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Thomas Sowell: Once in a lifetime
Townhall ^ | December 7, 2004 | Thomas Sowell

Posted on 12/07/2004 5:28:08 PM PST by RWR8189

Who sits on the Supreme Court for life may be more important than who sits in the White House for four years. With vacancies to fill among federal judges in general and vacancies expected to occur on the aging Supreme Court in particular, the stakes are very high in the judicial appointments made in the next few years. We and our children will be living with the consequences for a long time.

 This looks like an opportunity that may come just once in a lifetime to make judicial appointments that will stop the courts' dangerous pattern of continually eroding away the voting public's right to govern themselves through their elected representatives.

 Both political parties understand the historic high stakes in these appointments. Senate Democrats have dug in and refused to allow some judicial nominees even to be voted on by the full Senate because these were judges who believe in applying the written law, not imposing judges' personal notions as the law of the land.

 With the agenda of the political left increasingly rejected by voters at the polls, the only way to get the items on that agenda enacted into law is to have judges who will decree the liberal agenda from the bench. Too many judges have already done that on everything from gay marriage to racial quotas and the death penalty.

 It is not these or other particular issues which are the highest stakes. The highest stakes are democratic self-governance versus judicial fiats that threaten to make a mockery of the American system of government by elected officials.

 Some Republican Senators are considering reacting to the Democrats' obstruction of judicial nominees by a change in the Senate rules that would no longer allow a minority of Senators to prevent the majority from voting on these nominees.

 Putting in this rule change to stop the filibustering of judicial nominees would be a long overdue show of backbone on the part of the Republican Senators. But George Will's column in the December 8th issue of Newsweek argues that this is a bad idea.

  Putting a stop to filibustering judicial nominees could mean sliding down a "slippery slope" toward declaring "the illegitimacy of filibusters generally," according to Will. But, after more than two centuries of American history, it is not at all obvious what benefit this country has ever received from filibusters.

 It is all too easy to recall how Southern Democrats for decades blocked attempts to give blacks basic civil rights by filibustering such legislation in the Senate. That was surely not our country's finest hour.

 Filibusters, like judicial activism, make a mockery of the voter's right to self-governance. Both are ways for a willful minority to block the majority.

 As for slippery slopes, we are already on a very slippery slope toward irreversible laws created by judicial activists. Even judges who respect the Constitution as it was written and legislation as it was passed also respect judicial precedents.

 Conservative judges are not inclined to reverse long-standing precedents on which millions of people have relied, even if these judges think the original decision should not have been made the way it was. With activist judges guided only by their own ideology and conservative judges reluctant to overturn precedents, the agenda of the left is easy to enact from the bench and hard to dislodge afterward.

 If both the liberal agenda and the whole process of judicial lawlessness that serves it are ever to be stopped, Senate Republicans will have to face the question that Ronald Reagan used to ask: "If not us, who -- and if not now, when?"

 George Will warns that someday the Republicans will be in the minority and Democrats can then use the proposed rule change to keep them from blocking legislation they don't like. But judicial nominations are too fundamental an issue, at a time when we stand at a legal crossroads, to worry that a rule change will, in effect, escalate the political arms race.

 The alternative to this political arms race is to stay disarmed in the face of a ruthless adversary who recognizes no limits of propriety or even decency, as their treatment of Judge Robert Bork and Judge Clarence Thomas amply demonstrated long ago.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: activism; appointments; constitution; constitutionaloption; constructionism; constructionist; filibuster; fillibuster; georgewill; judicalactvism; judicialtyranny; nuclearoption; scotus; sowell; thomassowell; ussc; will

1 posted on 12/07/2004 5:28:08 PM PST by RWR8189
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To: RWR8189

Go nuclear. If the Dems were respecting tradition across the board, that would be one thing. But they aren't, so there is no reason to respect the tradition of the filibuster.


2 posted on 12/07/2004 5:32:46 PM PST by Agrarian
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To: RWR8189

If Republicans are in a position to change the rules in favor of procedures that facilitate a more strict interpretation of the Constitution on the part of judges they should do it NOW. Nothing any party does is irreversible for all time.


3 posted on 12/07/2004 5:41:14 PM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: RWR8189

Clear thinking as usual from Sowell. BTT.


4 posted on 12/07/2004 5:43:13 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Fester Chugabrew

yes, better we do it now to them, than they do it eventually to us.

We have seen what happened when the Rs had 50 R votes in the Senate, with one S (socialist) and 49 Ds (democrats). Out of courtesy, the Rs put the same number of Ds and Rs on each committee.

After the Jefford Jump, with 49 Rs 49Ds one S one I, the Ds rearranged things to put a majority of Ds on each committee.

No courtesy, then, so why courtesy now?


5 posted on 12/07/2004 5:46:04 PM PST by donmeaker (Why did the Romans cross the road? To keep the slaves from revolting again.)
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To: RWR8189

Do It NOW!


6 posted on 12/07/2004 5:48:31 PM PST by RBroadfoot
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To: Billthedrill
Let's think about this. There are 9 justices. If the average term of service is ~30 years (appoint at 50 yr old, retire at 80 yr.) then 1/9 times 30 years = 3 and 1/3 equivalent years of total influence.

That would also indicate that each 4 yr Presidential term is likely to get slightly more than one SC appointment. So for Presidents that get to make at least 3 SC appointments, the influence of the appointments is greater than their own. Of course one must choose wisely. The 'pubs have blown a few in the not too distant past. If Bush gets to make 4 or 5 appointments in the next 4 years, then indeed, his appointments will likely have more impact then he does.

7 posted on 12/07/2004 5:54:54 PM PST by Paladin2 (SeeBS News - We Decide, We Create, We Report - In that order! - ABC - Already Been Caught)
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To: RWR8189
I have to admit, Sowell makes a compelling case. I have generally been against the so-called "nuclear option" for the reasons cited by George Will. However, what are the chances the Democrats *wouldn't* go nuclear if the situation were reversed? Next to nothing.

In other words, this simple constitutional courtesy we have been showing is unlikely to see any reciprocity from the other side when they return to the majority.

8 posted on 12/07/2004 5:59:14 PM PST by cicero's_son
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To: RWR8189

IMO, the representative Republic is broken - possibly beyond repair. The Founding Fathers turned control of the government over to lesser people with lesser abilities.

I don't think we can trust the Congress to vote on the significant issues of our day. I think that the voters should vote on the Federal budget to ensure that OUR money is being spent responsibly. I don't think that the Senate is capable of responsibly discharging its obligations to approve Judicial Nominees and, in general, advise and consent. The approval of Judicial nominees should be put to the voters since the Senate is too wrapped up in playing politics.

This, by the way, is the biggest reason to repeal the 17th Amendment and restore a sense of priority for the needs of America. The Senate has lost its sense of purpose and a major shakeup is in order to get them re-focused.

Things seem to be a little better in the House. There are more adults in the House who are more responsive to and in touch with the voters.

But Sowell's point about the SC Justices is right on target. It's just a point that we have known for decades. With the Dems pushed against the wall, they are likely to be even more hardcore than they have in the past. The rhetoric being spewed by Harry Reid is an indication of things to come and I believe that the Dems are going to conduct their own "terrorism" attacks on Republican plans. If things looked bad when tiny tommy was in charge of Senate Dems, he was only a prelude to the types of political warfare that it appears Reid and Pelosi intend to wage.


9 posted on 12/07/2004 6:03:13 PM PST by DustyMoment (Repeal CFR NOW!!)
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To: RWR8189
attempts to give blacks basic civil rights

every citizen had (and has) civil rights under the bill of rights, correct?

10 posted on 12/07/2004 6:48:10 PM PST by the invisib1e hand (if a man lives long enough, he gets to see the same thing over and over.)
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To: RWR8189
For starters we could re-institute the old-style filibuster: The filibusterer must speak to hold the floor by a non-stop verbal presentation to the senate (even if they all gone home), when he (or she, it) stops, the filibuster is over.

The press would love it, the dems might try it maybe once. They would be given enough rope to hang themselves.

The result: filibuster is dead and its demise is not blamed upon the conservatives.

11 posted on 12/07/2004 7:54:55 PM PST by Rudder
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To: Rudder

IIRC in that case there would only need to be one Democrat in the chamber filibustering and we would need 51 Republicans there to vote on the measure whenever he let up.

Invoking cloture takes 60 votes, if you don't have them, it doesn't matter how many Democrats are there.


12 posted on 12/07/2004 8:02:59 PM PST by RWR8189 (Its Morning in America Again!)
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To: RWR8189
My point is that if had the old rule, dems would not risk filibustering because such an act would receive wide press exposure. The more press the dems get, the worse they are viewed in the public eye. Therefore, that old rule, if instituted, would end the filibustering of Bush's judicial candidates.

Nicht Wahr?

13 posted on 12/07/2004 8:11:28 PM PST by Rudder
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To: Rudder

It would recieve wide press exposure, but it would be showing how the heroic Democrats were standing up to the big bad mean Republicans.


14 posted on 12/07/2004 8:17:58 PM PST by RWR8189 (Its Morning in America Again!)
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To: RWR8189
Democrats were standing up to the big bad mean Republicans.

Well, at first it would be portrayed that way by the MSM. But as the filibuster went on, the dems would either have to speak the truth about their position or continue their schizophrenic rhetoric--neither of which would withstand public scrutiny.

This "fact" (that their message is not palatable) was demonstrated during the most recent presidential campaign.

15 posted on 12/07/2004 8:30:33 PM PST by Rudder
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To: RWR8189
BINGO:

The highest stakes are democratic self-governance versus judicial fiats...

16 posted on 12/07/2004 8:51:01 PM PST by GOPJ (M.Dowd...hits..like a bucket of vomit with Body Shop potpourri sprinked across the surface--Goldberg)
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To: GOPJ

The highest stakes are democratic self-governance versus judicial fiats that threaten to make a mockery of the American system of government by elected officials.

MOCKERY is too true! All the Democrats do is mock everyone who disagrees with them.

Thomas Sowell always gets right to the point. Such a clear thinker and level-headed as well. You never see him spouting off insults in his articles to get to the point.

It's called Eloquence.


17 posted on 12/07/2004 9:38:36 PM PST by kuma
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To: RWR8189

Keep the filibuster... but it MUST be as it was in the past. One Senator, keeping the floor, speaking until he drops.


18 posted on 12/07/2004 10:06:51 PM PST by Swordmaker (Tagline now open, please ring bell.)
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To: Rudder
For starters we could re-institute the old-style filibuster: The filibusterer must speak to hold the floor by a non-stop verbal presentation to the senate (even if they all gone home), when he (or she, it) stops, the filibuster is over.

Actually, IIRC, the filibusterer can always demand a quorum call... at which the master-at-arms of the Senate must round up a quorum of Senators to listen to him read the Manhattan phone book, so they can't all go home. It makes a delicious picture, doesn't it?

19 posted on 12/07/2004 10:19:25 PM PST by Swordmaker (Tagline now open, please ring bell.)
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To: RWR8189
Seems republicans would rather hold the high ground than win the war.. Nuke em!..
Save lives, money, resources and effort.. Nuke em!.. win the high ground later..
When you can afford to throw them a bone.. if ever..
20 posted on 12/07/2004 10:22:35 PM PST by hosepipe (This Propaganda has been edited to include not a small amount of Hyperbole..)
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To: Swordmaker
...at which the master-at-arms of the Senate must round up a quorum of Senators to listen to him read the Manhattan phone book, so they can't all go home. It makes a delicious picture, doesn't it?

Sure does. The use of a real, old-time filibuster is something the dems won't have a stomach for. I think it would be good strategy for the GOP to simply move to institute the old rules: "Sure," they'd say, "you can have your filibuster on our judicial nominees. In fact, we welcome it."

21 posted on 12/08/2004 4:54:38 AM PST by Rudder
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To: DustyMoment
I think that the voters should vote on the Federal budget to ensure that OUR money is being spent responsibly.

Now you go beyond the slippery slope into the pit of mob rule.

This is like having two wolves and a lamb voting on the dinner menu. A broad enough 'gimme' bill will leave the rest of us out in the cold, and all sorts of amendments like summarily executing cigarette smokers, or doubling property tax on single family dwellings, or making all firearms illegal, could be tacked on.

22 posted on 12/08/2004 5:09:48 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (I'm from North Dakota and I'm all FOR Global Warming! Bring it ON!)
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To: Smokin' Joe

Sure there are risks - like having John Kerry run for president against George Bush. And, even though an astonishing majority of Americans have no clue about budgets, economics and the like, I have reached the point at which I trust the American voter to do the right thing much more than I trust the lying thieves we elected to represent our interests.

Plus, it would likely force Congress to reveal all of those "off-the-table" items that fund shadow agencies and schemes that we aren't supposed to know about but pay for.

This stuff has got to stop. And, since our elected representatives don't want to do the job we sent them to WA., DC to do, we'll do it for them and take back some of the extraordinary salary they award themselves.

That's captalism and business at work!! And the members of Congress need to learn about those things.


23 posted on 12/09/2004 2:59:33 AM PST by DustyMoment (Repeal CFR NOW!!)
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To: DustyMoment
What about going back to having the State Legislature elect the Senators? That was the original plan. It eliminates a lot of the shameless pandering which goes on today.

IMHO, the American voter mix is about 2.5% off of being idiots, and the other half feel similarly.

The grave danger, however, is if you put a measure up which said that everyone else would make double what white males do, (including white women), what are the chances it would NOT pass? Zip, zilch, nada. The 51% female vote would pretty much clinch things.

There are very good reasons why everything does not come up for a popular vote.

That said, I agree there is a need for reform.

How about this (for a start):

1: A bill can only deal with one subject. No tacking on pork gimmies, no riders unless they deal with the subject of the bill. A highway bill deals with highways and their funding, period.

2: For every law passed, two must be repealed.

3: The authors of the bill shall write quizzes on the substantitive portions of the measure. Any legislator unfamilliar with the measure is disqualified from voting on it.

4:The bill shall be provided in current written and/or electronic form at least three weeks prior to voting on the measure. The full text of the bill with links to pertinent laws shall be made available to the public online, and an open online forum provided for rational comment/critique by the public, who just might be more familliar with the impact of a specific measure than the Congress.

It would surprise the bejeebers out of me if even one third of the Congress knew the measures they vote on or their potential impact.

24 posted on 12/09/2004 5:13:40 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (I'm from North Dakota and I'm all FOR Global Warming!)
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To: Paladin2
The 'pubs have blown a few in the not too distant past.

I'll say.

Seven out of the nine seated are Republican appointments and we still have a Court we're scared to death of!

We now have a great opportunity, but we sure better keep our fingers crossed.

25 posted on 12/09/2004 6:50:57 AM PST by iconoclast (Conservative, not partisan.)
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To: Smokin' Joe

Great ideas, just add a breathalyser test to each prospective voter within 10 minutes of the vote with the results published on the web within 10 minutes after!


26 posted on 12/09/2004 4:46:45 PM PST by Paladin2 (SeeBS News - We Decide, We Create, We Report - In that order! - ABC - Already Been Caught)
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To: Smokin' Joe

Actually, if you go back to my original post, I did (and do) advocate the repeal of the 17th Amendment (the one that fundamentally altered our government from a representative republic to a democracy (AKA mob rule!).

Still, we agree on many points and share the same ideas; only the approach is a little different.


27 posted on 12/09/2004 4:56:46 PM PST by DustyMoment (Repeal CFR NOW!!)
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To: Paladin2
Great ideas, just add a breathalyser test to each prospective voter within 10 minutes of the vote with the results published on the web within 10 minutes after!

I'm all for that! But fat Teddy would have to go through DTs to vote.

As that goes, you have to pass drug screening to drive a bus or operate an oil rig, why isn't it required to run a country?

If the peons have to pee, they should, too.

28 posted on 12/09/2004 11:06:28 PM PST by Smokin' Joe (I'm from North Dakota and I'm all FOR Global Warming!)
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