party, because they think that it stands for something more than itself?

You can recite the Hugh Hewitt line and say: "You can't have everything you want 'just so,' you must settle for getting most of what you want from a Republican legislature." And you can also have the President and all the legislators hold their hands in the air and say, as they do: "Don't look to us, it's all in the hands of the Supreme Court." But you can't make these two positions add up.

A constitutional right to abort, invented by the Supreme Court and ever more deeply settled by time and increasingly by Republican appointees, just isn't most of what the pro-life movement wants, minus the cherry on top. It just isn't.

(10) Joshua Chamberlain made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 12:10:51 PM | Permalink

Here's my question to Hewitt: We know that appeasement is frequently bad in foreign affairs. Is appeasement similarly dangerous in nominating Senators for committees? Will Specter's nomination embolden Chuck Schumer? Or will it give him pause? I tend to think the former, but these are the questions that need to be answered.

(11) Geek, Esq. made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 3:21:07 PM | Permalink

Specter has already backed down. I doubt you'll hear him dissent in public again.

Bush's manhandling of Jeffords led to his defection. Now that Specter is playing the good soldier again, punishing him may not be the wisest move.

Especially if Snowe, Collins, and Chafee all take away the message that there is no future for people with their beliefs in the Republican caucus.

(12) Palooka made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 3:38:38 PM | Permalink

I just saw Spectre on CNN and he did well at backtracking. I'd let his comment go in a heartbeat if it weren't for his past.

Still, I favor giving him a chance. I find it hard to believe he would outright lie just to get his chairmanship, or is he that bad?

I have a feeling if Bush humors him and takes some input, utilizing even some of it for lower court nominees, he can be handled satisfactorily.

(13) Joshua Chamberlain made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 4:14:01 PM | Permalink

A politician lie to obtain power? Who'da thunk it!

(14) MaDr made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 6:06:54 PM | Permalink

I positively oppose Specter because his views/values are outside that of the mainstream of America; not just the Republican party. Examples: Specter is against the ban on partial birth abortions. Specter is against parental notification (abortion). Specter is vehemently opposed to medical liability or class action tort reform. Specter believes we should be interpreting our laws according to international laws - invocation of Scottish Law was just one example. Specter was one of the few Senators to support our admittance to the ICC.

Not one of the above examples is anywhere close to the views of an overwhelming number of the American public. Judicial nominees are not taken at their word, that they would enforce existing law and not impose their (conservative) views. Why should we trust Specter?

(15) Toby Petzold made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 6:36:53 PM | Permalink

I dislike Specter because of his role in formulating the Magic Bullet Theory. I think he's a dyed-in-the-wool liar from way back.

John Cornyn is a very solid guy whom I know personally. I'd trust him to make the moral choice every time.

(16) Heavy B made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 8:52:42 PM | Permalink

Your inferred characterizations of moderate/mid left republicans as "gutless" and needing "balls" is offensive. If you think disagreeing with your position reflects mental or character defects, or that they should be ostracized from party leadership, please join the Democratic party; That's become their mantra.

et al,
You can't throw Specter out of office (and BTW he's a Republican from a light "blue" state) so alienating him seems stupid; He just becomes a permanent vote for the Dems. Rove and Bush played it right; They knew Toomey couldn't get elected in PA, and they know they are going to have to fight to get Santorum re-elected in '06.

Those who believe the Republican majority is made of a broad spectrum from center to right want to avoid the mistakes of '94 and keep the tent large. Appoint Specter chairman; If he turns obstructionist, reconvene the caucus, depose him, and tell the pro-choice Republicans/moderates that a reasonable effort to compromise was made.

How many posters here support an outright effort to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Heavy B

(17) David Blue made the following comment | Nov 8, 2004 11:24:40 PM | Permalink

Heavy B: "How many posters here support an outright effort to overturn Roe v. Wade?"

Do you mean an immediate charge to crash through or crash, which is to say a political suicide?

Or do you mean, as opposed to letting Roe vs. Wade and its consequences consolidate, and in time no doubt serve as a springboard for the creation of further choice rights?

Or do you mean - support continuing the peaceful labour of many generations, through decades and political eras and centuries if need be to undo this thing? (And to build pro-life culture generally.) I am all for that.

Or what?

(18) Palooka made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 12:57:59 AM | Permalink

"They knew Toomey couldn't get elected in PA."

Rick Santorum is from PA, buddy. Do you get any more conservative than him?

"How many posters here support an outright effort to overturn Roe v. Wade?"

Yes. If it's wrong (and most reasonable legal minds believe it is), then it should be overturned. The matter should be returned to state control. In that context, do I support a 100% ban on all abortions? Of course not.

(19) Heavy B made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 1:57:55 AM | Permalink

>>Rick Santorum is from PA, buddy. Do you get any more conservative than him? <<

Yeah, I'm pretty I'm a tad to the right of Santorum but I'm smart (i.e. old) enough to know that my views are not resonant with the vast political middle of this country and would rather compromise with the Arlen Specters of the world than return to a gridlocked Senate or Dem control of Congress. I expect the republican leadership to use their power judiciously.

By "outright effort" I meant to imply a direct action intended to bring about overturning Roe v. Wade within the next four years, i.e. political suicide.

Palooka, you must have some information I don't to assert that "most reasonable legal minds believe" Roe v Wade is (legally) wrong. I'd agree with "some" or even "many" but "most" implies a majority and I haven't seen a clear consensus among legal experts. There is certainly no dominant consensus in middle America; IMHO, it remains an issue where medical ethics lags medical technology by decades, just like cloning, euthanasia, etc. Many of us who believe life begins at conception(fertilization of the egg) and who oppose abortion favor and use contraceptives that cause fertilized eggs to pass through the uterus without attaching. That would technically be post-conception.

My only interest in this discussion about Specter is self-preservation: I heard some pretty scary callers on Hewitt's radio show today. If the right wing of the party is going to drive this solid Republican majority off the abortion cliff of political naivete, please let me out of the car now...

We need to make the partial birth ban stick and then continue working to educate voters on the consequences of abortion as a contraceptive. This is a cultural war not a political assault and however gratifying it might be to see abortion end in some states, overturning Roe v Wade would bankrupt us of "political capital".


(20) Palooka made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 2:28:29 AM | Permalink

Randy B,

Your response indicates the inherent problem of Roe v. Wade--it politicized the judiciary. If we ever want a chance of having a court that once again enjoys relative independence, Roe must be overturned. This is not to say the Court can not make unpopular or difficult decisions, but when it does the opinion must have a textual and historical mooring to the Constitution.

There are many in the legal pragmatism school of though which may argue persuasively for upholding Roe, but those arguments which rely on the actual Constitution are a total failure. There is no cultural or historical or legal tradition which justified Roe, and there are no--and I mean no--persuasive arguments to date based on the Constitution itself which justify Roe.

When I say "reasonable" legal minds, I mean those who do not insist some "penumbra" inexplicably emanates from multiple constitutional clauses spontaneously, and that penumbra covers the right to euthanize your 8 month old fetus.

Though stare decisis demands that some poorly decided cases be upheld to promote stability and consistency, Roe involves significant moral issues which the American people deserve to resolve themselves. Upholding Roe affirms a poisonous and anti-democratic idealogy that must be repudiated if we are to enjoy self-rule guaranteed, not proscribed, by our Constitution.

I'm sure the media would go bonkers, but I suspect that political fallout would subside after the states sorted out their respective policies (which I suspect would be more strict than Roe, even in liberal states, but fairly permissive on early term elective abortions). NARAL could instead spend their $$$ on bus troops for those women too poor to travel out of state. Moreoever, if the court allowed for life and health exceptions, leaving considerable discretion to the doctor, I suspect most moderate pro-choicers would find the new abortion regime satfisfactory.

(21) jackson white made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 8:11:36 AM | Permalink


You and I live in states that have made a slow transition from Democratic to Republican. As you have seen, it is difficult for people to give up party loyalties for a long, long time.

Sen. Spectre comes from a state that swings back and forth. For most of his senate career, he has been a Republican in a mildly Democratic-leaning state. As a result, he comes from that pre-1980 mindset that Republicans needed to conform to what Democrats expected of them.

Of course, in modern America it is a joke to think Democrats can tell Republicans what to do. They still try, of course, but people laugh at them. Sen. Spectre seems painfully unaware about the new political realities that give his party the whip hand.

It is for this reason alone--rank ignorance of the contemporary political landscape--that Spectre does not need a powerful chairmanship. A senator like Coryn or someone else from the modern era who appreciates Republican dominance and the need to go toe to toe with a weak Democratic Party is what is needed to chair this committee. As you know, and perhaps many of your readers know, the Judiciary Committee does much more than handle Supreme Court nominees. It is is these less glamorous moments that committee members shape the federal legal system that controls so many aspects of our lives. The last thing we need, after a great victory, is someone who will cave to those who lost and who would impose their warped value system on the country at large. In other words, Roe is only a tiny part of the matrix and we need someone with backbone and not a desire to please his opponents.

This isn't a slap at Spectre but an acknowledgement of his outdated mindset.

(22) Warrior made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 8:12:03 AM | Permalink

Leaving aside the chimeric nuances of abortion policy, let's consider the actual possibilities of a Specter chairmanship. The guy's in his seventies. He will likely retire after this term. Therefore he will have no restraints invoked by political considerations. His innate grandiosity will lead him to anxious musings about his Legacy, a la Slick Willie, a.k.a. "I wish I had had a terrorist attack to make me great." All his self-righteous, ego-fed desires will come to fruition and he will not be denied. His most important consideration will be how he is portrayed in the editorial pages of The New York Times. Then, God help us.
If you really want to know what this man is like, read his hagiographic autobiography, "Passion for Truth". You will find there a self-absorbed, self-centered conceit of Napoleonic proportions. WHATEVER political fall-out may be forthcoming is worth the partial birth abortion of this candidate for chairmanship at judiciary.

(23) Attila made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 12:37:00 PM | Permalink

Another vote against Specter. If I lived in PA, I would have voted against him. Bush doesn't have to get involved with dethroning him; all he has to do is stay quiet, and, when Specter asks for his support, tell him he needs to get his colleagues on board by very vocally supporting Bush's judicial nominees.

(24) Quadraginta made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 12:51:05 PM | Permalink

Lots of good comments here. As someone who grew up in PA, maybe I can add some others. PA is in many ways conservative on values (remember Bob Casey) but has strong socialist tendencies also, in the Depression Era sense. Unions are still strong, despite the death of Big Steel. Corruption and vote-mongering are still typical, despite the now distant memory of Frank Rizzo. People don't move around much, and there isn't too much immigration and emigration. The big city is still the gritty Fritz Lang metropolis, not the yuppified Meg Ryan movie backdrop. Philly ain't Seattle, if you catch my drift. More like Chicago. (Pittsburgh is more modern, IMHO, believe it or not. It's had to remake itself since steel went belly up.)

Back when the donks were more often big-bellied union bosses than latte-sipping girl lawyers who've never litigated in their life, PA was pretty solidly Democratic. The new GOP tends to attract them, now, but they're still damn suspicious of big business. Remember PA has a long and painful history of conflict with Big Steel, Big Coal & Oil, and shipbuilding. The new GOP sees "business" in a constellation of small techy entrepreneurs, or agile postmodernist firms like IBM. That's great, and it's making an impression, especially as jobs in PA get away from heavy industry and into New Age stuff like pharma and biotech. But the case has yet to be made to folks who remember Grandpa's time as shop steward.

All this explains why PA flops around unsure whether it's a blue or a red state. I think in time, if the GOP keeps its cool, makes the case that opportunity for business means opportunity for YOU the voter, and the donks keep putting up fops like Kedwards for Prez, then PA can go solid red.

Now Arlen represents PA, and he's a wily bastard, so he encapsulates this floppy ambiguity. He knows how to get and stay elected. Sure, he's corrupt. He's a PA politician from the old school. Don't trust him any further than you can throw him, and be sure he'll backstab you if you cross him, absolutely. Think of him like an Mafia boss. Icky, sure.

If I had my druthers, of course I'd rather not see him in the chairmanship. But I think Hewitt has got the bottom line here. First, a fight to push Arlen out of his chair would be expensive. Do we really want the GOP to spend its political capital eating one of its own, even one of its unsavory own? No. Second, the fight would be harder than you think, because the Senate is a place of great tradition, and Senators cherish those traditions, including the traditions of seniority. This would be a much easier fight in the House. If the fight succeeded, the Senate would become a much mroe volatile place, more like the House, harder to keep party discipline, hard to get stuff done, more unpredictable (which is bad for business and bad for growing legislative majorities). Third, Hugh hits the nail on the head by saying that the real focus has to be on majority building. Look, if Arlen is a prick, the right thing to do is elect five more GOP senators in 2006 and then he stops mattering. But you must nurture your majority, keep it growing by convincing more and more people that, like the Bush campaign this year, you're just a smooth efficient Borg machine gradually taking over, and as long as you're willing to be assimilated you can go on doing pretty much what you were doing. Revolutions often consume themselves in Jacobinism afterwards, and fighting Specter smacks of that sort of overreaching hubris. So to hell with it.

Put away the guillotine and stop worrying about doctrinal purity. Put the time, money and political capital into re-electing Santorum, and taking down donk Senators in other states. Be a rising tide, not a rogue wave.

This doesn't suit the NRO folks, of course, who despite their qualities are still journalists, and we know journalists love a fight. Quiet progress doesn't make lovely headlines.

Yeah, also -- trust the President. Look, his team got the election right, didn't they? (While the NRO people were freaking out, losing faith, flopping around all over the place, I might add.) The President's team knows what it's doing. How can we doubt that after this election? If they support Arlen, it's part of their master plan. They don't do anything by accident, and they're always right. (Look how they drive the opposition into frothy-mouthed incoherence.) Trust their skill and their inside knowledge. Let it go and let the President call the shots, not journalists, not even persuasive journalists who are on our side.

(25) Quadraginta made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 1:06:36 PM | Permalink

Also, I wish there was less talk about Arlen's scummy personality. So what? To paraphrase Twain, you want a nice sunny true-blue honest personality in this world, get a dog. He's a politician, for Christ's sake, not someone your daughter wants to date.

It's like hiring a trial lawyer (sorry in advance Beldar). You don't look for the nicest guy with the fewest disgusting personal habits. You look for a guy who can win the trial. All else is secondary.

So who gives a hoot if Arlen is nice? The important question is whether putting him in this job advances the cause or not. And on this political -- not ethical -- question, as I said, trust the President's decision. He's head of our party, and has amply earned our trust. Don't second-guess him.

(26) Warrior made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 2:03:40 PM | Permalink

Responding to Quadraginta (is that Spanish or something?) If you were implying that I am a journalist, I don't know whether to be flattered or insulted. But in any event, thank you for your considered comments. However, I must respectfully disagree with you.

2006 will be too late. So will some idealized time in the future when the GOP takes over. We are looking at appointing a Chief Justice (and possibly several other Justices, not to mention the rest of the Federal bench) SOON! Rhenquist has terminal cancer for crying out loud.

And this is not an issue of "idealogical purity" or any other clever rhetorical formulation. We're talking about wresting our country away from activist judges and returning to Constitutional Law as interpreted by the original intent of the founders. They were quite educated men and understood that even though they could not predict stem cell research, they could predict the moral quandaries of men and the true function of government. Since most of them had seminary rather than law degrees, they were well acquainted with the wisdom of Ecclesiasties that "there is nothing new under the sun."

Specter's personality is germane only for the purposes of predicting his potential behavior as chair at judiciary. His overweening ego leaves him vulnerable to the shallow, yet effective blandishments of the New York Times, surely mistaking it for what his grandiose nature will truly be concerned with - his Legacy. His ruthless pragmatism ( I would say Machiavelianism, if I could spell it) will ensure that settling old scores will be a prime motivation as well. I really don't care if he is "nice" - I don't have to live or work with him. I do care what his primary concerns will be.

Finally, I don't believe the President has thoroughly endosed Specter, or even edorsed him a little bit. Karl Rove said the President will work with him "if" he is the new chairman. Far from a ringing endorsement, this sounds like bet-hedging if I've ever heard it.

I am no insider. Quite the contrary, I am an (educated?) Alabama redneck. However, I do know that abortion is wrong. Exceptions? Sure, but convenience of the mother is not one of them (although it is the reason given for at least 98% of all abortions.) And I know the difference between a real, live, God-fearing man with moral courage and a spineless, self-aggrandizing, waffling weenie. Thanks for letting me share.

(27) Quadraginta made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 4:11:36 PM | Permalink

Warrior, thanks for the response.

"Quadraginta" is Latin for 40. Comes from me deciding to get a grip on being middle-aged.

In re being a journalists, I wasn't talking about anyone here, but rather the NRO Corner folks, who do it for a living. No, "journalist" is not a term I generally use when I want to compliment people, although a few are top-notch. It's kind of the old saw: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those can neither do nor teach stand around and offer constructive criticism. Journalists usually go into that third category, alas.

2006 is not too late. First of all, there is no danger of another Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high Court, nor is the President going to elevate Sandra Day to Chief Justice. It will be a more conservative Court, without doubt. The only question is: how much more conservative? My advice is to stick with the guaranteed "somewhat more conservative", even if that means giving up the "lots more conservative", so that you avoid the danger of chaos breaking loose and a future disaster like "less conservative".

Remember, 2006 cuts both ways. A bloody 2004 civil war in GOP ranks could push the Senate back to Democratic control, and what then? More filibusters, acrimony, stalled 2nd-term agenda, the kind of executive-legislative fight that makes disgusted voters throw the majority -- that's us, folks -- out. How do you like the sound of President Hillary Clinton? Appointing Justice Bill Clinton, maybe? Remember a number of the justices are aging, not just Rehnquist, and the opportunity to appoint stretches out before us for many years.

This has happened before! A revolutionary majority party throws away its governing status by dissolving in intramural bickering of who is, and is not, true to the revolution.

The "original intent" of the Framers is a dicy thing. Please remember that those same Framers bitterly disagreed about what exactly they meant no more than 10 years after the event. For example, by the 1790s Madison and Jefferson were political enemies of Hamilton, and disagreed vehemently on what the Constitution said. And they all helped write it!

By me the "original intent" argument is a dead end. Far better to argue that the judicial system should always act conservatively (meaning cautiously), so as to dampen the momentary excesses of popular opinion. For example, the reason courts should not weigh in on the existence of homosexual "marriage" is largely because how we look at it today may yet prove to be a passing fancy. We don't know. Homosexuality and homosexual partnerships are not a new thing. It's been going on since time began. So why didn't the people agitate for homosexual marriage in the 1770s? Or 1880s? Or 1930s? And will we still feel the same way about it in the 2020s? Or 2030s? It's not clear. But what is clear is that we need a steady framework of legal decisions to have a steady society. People can flourish by adapting to nearly any regime -- except a regime of constantly shifting judicial nuance. It will not utterly degrade or destroy homosexuals to be denied state recognition of their partnerships for another decade or two. We're not talking about slavery here (which would, and did). But we do not know the consequences of a wholesale revision of a bedrock institution like marriage. Caution is the obviously sane course. We should have cautious judges, not imperial wannabes.

I think you're wrong about Specter's character. He's not at all shallow. He's a survivor, very pragmatic. He doesn't give a damn what the NYT says, because he likes real power, not 5000-word bouquets from pretentious Columbia J-school scribblers (as if those bouquets have done any real good for their clients, e.g. one John F. Kerry).

He doesn't care about his "spot in history", at least not yet, because he doesn't think of himself as a historical person yet. He thinks of himself as a mover and shaker in the present day. He's not concerned yet with whether history professors will praise him in books in 40 years time, he's still concerned with whether in 4 years time lots of people will still be looking at their feet and saying meekly yes Senator, whatever you say Senator, right away Senator.

So, basically, you're right that you'll get nowhere appealing to Specter's principles, because he hasn't got any. But, on the other hand, you have nothing to fear from him as long as you -- or in this case the GOP leadership and particularly the President -- hold the reins of power. If the tide is on your side, then Specter wants to sit in the boat with you. (And if it's not, he'll stab you and throw you overboard just to lighten the load.) So that's why I agree with Hugh: focus laser-like on making sure the tide is on our side.

As for the President's endorsement: don't forget he endorsed Specter for re-election. Don't you think for a moment that he forgot Specter would head up the committee, or that he was just "desperate" to take PA or falsely worried about Toomey in the general. Nothing is clearer than that this President and his team are the best political chess players the GOP has had in 25 years, if not longer. He's just not good -- well, terrible, to be blunt -- at explaining his strategy to the troops. You have to take a lot on faith.

Of course abortion is an act of evil. So is killing an innocent man. So is betraying a friend, or telling a lie to a child. But there are times when lesser evils are necessary. Only one man was ever born who could get through life without sin. Therein lies the struggle: when are those awful times? Where to draw the line? If we are going to win this war, foresight and patience and discipline are necessary. And innocents may die so that the war can be won, and innocents need no longer die in the future. Do not focus on tactical advances so much that you suffer strategic reverses. This is Hugh's point, essentially.

Thing is, you the educated 'Bama redneck have to strike a compromise with the educated Boston/Chicago bluebloods, a compromise that will make you see. . . well, red. . .or else you've got to wait for the tide of history (and population growth) to sweep them away. But, either way, you can't build your city on the hill quite the way the Architect laid it out, not yet.

(28) Warrior made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 5:22:09 PM | Permalink

Quadraginta, you are quite persuasive. You must be edjemacated too! However, I'm still not convinced on a few points. To begin with, why is there "no danger of a Ruth Bader Ginsberg" anymore. Sen. Specter has repeatedly stated that Roe is "invioable" and is thus invoking a litmus test. Indeed, that is just what he inferred in his careless remarks soon after the election.

Second, how is it a "bloody civil war" when Bush was elected and the GOP lead in Congress was expanded by the very same people who now oppose Specter? Let's face it, if the Christian Right had not been mobilized by the gay marriage ban proposals, we would all be sitting around now discussing what went wrong and how we will deal with President Kerry (ugh). If the GOP doesn't listen to this constituency, you won't have to imagine a "President Hillary." Basically, I think you overestimate the turmoil which will be created by tossing Specter out. Besides, if his ascerbic personality has ceated the animus I believe it has, few will lament his passing (so to speak) anyway.

You kind of lost me in your discussion of original intent. Slavery was wrong then and it is always wrong. Abortion was wrong then and it is always wrong. Tyranny was wrong then and...etc. I guess it boils down to absolute truth. The framers may have disagreed on some things, but they were devoted to the concept of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are eternal truths, I believe, not subject to a bi-annual review. These are Inalienable Rights, not to be issued, proclaimed, subjugated or rescinded by the nameless nine.

As far as Specter's character, I suggest you read his book, "Passion for Truth", if you haven't already. It reveals in stark detail Specter's torturous reasoning and tenuous justifications for actions he took and decisions he made based on nothing more than politics and ego. His entire opposition to Bork was created by Bork's failure to dumb down and suck up enough to make Specter feel important. His "Scottish Law" vote is a perfect example of the waffle mentality. You know, like "it depends on what the definition of the word is is" and "I threw my ribbons over the fence, but not my medals" and the ever popular "no wait, those weren't my medals at all." In any event, after reading several hundred pages, one word suggests itself repeatedly, "Narcissism". Believe my, mover and shaker or not, without the constraints of another election, he will be heavily motivated by his Place in History. You worry about turning 40, think what it's like to turn 80, as he will be at the end of his present term.
Believe me, if you are Arlen Specter, the (future) history books will wax large in your imagination.

Your assessment of President Bush and his advisors is right on target. They are smart. Smart enough to know when they can get a staunch conservative heading Judiciary without taking the heat for it.

Finally, I think enough innocents have died - 40 million and counting. If it takes "drastic measures" like bucking seniority at the millionaires club, well so be it. As I've said to all the Senators (or their secretaries, anyway) on the Republican Conference Committee, as well as Sen. Frist and Karl Rove, this is too important for politics as usual. I'm not worried about Chaffee, or Snow, or even Specter jumping ship. Every one of them have seen the fate awaiting ANY congressman or woman who continues to obstruct judicial apppointments by President Bush. Frankly, I think we've compromised enough.

(29) Quadraginta made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 6:47:24 PM | Permalink

Come, let us reason together. The essence of my position is this: I am not really trying to convince you one way or the other in the question of whether Arlen Specter should be chosen chairman or not. I am, first of all, trying to convince you that the question does not have an instantly obvious answer: there are subtleties, is all. Secondly, I am trying to convince you to leave the tactics in this war to the commanding general you just elected, namely George W. Bush.

As a voter we set strategic goals. I'm all for letting the President, and Bill Frist and your local Senator know that you are keenly aware of appointments to the judiciary, and you are going to be royally pissed off if decent conservative choices by the President get borked in the Senate. Absolutely, put the pressure on them for the right results.

But I am just saying, when it comes to the tactical decision about whether long-term success is best achieved by replacing or not Arlen Specter -- leave it to the commanders on the scene, the guys we elected to take care of this stuff for us. Let's not micromanage.

To answer the rest: there's no danger of a Ginsburg appointment because W would never nominate someone like her. And Specter's (or any Senator's) influence in getting such a person on the Court is very limited, because only the President can choose the candidates. That means the President sets the terms of the debate. His opponents can only argue why his candidate is bad, they can't argue why their candidate is better.

For example, if W wants to hobble the donks in certain ways he can nominate a Hispanic conservative and let 'em tie themselves in knots arguing against the "diversity" candidate. Remember, unlike an election, they can't bring forward their own liberal Hispanic candidate and neutralize the whole issue.

Also, party discipline is not what it used to be, but it's not dead. There are a lot of ways a pissed-off President and Republican leadership can crucify even a senior Senator who gets seriously out of line. Remember how fast Trent Lott went down after the President refused to come to his assistance. Senators make minor PR goofs like Lott's all the time, the difference with Lott is that he wasn't given cover. The powers that be can do that, if you piss them off. (Indeed, it's been argued elsewhere that one reason we're even talking about this is because W and the GOP leadership are giving Specter a small taste of what it's like to be out there facing annoyed voters naked, without cover by the big guns. If W had come out strongly for Specter as chairman, you and a hundred thousand other voters would not be making as much angry comment -- and both W and Specter know that. So the very existence of this debate may be W's way of firing a warning shot across Specter's bow.)

I'm sure Specter has some pork he'd like to bring home to PA, too. Frist can make it hellish trying to bring those piggies to market. And remember Specter himself doesn't want the GOP to lose seats in 2006. Everyone hates being the minority party in he Senate. You have to fire half your staff, you get an inner office with no window, lobbyists stop dropping by to buy you an expensive lunch and ask your opinion on what to name their firstborn children. . .

No, no -- I agree Specter's a rootless narcissist, but for that very reason I don't agree he cares overmuch about his place in history. Narcissists want power and attention NOW, not when they're dead. It's the idealists who worry about what the grandchildren will think. The narcissist cares about the here and now. That's why they lie and flip-flop so much. It's not so much that they're too stupid to think the truth won't someday get out, it's that their emotional attachment to present adulation is so strong they just can't bring themselves to care about the eventual reckoning.

I mean, can't we characterize the greatest narcissists of our time (e.g. Mr. Kerry and Mr. Clinton) by saying that they worried too little about their reputation when ALL the facts finally got out? And isn't some of what we admire about W the fact that he seems to keep his eye on the distant future, that he wants people (here or in Iraq) in fifty years' time to say W did the right thing?

Yes 40 million innocents is too much. By me even one innocent life is too much. No argument there. I'm not smart enough to know what to do about that. I couldn't be Commander in Chief, because I can't do that kind of calculus, decide how many and which innocents will die that the rest of us may be free.

That's part of why I said let us just set the strategic goals and leave it to our commanders to pick the tactics. We each all of us have our skills. If seriously hairy physics needs doing, I'm the man for the job. I know I can do it better than the President or any man in Congress.

But I also know my limits. When it comes to deciding how to keep my kids safe by having the right people on the Supreme Court, I'm going to leave it up to W and his team, because I'd be as hopeless advising them on political chess as they'd be advising me on how to solve integral equations on the computer. That's my main point, really.

I'm terrible at compromise, too. I don't want to compromise. But if the President says we must, then I'm prepared to go along with him, in the same way that, if I told him the laws of physics forbid this and such, I'd expect him to respect my expertise and go along with me.

(30) Palooka made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 6:53:28 PM | Permalink

I think our number one priority should be to change the Senate rules for filibustering judicial nominees. And I see tossing Spectre as a serious obstacle to that goal. I would like to see solid conservatives on the bench, and my reluctance in tossing Spectre is, I believe, consistent with that objective.

If we have a solid majority of conservatives on the judiciary committee, won't Spectre's ability to obstruct conservative appointees be greatly limited? I would love to see Spectre dumped, because frankly he has hurt his party more than he's helped it, but I don't see that as consistent with our objectives. Maybe I'm wrong.

(31) Warrior made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 8:42:59 PM | Permalink

I appreciate the remarks of my distinguished colleagues Palooka and Quadraginta and hope you are right. After all, what can we do anyway but make phone calls and send faxes and e-mails. Of course, if the "political chess" moves all blow up in our faces, we can also suffer the consequences in '08 (remember - President Hillary - AAAIIYYEEEEE!)

In any event, let me make a few remarks pertaining to Quadraginta's last post. And again, although I'm not trying to be argumentative, I do believe healthy debate is sometimes essential in devining a right course of action.

As far as the clever proposition of W nominating an Hispanic minority - it's already happened. Donks didn't "tie themselves up in knots" over Miguel Estrada, however. They delayed and filibustered and after two and one half years, Estrada went home. Maybe Bush can re-nominate him. I hope so - he is an excellent jurist.

Re Trent Lott, he went down by the hand of the Left. W didn't bail him out because Lott stepped on the true third rail of politics - race. And he was far more effective at bringing home the bacon as Majority Leader than is Frist.

Good point about W's possible warning shot to Specter. I hope you are right.

Unfortunately, Specter doesn't give a snort about pork. He has nothing to gain - no voters to woo, no contributers to court, and no more political heights to climb. Like I said, it's now nothing but Arlen and History.

Maybe we read different newspapers, but all I heard and read about Clinton in the last couple of years of his presidency was his Legacy, or lack there of. He certainly reaped the whirlwind of shame after sowing the wind of opportunism, as did Kerry, but that only shows poor judgement and irresponsible character. You call Clinton a Narcissist, but by your own definition, he was an idealist rather than a pig. Remember what Churchhill said about pigs though: A cat looks down on man. A dog looks up to man. A pig looks man straight in the eye and sees his equal.

And we haven't even begun to talk about Specter's certain obstruction of tort reform (look at his record so far.) Yet, the hour is late and it will have to wait for another day. I do appreciate your principles, your logic, and your concern for the party and the country. And as I said earlier, I sure hope you all are right.

(32) Warrior made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 9:17:35 PM | Permalink

P.S. Please remember, though, that removing a sitting chair is an order of magnitude harder than preventing the assumption of it in the first place.

(33) DavidBlue made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 9:48:55 PM | Permalink

(link) "President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981. [-] Even those liberals who branded her a "traitor" in her early years for compromising on abortion rights, now appreciate her efforts to keep the "pro-choice" message of Roe v. Wade (1973) alive. O'Connor's success should come at no surprise."

Indeed it shouldn't.

Arlen Specter will be looking to sabotage any judge like Robert Bork, and assure the success of judges like Sandra Day O'Connor, or judges far more disappointing to conservatives than Sandra Day O'Connor, because his own principles are fiercely liberal, not only on abortion but on many other important issues.

Since Supreme Court judges are appointed in an atmosphere of secrecy and deceit - anybody who openly says they are pro-life is "dead" - there seems to be a potential for the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to connive at the elevation of a "Manchurian candidate" - Ruth Bader Ginsburg in conservative clothing.

If in the long run George W. Bush's appointments do the opposite of what he wants it would be heartbreaking for George W. Bush's supporters. But it would be the ultimate triumph for Arlen Specter

Nobody thinks that in doing this, Arlen Specter will be restrained by gratitude or honour or party loyalty. (link)

Arlen Specter hates pro-lifers as shown by this letter. (link) (Thank you Grassroots PA. (link)) George W. Bush is the most important pro-lifer worldwide, unless you're Catholic, in which case he's number two.

OK, but if Arlen Specter gives specific undertakings and they are enforced vigilantly and with close oversight so he can't cheat, then let the customs of the Senate be observed for the sake of peace. I'd be all for that.

Hugh Hewitt says: Powerline's Hinderaker is right [link]: "Senator Specter needs to make those commitments to Senator Frist and his colleagues, and those commitments need to be enforced."

It is difficult to disagree with Hugh Hewitt, and it would be impossible (for me anyway) to disagree with Rick Santorum let alone George W. Bush. No matter how thick the paranoia gets, the bottom line is that you've got to trust somebody, not only to have their heart in the right place but to know what they are doing. So if they speak, for me that ends it.

But till then - how do you enforce undertakings on a hostile, honourless and disloyal Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, likely regarding tacit understandings and deals done in secret, in an atmosphere where the things that are of most importance can never be said in public, and likely in a complicated and murky situation inflamed by the Chairman himself with the support of the mainstream media, liberal senators and the Democratic Party? If it's too tough an option to not elevate an obviously dubious candidate like Arlen Specter, and it's vastly harder or effectively impossible to remove the guy once he's elevated, how does the word "enforce" have any meaning?

(34) observer made the following comment | Nov 9, 2004 11:46:22 PM | Permalink

Leave him alone, it'll work out. The shot's been fired across the bow; let's not ram the H.S.S. CenterRight.

(35) M. Simon made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 4:13:02 AM | Permalink

Will some enlightened Republican please explain how you can eliminate abortion by law?

Will this work similar to eliminating drugs by law?

Or will it be more similar to eliminating alcohol by law?


Well any way. This RINO has already gone into opposition. I guess my vote for Obama wasn't enough to give you Real Republicans a clue.

Stick to the war and economics. Leave the culture to the people.

(36) M. Simon made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 4:43:38 AM | Permalink

Republican dominance is not the same as Cultural Conservative dominance.

Bush's win was a coalition win.

You can break the coalition any time you are tired of winning.

There are a lot of us in the middle who chopped a lot of wood and hauled a lot of water for Bush. But the Republicans don't own us.

We can hold our nose and work/vote for Democrats.

The Keyes debacle in Illinois is instructive. Did any one notice?


BTW don't let the Democrats fool you it was not abortion and gay marriage that gave Bush the win.

It was Iraq and the war.

Stick to your knitting.

(37) Warrior made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 8:54:58 AM | Permalink

Your remarks imply that you really don't have many beliefs worth fighting for at all. Your childish sentiment that you will take your ball and go play with the Democrats shows this in stark relief. The one belief you do have is ensuring your own safety by supporting the War on Terror. However, when it comes to the lives of innocent babies, you could care less. Make no mistake, we will win the Culture War - with or without you. So go back to your tinker toys and leave the serious business of re-taking our country to the adults.

(38) observer made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 9:03:59 AM | Permalink

"Will some enlightened Republican please explain how you can eliminate abortion by law?"
Sure. I'm no expert, but I'm confident if congress simply codified any prenatal definition for personhood (whether from conception, 12, or 20 weeks, etc.), that would take care of it.

Perhaps "Whereas human life begins at conception, constitutional rights shall be not be limited to post-partum individuals. "
Or, "Since some children have survived from approximately twenty weeks after their conception, no child at least twenty weeks old (pre or post-partem) may be defined as non-existant."
Or more positively, "Persons exist from at least twelve weeks after conception, if not sooner.

Roe v. Wade only stands because it was noted that the beginning of human personhood has never been legally defined concerning prenatal babies. If there were such a way to define life, Roe would suddenly be irrelevent for those ages that had been defined as having human existance.

(39) Attila made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 9:21:07 AM | Permalink


Observer, if that's original, it's brilliant.

(40) Quadraginta made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 3:36:49 PM | Permalink

Well, here's an analogy about abortion law you might try out on your leftist friends, just to snarl them up a bit. Take it home and play with it, but it's not made of iron and can break, so be careful. . .

Thesis: Roe is particularly criminal because it has delayed or prevented development of effective and fool-proof (meaning proof against people being foolish) contraception, hence Roe has decreased the "choice" available to women, or men, and forced more to choose the traumas of abortion or unwanted birth when they could have been better served by contraception.

How so? Well, your leftist friend would probably argue that the anguished cries that came from Detroit when fuel economy standards were imposed were unjustified. He'd say: these people don't make fuel efficient cars not because they can't, but because they had no real need to. Give them the need, and they'll find the way. Not only that, but the existence of future lower standards greatly encourages the development of new technology to improve fuel economy.

Now apply this to conception. You might argue that people have not taken good contraception as seriously as they might, because Roe means they have no real need to. (Sure, I know, I know, this disrespects the women who have made the hard choice of abortion. Color me unimpressed. Any time an argument wanders off into whether one's opponent is being nice or not, it means you're out of logic and need to reload with another clip of facts, if you can.)

And, in the absence of Roe, the threat that some state might criminalize abortion of one kind of another would keep interest high in the future development of improved contraception. The Pill came out in 1960 or so. Forty years later, how much has our technology improved? Perhaps in the absence of Roe there would be a shot you could get once every five years, which protects against breast or prostate cancer (depending on the sex) to boot. Or a microswitch installable at the doc's office, completely harmless, which you can turn on and off like a pacemaker with an external magnet. You get one when you're 18 and horny, leave it off until you're 25 and married, turn it on, turn it off again after the first child for a few years. . .and so forth. None of this rubber thingies on the dingy, hormone pills, copper springs shoved up the. . .well, you know, the barbaric paraphernalia of primitive tech.

So, you might say to your progressive friend, isn't it the job of the new-left Clintonian style government to set performance standards and regulation for private industry that encourage innovation while looking out for the poorest and most defenceless among us? Isn't it wrong for the judicial system to artificially protect an industry against the social consequences of its products? (Think: Big Tobacco vs. Planned Parenthood.)

Have fun. Don't yell at me, please, this is just food for thought. If I had thought this through in "PhD-style" detail, I'd have published it with footnotes and stuff in a journal somewhere. . .

(41) Mike made the following comment | Nov 10, 2004 10:20:45 PM | Permalink

I have been very impressed generally with the discussion here, and in the rest of the blogosphere that is right of center on this issue. I recall as an undergraduate at the U of C, that we often had to read supreme court arguments. They were always very challenging to me as a physics major. Unfortunately now the courts now sometimes make such illogically twisted arguments that even without any training I can see they are farcical. This is not a good situation. This is an important argument, because the courts have clearly exceeded their authority (along with many city bureaucrats--it's nuts).

P.S. I assume that M. Simon is a lefty troll, but I will comment briefly anyway (I know, do not feed the trolls :) ). Just because there is no way for a law to prevent M. Simon from being murdered, does anyone with a modicum of intelligence argue that a law against his murder is a useless exercise? I am not an old hand on the blogosphere, so maybe this happens all the time. Maybe this is similar to a seminar caller on conservative talk radio (you know, the type of radio that is actually supported by a free economy). I recently heard a very fine faux seminar caller. He did not really embellish his Republican foundation (I have always been an independent, but I am conservative) quite as ably as a true seminar caller, but I was all ready to yell at my radio anyway! :) He said that he could not vote for Bush for environmental reasons. He had noticed that leaves were turning colors, and many of them were actually falling off trees! It was a very deft and humorous parody of the Left.

(42) David Blue made the following comment | Nov 11, 2004 8:26:59 AM | Permalink

Hi Mike, and welcome to the blogsphere.

I've encountered M. Simon before, and he's not a lefty troll. But this seems not to be his best topic. "Stick to your knitting" is not a useful line of discussion compared to the brilliant quality of the thread earlier. So even though he's not a troll, please don't . . . :)

Two short-and-easy articles that bear on what we're discussing: (link) (link). The nomination of judges for the Supreme Court is a game of stealth, deceit and betrayal, for enormous stakes. And in this case we know that the man who has to be President's champion, the future Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a hard-core partisan of the wrong side in every way, and a bad party man to boot.

If George W. Bush fails as his father George H.W. Bush failed in nominating David H. Souter for the Supreme Court, it's going to be orders of magnitude harder to explain the failure to the faithful later if Arlen Specter was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Arlen Specter is a villain (with a name to suit ;) from way back. Nobody will be able to say: "Who knew?"

The comments to this entry are closed.