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Sun

07

Jan

2007

A Pathetic Ploy, Another “Signing Statement,” and that “Goddamned piece of paper”
Sunday, 07 January 2007 14:27
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

Now that the United States Congress is in the hands of Democrats, the GOP that has run roughshod over everyone for more than a decade is whimpering and proposing a “Minority Bill of Rights.” Tony Auth’s cartoon captured the essence of this hypocritical, pathetic ploy: “Now remember, do unto others as you devoutly wish they had done unto you.”


To be sure, the Republicans and their Christian Right GOPhers do have something to worry about. Their backward looking, theocratic, special interest agenda may well be degutted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set raising the minimum wage and increasing funding for stem cell research as top priorities. The GOP has always opposed raising the minimum wage. They prefer pandering to big business and big profits for corporate execs at the expenses of the workers who actually create the products and deliver the services. And, of course, there are all those corporate campaign contributions to be worried about.

And how dare Democrats want to explore a science and technology that may be able to cure diseases? The GOP has always sided with the U.S. pharmaceutical industry that makes mega-bucks from “treating” diseases with drugs sold at grossly inflated prices. Curing diseases is anathema to them. As the old saying goes, “More people live off diseases than die from them.”

Pelosi wants to cut the price of prescription drugs to America’s seniors on Medicare and Medicaid. God forbid people in need should get a break at the expense of corporate profits. How many millions in profit-funded bonuses did the execs of pharmaceutical companies get last year? How many seniors could not afford the drugs they needed last year?


The day the House Speaker was sworn in, Louis P. Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition were sounding the alarm with their usual hyperventilating rhetoric and same old scare tactics:

The New Congress: Analysis From Traditional Values Coalition

With far-left Democrats in control of the U.S. House and Senate, we can expect them to introduce pro-homosexual bills, propose tax increases, attempt to gut national intelligence, create more federal bureaucracies and block judicial conservatives nominated to the federal courts. The President’s veto pen will be our last line of defense. …

Sheldon has a seething hatred of gay people, so it’s not surprising that equality legislation was the first concern in this tirade. For “Lucky Louie” and his TVC, anything that seeks to assure civil equality for all Americans is “pro-homosexual.”

As for blocking judicial nominees, perhaps Sheldon can explain why he and the TVC had no criticism for Sen. Sam Brownback, the new “Golden Boy” of the Christian Right.

Brownback was in the news late last year for holding up the confirmation of Michigan state judge Janet Neff to a federal district court because, in 2002, she attended a lesbian commitment ceremony in Massachusetts. A year or so later, that state’s Supreme Court declared same-sex couples could not be barred from the civil institution called “marriage.”

As the New York Times reported,

Judge Neff, a Michigan state court judge, attended the commitment ceremony of the daughter of a family who had lived next door to her for 26 years. She said that attending and delivering a homily was like joining in an important event in the life of one of her own daughters.

Mr. Brownback, one of the most conservative senators, considered it to be a disqualifier for the bench. Later, he made an equally objectionable offer: he would allow a vote on Judge Neff if she agreed to recuse herself from cases involving same-sex unions. The Senate does not get to tell federal judges what areas of law they may rule on.

Brownback eventually backed off and promised to allow a vote of Judge Neff’s appointment. The New York Times editorial made the critical assessment:

Senator Brownback now seems to be calculating that even in the Republican Party, the sort of extreme bigotry he has shown toward gay people would not be a selling point. At a time when Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter is pregnant and President Bush has declared himself “happy for her,” Mr. Brownback’s hostility puts him far out on the political fringe.

Mr. Brownback says that although he will allow Judge Neff’s nomination to come to a vote, he is still likely to vote against her. If he does, he should be asked to explain his vote if he hits the presidential campaign trail. Whether someone has attended a same-sex commitment ceremony is not a worthy litmus test to impose on someone seeking an important office. Whether someone holds hateful views toward gay people certainly is. [link added]

Not an organization that has ever let its own hypocrisy get in the way of a good tirade, the Traditional Values Coalition’s message continued with

On Thursday afternoon, after being elected Speaker of the House, Pelosi participated in a number of photo ops with numerous Democrat Members of Congress. Included were Tammy Baldwin, a homosexual activist from Wisconsin with her domestic partner looking on and newly-elected Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison took the oath of office on the Koran, instead of on the Bible. …

A “homosexual activist” winning election in Wisconsin? Come on, Lou. Maybe she was just the better candidate. In the “mind” of Sheldon and the TVC, a gay person is unfit for everything: unbridled bigotry and hate hiding behind religion.

Note how Rep. Baldwin is juxtaposed with Rep. Ellison in the TVC missive. If, as they claim, Sheldon and his organization truly believe in religious freedom, shouldn’t they be applauding Mr. Ellison’s being sworn in on the Koran?

Moreover, why is the Bible – or any religious text – used to swear in officials of a secular, civil government that’s based on a Constitution the First Amendment of which begins “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”? Shouldn’t a copy of the Constitution – not a religious text – be used to swear in public officials?

TVC played all its hate cards at once when it came to the Senate:

Nevada Senator Harry Reid is the new Senate Majority Leader and is a hard-core liberal. Reid is expected to push a pro-homosexual, pro-abortion agenda, and Chairman of Senate Committees promise to hold a series of hearings to investigate various aspects of the Bush Administration – including the war on Islamic terrorism. …

The opening (and closing) of the TVC article appealed to George W. Bush to use his veto pen freely and often. That figures. Connivers and schemers appealing to the Conniver-and-Schemer-in Chief. Perhaps Sen. Reid should begin his investigations with Bush’s latest attempt to circumvent civil law and Constitutional protections: “A signing statement attached to postal legislation by President Bush last month may have opened the way for the government to open mail without a warrant.”

Bush’s signing statement read:

The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.

“In exigent circumstances.” An ominous phrase to be sure given the Bush administration’s previous “exigent circumstances”: the fictitious weapons of mass destruction used to justify invading Iraq.

According to the American Bar Association, Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, more than all other presidents combined.

Signing statements are generally used to instruct government agencies on how to carry out the law. But Bush’s often reserve the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws as his administration sees fit. Signing statements are the perfect vehicle for the Conniver-and-Schemer-in-Chief, since Congress has no real recourse.

Whimsical rule by a loose cannon president totally out of touch with reality.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer got it right in relation to “The Decider’s” postal signing statement and his detachment from political realities and common sense: “This last-minute, irregular and unauthorized reinterpretation of a duly passed law is the exact type of maneuver that voters so resoundingly rejected in November.”

The New York Times echoed those sentiments in a January 7, 2007 editorial:

Observing President Bush in action lately, we have to wonder if he actually watched the election returns in November, or if he was just rerunning the 2002 vote on his TiVo.

That year, the White House used the fear of terrorism to scare American voters into cementing the Republican domination of Congress. Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney then embarked on an expansion of presidential power chilling both in its sweep and in the damage it did to the constitutional system of checks and balances.

In 2006, the voters sent Mr. Bush a powerful message that it was time to rein in his imperial ambitions. But we have yet to see any sign that Mr. Bush understands that – or even realizes that the Democrats are now in control of the Congress. Indeed, he seems to have interpreted his party’s drubbing as a mandate to keep pursuing his fantasy of victory in Iraq and to press ahead undaunted with his assault on civil liberties and the judicial system.

The postal signing statement is just the latest indication that as megalomaniac Bush gets pushed further and further into the closet of his own delusions his reactions will be dictatorial, to say the least. As Ann Beeson of the ACLU noted, “The signing statement raises serious questions whether he is authorizing opening of mail contrary to the Constitution and to laws enacted by Congress. … What is the purpose of the signing statement if it isn’t that?”

What else indeed?

Sen. Schumer made another astute observation: “Every American wants foolproof protection against terrorism. But history has shown it can and should be done within the confines of the Constitution.”

But what’s the Constitution to George W. Bush?

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
 
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