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Next: absolute power


If I read the results right, last year's presidential election was a close one. That means the country's divided --- or unclear --- about what it wants. But the Bush administration acts as if the American people have embraced right-wing governance. And that's exactly what we're getting.

            Republicans are trying to grab total control over the levers of power. And their current maneuver ---- trying to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate --- is only the latest example.

            According to the polls, a significant majority of Americans oppose the president's policies. They oppose his handling of Social Security, his handling of the economy, the war in Iraq and even the changing of the filibuster rule. Averaging three current presidential polls indicates that Bush's approval rating has dropped to 44 percent, versus 55 percent disapproving. It is unprecedented, according to the Gallup poll, for a re-elected president to have approval ratings this low so soon after the election.

            To Senate Republicans, none of this seems to matter. They're operating as if they have a mandate, and they appear ready to eliminate the filibuster on judicial nominees.

            The United States Senate has been referred to as the world's greatest deliberative body, and one of its strengths has been the utilization of unlimited debate --- the filibuster. The founding fathers often expressed their fear of the havoc a temporary majority could wreak. As the Senate evolved, it was deemed necessary to allow unlimited debate to protect minority rights. Since 1841, these rights have been incorporated into Senate rules, and they've been modified to require a supermajority to cut off debate.

            Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist now seeks to overturn 200 years of Senate tradition and rules to take advantage of the current Republican majority.

            Why do the Republicans want to do this? They aren't content controlling the legislative and executive branches of government. Democrats have approved 96 percent of the Republicans' judicial nominees, blocking the other 4 percent with the threat of a filibuster. Republicans want it all, so to get it all, they want to kill the filibuster.

            That missing 4 percent, of course, is just an excuse. Republicans are positioning themselves to go after the big prize: the next Supreme Court nominee. With the filibuster ruled out for judicial nominees, the minority Democrats would be powerless.

            What kind of Supreme Court nominees can we expect? Take a look at an article in the April 17 issue of the New York Times Magazine,"The Unregulated Offensive," which describes the radical jurists the Republicans have in mind. These folks want nothing less than to turn the country back to the days of social Darwinism. Environmental protection, workers' rights, minimum-wage laws, health and safety laws will mean nothing to them. If several of these nominees are confirmed, the direction of the country could be radically altered, rightward.

            The Republicans have the usual disingenuous argument for the filibuster: that the Democrats are obstructing democracy; that they should permit a vote on the nominees. The Republicans ignore their own, far more obstructionist, positions on Clinton-administration judicial nominees.

            Is this what Americans voted for last November (assuming that the vote was accurate)? The next few weeks should be a critical period in the evolution of American democracy.


With great fanfare, the president has signed the new bankruptcy law. The new law will make it much harder for families and individuals to get out from under debt when calamity strikes. Statistics show that 90 percent of bankruptcies occur after serious illness, loss of a job, or family breakup. Relatively few are due to deliberate profligate spending and irresponsible money management.

            "America," says the president, "is a nation of personal responsibility, where people are expected to meet their obligations. If someone does not pay his or her debts, the rest of society ends up paying for them."

            Does our president ever stop to think about what he says and connect it to his own policies and behaviors? After deliberately running up the biggest deficits in American history and calling government bonds worthless IOU's, how can he keep a straight face while making these statements? Oh, well, apparently that advice applies only to the little people.