Bust Bush Nominees

Sen. Trent Lott is fuming that the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote rejected his friend, US District Judge Charles Pickering Sr., for an appeals court seat. White House strategist Karl Rove is boasting to his right-wing constituency that if Senate Democrats think they will get mainstream appellate court nominees out of George W. Bush by busting Pickering they have another think coming. But Abner Mikva, a former Democratic congressman, federal district judge and counsel to former President Clinton, is among those who are voicing the opinion that the Senate should simply refuse to consider any Bush nominees to the appeals courts -- particularly for the Supreme Court.

Mikva says his proposal has gotten a warm reception from Democrats around the country, Tom Curry of MSNBC.com reported March 24. There is growing expectation that one or more of the Supreme Court justices will decide to retire in the next two years. John Paul Stevens, who will turn 82 next month, is the oldest, followed by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 78, and Sandra O'Connor, 72, who reportedly has told friends she would like to step down.

Mikva told MSNBC.com: "I can't say the reason President Bush didn't win (the popular vote) was because of his views on the Supreme Court, but I can say he didn't have a big mandate." He added, "this narrowly balanced court should not be upset until there's been another exercise of the franchise" in the 2004 election. "Wait until there's more of a popular mandate."

No Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are saying they won't approve a Bush nominee, preferring instead to hope against hope for a middle-of-the-road consensus choice, but they can expect confrontational nominees from Bush and they should be ready to reject all of them. D's on Judiciary should give as good as Clinton got when his moderate choices for the federal bench were shelved by Republican ideologues.

University of Texas Law Professor Sanford Levinson last fall, in testimony to a Judiciary subcommittee on the courts, called the Bush v. Gore decision "the equivalent of a stinking pig in the parlor." He told MSNBC.com, "There's a lot to be said for Mikva's idea" of blocking any Bush Supreme Court nominees on the principle that Bush's election was illegitimate.

"It would work against George Bush playing what I'm sure will be the Hispanic card" by nominating a person of Latino ancestry, such as conservative Texas federal appeals court judge Emilio Garza to the first opening on the court.

Democrats let George I play the race card in 1991 when we ended up with Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. They must not let that happen again.

Fast Track Rides Again

The Senate is expected to take up Fast Track handling of trade bills shortly after it returns from the Easter break. Fair trade advocates have little hope of defeating Fast Track outright in the Senate, says Jessica Roach, field organizer of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, but there are some differences between the Senate version sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and the House version. There also is the possibility of further amending the bill so that a "conference committee" would have to settle the differences. That at least would force another go-round in the House, which approved Fast Track by only one vote in December.

Fair trade advocates are hoping to win amendments such as broader Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which extends unemployment benefits and provides training opportunities for those who lose their jobs to globalization; an amendment to do away with the worst features of North American Free Trade Agreement's Chapter 11 (the part that allows corporations to sue countries to set aside bothersome laws and regulations); and an amendment to protect US anti-dumping and trade laws.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they will insist on the Trade Adjustment Assistance amendment of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., that would expand coverage to secondary workers, such as those who work at plants that supply parts for the cars that will no longer be made in the US, as well as some farm workers. The amendment also would require the government to pay 75% of health care costs of displaced workers for up to a year after factories are moved offshore. It also sets up an experimental wage insurance program to ease the transition if a worker were forced to accept a lower-wage job after the globalized plant closes.

Encourage Democratic senators to hold fast on these amendments. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Baucus want Fast Track to pass, but the Republicans want it more and should be forced to accept amendments that help displaced workers and communities impacted by globalization.

As House members get closer to the election, Roach said, some may reconsider their support for Fast Track, particularly if they hear from voters, but they need to hear objections right away. "To get ready for this upcoming floor vote in the House, continuing, consistent, merciless, action is needed NOW on those members who betrayed their constituents by voting for Fast Track," Roach wrote. "Corporate lobbyists make sure those target House members are getting the message to support Fast Track several times every day." See how Congress members voted on Fast Track at www.tradewatch.org or call (202) 546-4996. Call your Congress member through the Capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Seize the Opportunity

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, HarperCollins, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, proposed to "pulp" the 50,000 copies of Stupid White Men it already had printed rather than go ahead with the release of Michael Moore's critical look at George W. Bush as scheduled on Oct. 2. The publisher even wanted Moore to pay half the cost of trashing his own book.

Moore had little hope of seeing his book released when he spoke at a Dec. 1 meeting of New Jersey Citizen Action. He told them of his problems and read selections from the book, not realizing that a librarian in the group was taking notes. The next thing he knew, HarperCollins reps were calling him, asking him why all these irate librarians were calling up and demanding the book's release. "Librarians -- that's one terrorist group you don't want to mess with," Moore said. They also represent big money to publishers, and HarperCollins finally agreed to release the book but gave Moore only a three-city book tour. They expected the book to sink in the face of Dubya's reported 90%-plus approval ratings.

That was 15 printings ago. The book hit bookstores Feb. 19 and on March 24 it made #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, with Moore wangling most of the promotion from his own wits and wallet. ABC's Politically Incorrect, with lame duck host Bill Maher, flew him out to Los Angeles, allowing him to do a Left Coast tour, but otherwise the networks have ignored the bestselling plutocrat plucker. He had visited 20 cities on his own when he paid his way to Austin for the boisterous March 23 debut of Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour, where hundreds lined up for his book-signing.

The book tour has convinced Moore that support for Dubya, where it exists, is not a case of Americans loving Bush, "It's a matter of 'love the one you're with,'" after the terrorist attack, he said. But the failure of Enron and other companies has wiped out 401K plans of many middle-class people who thought their retirement was set, he said. "People are freaked out. They're pretty damned scared right now and they're pretty damned angry. And now people are filling out their taxes and finding out they got scammed [with last summer's supposed tax rebates]." Progressives should seize the opportunity to build coalitions among people who until a few months ago thought they were solid Republicans. -- JMC

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