Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pushed to the brink, the Democrats blink

As the parade of U.S. senators dubbed “The Gang of 14” stood at the podium late Monday night to announce the great compromise on the filibuster debate, the first thing that came to my mind was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s remarks as he got off a plane in September 1938 waiving a piece of paper signed by Adolf Hitler.

In what became known as the Munich Agreement, Hitler promised not to invade any more countries in Europe to avoid war with England. Chamberlain, who would become synonymous with the failed policy of appeasement, told the British public: “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time... Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” A little thing called World War II got in the way of Chamberlain’s promise.

The Democrats played a game of chicken with Republicans over the filibuster, the favorite delaying tactic of America’s permanent minority party. On the eve of a vote to deny the minority the right to refuse to allow President Bush’s judicial nominees to be approved by the full Senate, the Democrats waived the white flag and agreed to vote on three key nominees right away.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, blocked by the Democrats for four years, was approved by the Senate Wednesday for a federal appeals court in a party-line vote. Approval of two other nominations held up by the Democrats for two years — William H. Pryor Jr. for the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Janice Rogers Brown for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — are expected to follow shortly.

The rest of the president’s judicial nominees would not be filibustered unless Democrats believe the judges are out of the mainstream. That’s an odd thing to leave to a party that’s been out of the mainstream in five of the last seven presidential elections.

The so-called compromise worked out in the 11th hour by a group of Senate moderates simply postpones the inevitable showdown over the filibuster.

When President Bush nominates a replacement this summer for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the Democrats (and their left-wing sugar daddies) will be back on the filibuster watch.

Howard Dean, who self-destructed again over the weekend in an appearance on “Meet the Press,” has been saying that the surrender by Democrats is a victory for his party. I guess that makes sense if you cling to the fact that John Kerry finished second in the presidential election last year. What Dean doesn’t realize is that the 41 votes the Democrats need to filibuster judicial nominees in the Senate are unattainable now that seven Democrats signed a pledge that they would resort to the filibuster only under “extreme circumstances.”

What happens if President Bush nominates Owen to the Supreme Court? If the majority of the Senate approved them for federal judgeships, how can the seven Democrats vote against them without breaking their compromise? If they do, Republicans simply go ahead with their vote to eliminate the filibuster entirely. It’s a lose-lose proposition for the Democrats.

More Americans are beginning to realize what’s at stake if the minority party circumvents the Constitution and the will of the majority of voters by stacking the courts with activist judges. Democrats can’t win the White House and can’t win Congress so they are focusing their attention on federal judges, who increasingly usurp the role of elected legislators.

Important issues such as abortion, the death penalty, government benefits for same-sex couples and right-to-die are being decided by unelected judges instead of legislators. All it takes for left-wing radicals to get their way on issues as parental consent for abortion is to find five liberal judges, and laws drafted by the representatives of the people are ignored.

Liberals are quick to cite Thomas Jefferson when it comes to constitutional issues, but it was Jefferson who warned that the Constitution in the hands of activist judges “is a mere thing of wax … which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” That is what’s happening in the United States today.

A handful of judges — appointed for life — are reshaping American society. That’s why the stakes are so high in the Senate. Stay tuned. This was just a skirmish. The real battle is ahead. And the Senate will never have "peace" until Democrats are put in their place.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

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