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Chuck Muth is President and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a professional political consultant. Mr. Muth is a professional campaign trainer, a newsletter publisher and talk-show host who regularly appears on political TV and radio programs.

Wednesday

DC Confidential, 11/10/04


SPECIAL EDITION

This is a special edition of DC Confidential focusing entirely on the battle over Sen. Arlen Specter and the fight over the Judiciary Committee chairmanship. However, considering the level of interest in this subject...and its importance...I’m sending it out to all News & Views subscribers, as well.

If you haven’t subscribed to DC Confidential yet, I urge you to do so. This is the sort of “inside” analysis and commentary on a host of issues you’re missing. The cost is just $25 per year...and you can subscribe online by going to:

http://chuckmuth.com/onlinestore.htm



THE SPECTER SPECTACLE

The battle over Sen. Arlen Specter’s bid to chair the critical Judiciary Committee remains in flux and nobody seems to know what’s going to happen. Here’s how I see it as the sun sets today...

Folks opposed to Sen. Specter got a boost in a front page The Hill story (http://thehill.com/news/11102004/specter.aspx
) this morning headlined, “Tide runs against Specter.” In addition, a stinging rebuke by the highly respected conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, appearing in today’s Washington Times (http://washingtontimes.com/commentary/20041109-094915-2787r.htm) concludes: “It would be a tragedy for (Sen. Specter) to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he could mangle nominees, and in the process mangle the Constitution of the United States.”

Ouch.

However, Sen. Specter is fighting back, maintaining in a Wall Street Journal op/ed (http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005875) this morning, with some validity, that his comments “warning” the White House not to send up judicial nominees who were “too conservative” were taken out of context and blown out of proportion.

“I merely noted the political facts of life,” Specter writes. “Pro-life nominees might be filibustered by the Democrats. The Democrats had done so repeatedly in the last Congress.” He also noted, for the record, that he has voted “to confirm pro-life nominees including Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justice Anthony Kennedy.”

And while it’s true that he opposed Robert Bork in 1987, he reminds folks that he also led the fight for pro-life Judge Clarence Thomas’ confirmation in 1992, “which almost cost me my Senate seat.”

And on another front, do not underestimate the power of Rush Limbaugh to influence this debate. He’s a VERY powerful conservative voice who, speaking of the prospect of Sen. Specter chairing the Judiciary Committee, said on his show, “I would like it if there were somebody better, somebody else, but the world is not lost and the cause is not over and all is not doom and gloom if he still ends up there.” That has GOT to take some of the wind out of the anti-Arlen sails.

But back to Sen. Specter’s “warning” which stirred up this hornet’s nest in the first place. What Sen. Specter now says he was saying wasn’t so much that HE would block nominees who were “too conservative,” but that the DEMOCRATS would. And that is almost certainly true.

Which brings up the real, bottom line question in all this: What, if anything, is Sen. Specter willing to do to break these unconstitutional filibusters if the Democrats continue their obstruction?

Sen. Trent Lott has been pushing what is commonly referred to as the “nuclear option” to break the filibusters. This would mean changing the Senate rules with 51 votes instead of the usual 67 to assure nominees receive an up-or-down vote on the floor. Resorting to that drastic action would really put a bee in Democrats’ bonnets. Would Sen. Specter support “goin’ nuclear”?

“A promise to help alter long-standing Senate rules is part of the penance some Republican conservatives are demanding from Specter,” reports the Baltimore Sun today (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.judges10nov10,1,5321365.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines). Specter is “under strong pressure from conservatives in his party to promise he would support a move to give Bush's nominees an up-or-down vote in the Senate by helping GOP leaders force a change in a nearly century-old rule to prevent a judge from being blocked by a filibuster.”

Thus far, Senator Specter has refused to make such a promise. The senator appears to want to give Democrats a chance to play ball with him as chairman first, and believes making a pre-emptive promise to use the “nuclear option” would be seen as a threat by the other side and dash any chance at co-operation. And that’s a legitimate point.

However...without making such a promise it’s unlikely the conservative furor over his nomination will go away...and such grassroots opposition could still derail his shot at the chairmanship. He’s got to get IN the seat first before worrying about how he’s going to deal with the opposition party.

What’s missing here at the moment is any kind of leadership by Republican leaders in this matter. The grassroots have clearly spoken in their opposition to Sen. Specter. They’ve signed thousands of petitions, sent faxes and lit up the phones. And Sen. Specter has responded, effectively I must admit, with his Wall Street Journal op/ed and numerous appearances on the talking heads shows.

But the White House, whose potential nominees are at stake here, has taken a hands-off position. They’ve neither voiced unqualified support for Sen. Specter, nor opposition. Instead they’re saying the White House doesn’t get involved in the business of the Senate on matters such as this (Yeah? Tell that to FORMER Majority Leader Trent Lott).

And the two Senate leaders who could move this matter definitively one way or the other - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum, both of whom have presidential ambitions for 2008 - have been as quiet as church-mice. If either comes out publicly in favor of Sen. Specter for the job...it’s his. If either comes out opposed, then there’s a real chance someone other than Sen. Specter might end up in that seat.

The duo’s public silence on this matter is deafening.

Bet your bottom dollar there’s a LOT of behind-the-scenes conferencing, positioning and horse-trading going on this very minute. And from what I can see, the momentum has clearly shifted back to Sen. Specter’s favor...the optimistic Hill story headline notwithstanding. He’s an experienced hand at playing the “inside” game where this battle is currently being fought.

Without a Republican leader to rally behind, don’t be surprised to see the grassroots effort wither on the vine. The final decision won’t be made until January, and as The Hill notes, “Conservative activists may be hard-pressed to sustain their push against Specter for two more months.”

The ultimate resolution, as happens in so many of these matters, is likely to leave no one completely happy. Sen. Specter may end up getting the chairmanship, to the consternation of grassroots conservatives, but only after making a private commitment to Republican colleagues that he will “go nuclear” if the Democrats revert to their old games...which won’t make Sen. Specter nor the Democrats happy.

Don’t be surprised if that’s how this ultimately plays out. But IF a commitment to “go nuclear” is extracted in the process, publicly or in private, that means the President’s judicial nominees will have a FAR better chance at getting confirmed in the coming months. And for that conservatives can be satisfied that their efforts weren’t in vain.

In any event, this thing is FAR from settled and could still go in any number of ways. Stay tuned, Bat-fans. I’ll keep you posted as the sands continue to shift.

Chuck Muth


THE GOLDWATER DOCTRINE

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is 'needed' before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' interests, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

- Barry Goldwater, “The Conscience of a Conservative”

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Published by Chuck Muth
1315 Wilson Point Road
Middle River, MD 21220
chuck@chuckmuth.com
http://www.chuckmuth.com

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