Thursday :: Nov 11, 2004

Specter's Spectre


by pessimist

One thing George Weaselword Bu$h failed to achieve with all of the electoral manipulations was the election of a clear Senate majority. Failing to accomplish this leaves him at the mercy of the Senate plurality rule of 60 votes. This puts an interesting scenario up for speculation: wither the moderate Republican voices?


Senate Moderates Will Be the Brakes on Bush's Second Term

Some of the most influential lawmakers in the next Congress won't be conservatives whose ranks increased in Tuesday's elections. The small but stubborn band of moderate Senate Republicans -- including Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, George Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island -- will exercise considerable power in determining President Bush's second-term agenda, political experts said.

If only! After Arlen's screwup pissing off the party faithfools this last week, these other senators - hardly the bravest of souls - aren't about to risk the righteous wrath of the wrong-wingers!

Because of the Senate rule requiring a 60-vote majority to shut off debate on most bills, moderate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have far more clout there than their like-minded counterparts in the House. Most attention will be on Specter, who won re-election Tuesday to a fifth term. He is in line to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he will oversee hot-button issues such as Supreme Court appointments and reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, the controversial anti-terrorism law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks. "He's wanted this gavel for a long time, and I don't see him effectively turning that gavel into a proxy for the administration's agenda," said Manus Cooney, a former Senate Judiciary staff director who is now a Washington lobbyist. At a news conference shortly after winning re-election, Specter suggested he would block any Supreme Court nominee who opposed abortion rights. "The No. 1 item on my agenda is to try to move the party to the center," Specter told reporters. "I want to focus on the politics of inclusion." Specter is expected to be aggressive in overseeing the Justice Department and FBI. When Attorney General John Ashcroft made a rare appearance before the committee in July 2002, an exasperated Specter asked, "How do we communicate with you, and are you really too busy to respond?"

Collins chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where she has worked with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., on legislation to overhaul intelligence agencies to improve their ability to prevent terrorist attacks. Collins told reporters last week she was determined to overcome objections from other Republicans to ensure that the bill passes when Congress returns Nov. 16 for a lame-duck session. "I am pessimistic that if we have to start all over again next year that we would be successful," she said. "We're fast learning there's a reason that intelligence reform has been blocked over the past 50 years time and time again. It is extremely difficult to accomplish."

Snowe has been an influential voice for years on most major legislation in the Senate, using her seat on the powerful Finance Committee, which handles tax and trade matters, to build coalitions with centrist Democrats on Medicare prescription drug legislation and other issues. "As the president prepares for a second term, it will be vital that he work to reach across party lines to help bridge the country's ideological divisions and develop the consensus-driven solutions the American people expect and deserve," Snowe said in a statement.

Voinovich is seen as a mainstream Republican but displays a maverick streak on fiscal issues. He often accuses his Senate colleagues of "spending like drunken sailors" and dug in his heels last year to force the White House to reduce its tax cuts.

Chafee, who frequently sides with Democrats in voting against Bush's proposals, said before the election he would consider switching parties if the president was re-elected. He has given no public indication of his plans. Chafee announced in September that he would cast a write-in vote for Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, as a "symbolic protest."

Read over this last section again. Which of these Senators has a track record and a demeanor that might cause concern? Only Specter - and that's why he's going to be brought down first. He's going to serve as the example of what happens to those who get thei idea that their moderation is a tool to be used against the wishes of the Fourth Reich. They aren't going to allow a group of wavering Republicans to stage another James Jeffords Rebellion and return control of the Senate to The Hated Enemy.

But even they can't just unjustifiably go after someone without causing other problems. That's why they have to have been relieved that Specter handed them his own head on a plate when he made the comment:


Specter Vows Fairness for Bush Nominees

The Republican in line to head the Senate Judiciary Committee says President Bush's nominees for judgeships will get a fair hearing even if some candidates oppose abortion rights. Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate from Pennsylvania who backs abortion rights, said he has supported judicial nominees in the past who do not agree with the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. "The fact is that I have supported all of President Bush's nominees in committee and on the floor. I have never applied a litmus test," Specter said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation.

Right after Tuesday's election, Specter set off a furor among conservatives when he said anti-abortion judges were unlikely to be confirmed by the newly elected Senate. He said then that Bush has had trouble getting some of his nominees confirmed because of Democratic filibusters, adding: "I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning." Filibusters, a bill-killing tactic of unlimited debate, remain possible in the new Senate because the Republicans' 55-45 majority falls short of the 60 needed to cut off debate.

On Sunday, Specter said he was only pointing out a political fact: Republicans alone lack the votes to quash a Democratic filibuster of a Bush nominee. He also said his support for abortion rights would not get in the way of a judge who didn't back those rights. "Although I am pro-choice, I have supported many pro-life nominees," he said.

Litmus testing will still be applied - but only by the Republican Party, as Karl Rove openly states:

On Fox News Sunday, White House political adviser Karl Rove said Bush would nominate only judges who would "strictly apply the law, strictly interpret the Constitution" from the bench. "He views judges as the impartial umpires," Rove said. "They shouldn't be activist legislators who just happen to wear robes and never face election, ... (who) feel free to pursue their own personal or political agenda." Rove said Specter has assured the president that he would make certain that all appellate nominees receive a prompt hearing and reach the Senate floor. "Senator Specter's a man of his word, and we'll take him at his word," Rove said.

Some conservatives want Specter blocked from chairing the Judiciary Committee, which seniority otherwise would give him. "Senator Specter is a big-time problem for us, and we're very concerned about him," said James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian lobbying group Focus on the Family. "There are many, many members of that committee that are more qualified and less of a problem than Senator Specter," Dobson said.

And how would a loyal Republican lawmaker respond to such a claim? By attempting to prove it!


Lawmaker wants Grassley on judiciary panel

An Iowa state lawmaker said Thursday that he has launched a drive to install U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as concerns grow that the Supreme Court may soon need a new justice. State Rep. Dan Boddicker, a Tipton Republican, said he was outraged by comments by Specter on Wednesday warning President Bush against putting forth court nominees who would try to overturn abortion rights. Boddicker wrote Grassley a letter asking the Iowa senator to give up Finance for Judiciary, and is publicizing his "draft Grassley" drive through the Internet. "There can be no more important work this coming four years than the approval of President Bush's judicial appointees, especially the appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court," Boddicker wrote.

The Associated Press reported that Specter made his comments about judges Wednesday [11/3/4] in Philadelphia. "When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely," said Specter, referring to the court decision that legalized abortion. "The president is well aware of what happened when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster," said Specter, referring to Democrats' attempts to block judges. "And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning."

However, on Thursday, Specter issued a statement saying he did not send a warning to Bush. "I did not warn the president about anything and was very respectful of his constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges," Specter said, according to United Press International. "I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue."

Specter, a Republican moderate, is in line to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in January. That is when the current chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, is required to step down under Senate term-limit rules. Grassley has four more years on Finance under the rules. Grassley, a Republican and abortion opponent, has more seniority than Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, but is expected to resume his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee.

Jill Kozeny, Grassley's communications director, said Grassley was at his New Hartford farm Thursday and could not be reached for comment. But she said: "I can tell you Senator Grassley will be serving four more years as chairman of the Finance Committee." She said Grassley's offices have received about a dozen calls complaining about Specter's remarks.

Things got so hot for Arlen that he had to perform a public penance and retract his statements. Note who he calls upon to act as character references!


For the Record
By ARLEN SPECTER
November 10, 2004; Page A16

To resolve any concern that I would block pro-life judicial nominees, take a look at my record. I have consistently opposed any litmus test. I have backed that up by voting to confirm pro-life nominees including Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justice Anthony Kennedy. I led the fight to confirm Justice Clarence Thomas, which almost cost me my Senate seat in 1992. I have voted for all of President Bush's judicial nominees in committee and on the floor.

The current controversy was artificially created by incorrect reporting. I never "warned" the president on anything -- and especially not that I'd block pro-life nominees. Brian Wilson, a reporter for Fox News, said: "I looked at the tape very closely. . . . Senator Specter was the victim of some spin on the part of some reporters who took some comments and were looking for a kind of a good headline out of it."

Similarly, Rush Limbaugh refused to join the critics, saying: "This Specter story . . . may be a story about the media again . . . apparently, just from the looks of this, it may be that some words were put in his mouth that he didn't say."

The Rev. Pat Robertson has also seen through the media spin, stating on Nov. 8 that "I am not worried about Arlen Specter, and I think he'll be fine."

I merely noted the political facts of life. Pro-life nominees might be filibustered by the Democrats. The Democrats had done so repeatedly in the last Congress.

As the only pro-choice Republican on the Judiciary Committee, I come from a different philosophical position on the political spectrum and can be helpful in dealing with the Democrats to get the president's nominees confirmed. I proved that in shepherding through confirmations on two controversial conservative nominees for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, D. Brooks Smith and Michael Fisher.

In 2002 and 2003, when nominees for the circuit courts with the slightest problems (and some without any problem) were being filibustered, these men were approved. Judge Smith was perceived as pro-life. Judge Fisher, who had been the Pennsylvania Republican candidate for governor in 2002, campaigned on his pro-life position. When I urged their confirmations, Democrats withdrew their objections.

I am committed, in word and deed, to prompt action by the Judiciary Committee. Last April, I introduced Senate Resolution 327, a protocol to establish prompt action on all judicial nominees. Specifically, my protocol provides that all nominees will have a Judiciary Committee hearing within 30 days of nomination, a Judiciary Committee vote within 30 days of the hearing, and a floor vote 30 days later.

I was also among the first to call for a marathon, round-the-clock debate to draw attention to the Democratic obstruction, which we held in November 2003. I made 17 floor statements to protest Democratic filibusters on nominees including Miguel Estrada and Charles Pickering.

When Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, was asked about my recent statements, he said they were "pretty straightforward and pretty plain" and "Senator Specter is a man of his word and we'll take him at his word."

I hope that this review of my record clarifies the misperceptions.

But Specter's backtracking didn't help him much. He demonstrated disloyalty to Owwer Leedur, and he now must be made to pay the price for his political treason. Even one who nominally thinks he's solved the problem sees the handwriting on the wall:


Walker: Specter will survive

Former Congressman Bob Walker, one of Lancaster Countyís savviest political strategists, says U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter will survive the firestorm of controversy and likely be chosen to head the judiciary committee. "He has probably quelled the problem to the point that he would still be elected judiciary chairman if that vote were held today," said Walker, who lives in East Petersburg and is chairman of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates in Washington.

On Wednesday, Specter issued what was seen as a warning to President Bush against naming pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. His remarks infuriated conservatives, but the 74-year-old Specter, re-elected to a fifth term, backtracked on Wednesday. "I was stunned," said Walker. "I regard the election that was held on Tuesday, and its outcome, of having been a cultural election ... (Specterís initial remarks) seemed to be a direct affront to that cultural base. If he hadnít backed off on his statement, or at least clarified the statement, I think it was going to be a problem," said Walker.

Specterís clarification seemed to extinguish the firestorm that had erupted on Capitol Hill, Walker said, but may have caused permanent damage to the senator among conservative groups. "The thing that it does is it makes some of his decision, going forward as judiciary committee chairman, very suspect. Now what he has done is sort of box himself in with those groups. They will look on his decisions with suspicion," Walker said.

The Republican majority now can't have such a divisive element in a position of responsibility lest the righteous wrath be unleashed upon them. they aren't about to become the Robespierre in this anti-French Revolution:


Abortion Remark by G.O.P. Senator Puts Heat on Peers

Angry conservatives flooded Senate phone and fax lines on Friday demanding that Republicans prevent Senator Arlen Specter from presiding over the Judiciary Committee after he remarked that strongly anti-abortion judicial nominees might be rejected in the Senate.

Republican lawmakers and top Senate aides, speaking privately for the most part, said the uproar from the right was becoming an impediment for Mr. Specter, a Pennsylvania lawmaker who has coveted the chairmanship. Most of those Republicans said they initially believed that Mr. Specter's subsequent clarification would protect him. But the Republican officials said that continuing resistance to his taking the chairmanship of the committee that examines judicial nominees was being fanned by conservative talk radio hosts and groups outraged over his comments. Lawmakers and aides said Mr. Specter's comments have touched a nerve because Democratic resistance to Mr. Bush's judicial nominees was a key element of Republican election campaigns and a likely factor in the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, in South Dakota. In addition, the expanded Republican Senate majority is strongly anti-abortion.

The outpouring illustrated how the party's conservative wing has been emboldened by the White House victory and the strengthening of Republican majorities in Congress, potentially raising new hazards for moderate Republicans who might want to break from the president or House and Senate leadership on major issues.

Mr. Specter's status as potential chairman was the subject of discussion on Thursday during a telephone conference call among Senate Republican leaders, who expressed concern about his remarks. Some Republicans on Capitol Hill said the attempt to quickly exert that influence could work in Mr. Specter's favor. They said that after an energizing election, senators would not necessarily want their first action to be jettisoning Mr. Specter under pressure from outside groups. "We need to show some discipline and not overreact," one said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the panel, said he anticipated "healthy discussion" about Mr. Specter's comments. "The original comments attributed to Senator Specter were very unnerving," said Mr. Graham, who also said Republicans should not endorse a "litmus test" that they would not accept from Democrats. "His statement clarifying his position is reassuring, and I hope we will work our way through this."

But the conservative groups were not mollified. The Concerned Women of America planned a news conference critical of Mr. Specter on Saturday in Pennsylvania, and Michael Schwartz, the group's vice president for government relations, said his organization would continue to press the case against the lawmaker. "It is clear to me that with this statement and his past record of performance, Senator Specter has disqualified himself from any right to be considered as chairman of the Judiciary Committee," Mr. Schwartz said. A message distributed electronically by the Family Research Council urged its supporters to call Senate leaders and committee members to lobby against Mr. Specter. "He has a history of pandering to the aggressive abortion lobby, and a Specter chairmanship would be disastrous," the group said.

Senate offices said the response was intense. "We are getting slammed," said Mike Brumas, a spokesman for Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and a panel member. "Some of them are saying things like they voted for values on Tuesday and this is a slap in the face." An aide to Senator John Cornyn of Texas, another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the office was getting several calls a minute, a volume equal to the calls during consideration of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Democrats say they fear that the Bush administration intends to use its second term to nominate judges interested in striking down abortion laws. They view the fight surrounding Mr. Specter as a strong indication that their concerns are warranted. "I think Senator Specter is right and the fact that there was a negative reaction to his remarks is not a good omen," said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois.

That was an incredible understatement, Senator! Here's why:


Bush may be more aggressive in reshaping courts

President Bush's victory in the popular vote, coupled with big gains in the Senate, may enable the White House to take a more aggressive approach in reshaping the federal courts, including the Supreme Court. Bush in the next four years will make hundreds of lifetime appointments to the federal trial and appellate courts. He also is expected to name one, and possibly more, justices to the Supreme Court, which has not had a vacancy in more than a decade. "He's already left an indelible mark on the lower courts," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal public-interest group that has opposed Bush nominees. "A second term will cement his hold on the entire federal judiciary."

The Senate has confirmed 201 Bush nominees. But Democrats joined together and filibustered some of his more controversial nominees, infuriating Senate Republicans who could not muster the 60 votes necessary to bring them to a vote. Tuesday's election gave Republicans four more seats in the Senate, bringing them to 55. One was from South Dakota, where Republican John Thune defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Some have speculated that Daschle's defeat could make other Democrats in states that voted for Bush hesitant about joining a filibuster. But Aron said Democrats would stand firm. "If there's been one issue that's galvanized the Democrats over the past four years, it is judicial nominations," Aron said. "I don't see senators holding back for one second. I just don't think a change in the numbers of the Senate will lessen their resolve to oppose extremist judges."

Some predicted that the addition of Republican seats, coupled with Daschle's defeat, will make it more difficult for Democrats to block future nominees. "I suspect the president will have something of an easier time in dealing with the Senate Democrats over judicial nominations," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington, D.C., lawyer and former Bush administration official.

Resistance also could come from moderate Republicans. Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, bluntly warned Bush yesterday against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation. Asked about Specter's impending chairmanship, another Republican on the panel, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, did not offer a ringing endorsement. "We'll have to see where he stands," said Cornyn, a close friend of Bush. "... We want to know what he's going to do and how things are going to work."

Spoken like a true Corleone! Does anyone not see the implied threat to Specter in this comment?

There are other threats that are being ignored by 'experts' on the basis of 'We never used to do things that way':


EXPERTS PLAY DOWN GROWING HYSTERIA

With President Bush poised to appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices in the next four years, hysteria about a possible radical right turn for the institution already has begun to echo around the country. Will this mean the swift reversal of longstanding decisions on abortion, affirmative action or the death penalty?

Experts said probably not. "It just doesn't cut that cleanly, unless you're looking at this court through the eyes of some kind of advocate," said Jack Doppelt, a Northwestern University journalism professor and lawyer who tracks Supreme Court arguments and opinions. "I don't think there's any doubt that President Bush will try to call in his chits and appoint justices who will move the court to the right, but whether that results in the kind of reversals the advocacy groups talk about is questionable," he said.

Look now at the justification which ignores the fact of increased radical Republican political power in the Senate:

To begin with, the Senate has to approve nominees, and historically has played a moderating role. Even now, with a 55-vote Republican majority, Bush is shy of the 60 votes needed to push nominees through without a filibuster. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the likely chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, also has said that the president has "no mandate" to pack the courts with archconservatives.

But the backlash against Specter had hardly begun when this was published. I've shown above what he's now up against. And, as the most prominent 'moderate' (demonstrated by Specter's comment presented in the paragraph above), taking him down puts relative Milquetoasts Snowe, Collins, Chaffey and Voinovich safely under self-restraint as John McCain now is and as Specter soon will be. These six Senators would have been the balance of power if they were allowed to remain mavericks.

Now we look at yet another fallacy in the reasoning that nothing major will change through a second Bu$h pResidency:

Even if Bush were to have his way, there's no guarantee that his appointments would radically alter established law. The court is less given to the wild swings that mark Congress and the presidency. It's a place where the rule of law and precedent mean everything, and politics plays a minimal role. "They're judges, and if you get a good judge on the court, it's harder to pin them down as political," said Nathaniel Persily, a University of Pennsylvania law professor.

But this is prior to Tony the Fixer taking over. He will prove the exception to this 'rule':

Democrats have had only two appointments to the court since 1968, yet it has developed as only a moderately conservative bench. The reasons: respect for precedent and the rule of law. For example, Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion, has the support of six justices, including two Reagan appointees and one put there by George H.W. Bush, the current President Bush's father. Even those who might disagree with Roe's reasoning are reluctant simply to overturn it. Affirmative action -- another issue that divides liberals and conservatives -- has been pared back several times, but efforts to declare racial preferences unconstitutional have failed.

It isn't just Democrats and liberals who see bad times ahead. Here's one veteran Republican's view of the difficulties of his party, but he also has his rose-colored glasses bonded permanently to the past:


State of the Rs and the fate of Roe v. Wade

The current state of the Republican Party in Oregon, former Sen. Bob Packwood says, "is both pathetic and destitute." Once again, the party lost at every level on the ballot: John Kerry carried the state, the Democrats won the Oregon Senate and the usual liberals are returning to Congress. "How much more wiped out can you be?" Packwood asks. The Democratic sweep was almost complete, the longtime Republican adds, "because many of the candidates we find have no appeal to the center." That is a center the GOP once commanded in this state, Packwood argues, and a center the party must reclaim if it ever wants to escape the political tar pit.

A fixture in the U.S. Senate for 26 years, from 1969-95, Packwood remembers the galvanizing era of the '50s, when Oregon Republicans were the champions of civil rights and mavericks on public accommodation bills and one-man-one-vote legislation. He remembers the days, before the ascendancy of special-interest cyclops like NARAL and the NRA, when the GOP wasn't held hostage by single-issue zealots. And he remembers the taste of champagne on election night. Deep down, Packwood reminds us, "political parties like to win. Maybe at some stage, after the Republican party at the local level gets its brains beaten out election after election after election, there will come a group that says, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we could win? Maybe we need to temper some of our views a bit.' "

Temperance flies in the face of the president's conservative mandate, but Packwood insists it has long been the proper take on the civic temperature of Oregon, particularly on the "values" issue of abortion. Since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, Oregon voters have four times rejected ballot measures that would have curtailed abortion rights. Packwood championed those rights for years. If anti-abortion Republicans "think their position is a winning issue in Oregon, they're mistaken," he said. They are also mistaken, Packwood said, if they think the Supreme Court, even one featuring a replacement for ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist, will do more than "nibble" at the edges of the landmark abortion decision.

Unlike many abortion foes, the court doesn't view Roe v. Wade as an aberrant case of judicial activism. "I get very tired of the activist judge argument," said Packwood, suggesting we look at the evolution of racial segregation, and activism, from the court's 1896 opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson to its 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

The 1896 case -- perfectly in keeping with the philosophy of our founding fathers -- approved segregation; the 1954 case overturned the concept of separate but equal. "What changed between 1896 and 1954?" Packwood asked. "What law? What constitutional amendment? None. The court changed. I don't know many people who declaim against activist judges who would have the nerve to say we should get rid of Brown v. Board of Education."

Packwood has long argued (most recently at the 2004 Dorchester Conference) that Oregon's GOP needs to once again embrace its progressive roots. He helped revamp the party in the mid-'60s, recruiting and electing almost two dozen Republican moderates, and he has a plan to rescue it now.

First, Kevin Mannix, the 2002 candidate, "must not run for governor" in 2006, Packwood said: "If he runs, he will sink the party further into the quicksand. He could be beaten by any Democrat of modest stature."

Second, he argued, a coalition of financial backers must rally around a candidate who champions the tolerance found at the middle of the political spectrum, not the invective lurking at the extremes. "They could get him through the primary, and he could win the general election," Packwood said. "And if he wanted to reform the party, a governor could do it."

The stubborn losers mired in the tar pit don't have that option.

Once Karl Rove hears about this, Packwood will have his chance to experience what it's like to be a 'loser in the tar pit' - no variation from the approved Republican themes will be allowed, even from a retired ex-Senator. So what chance does this man have?


G.O.P. Adviser Says Bush's Evangelical Strategy Split Country

Arthur Finkelstein, a Republican consultant known for hard-edged campaigns that helped conservatives in the United States and Israel, has said in an interview published in Israel that President Bush's campaign strategy to court evangelical Christians had divided the country as never before, to the possible detriment of the Republican Party. "From now on, anyone who belongs to the Republican Party will automatically find himself in the same group as the opponents of abortion, and anyone who supports abortion will automatically be labeled a Democrat," Mr. Finkelstein told Maariv, a daily, in an interview published on Friday. "The political center has disappeared, and the Republican Party has become the party of the Christian right more so than in any other period in modern history."

Mr. Finkelstein, whose clients have included former Senators Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York and Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, suggested that Mr. Bush's strategy could ultimately stunt the presidential aspirations of moderate Republicans like one of his close allies, Gov. George E. Pataki of New York. "Bush's strategy secures the power of the American Christian right not only for this term," Mr. Finkelstein said in the interview. "In fact, it secures its ability to choose the next Republican president."

Arthur Finkelstein's thoughts on Mr. Bush's victory - or any victory, for that matter - are notable because of his reclusiveness. He rarely talks to reporters. But Boaz Gaon, a reporter for Maariv based in Tel Aviv, said he spoke with Mr. Finkelstein, who is based in New York, for two and a half hours by telephone last week to review the American elections and discuss the opening of Mr. Finkelstein's consulting office in Tel Aviv. Mr. Finkelstein told Mr. Gaon that he was troubled by the strategy of dividing the country by 'values of religion and culture'. "Bush courted the evangelical vote," he said, "and turned these elections, in fact, into a referendum on the religious and cultural nature of America. This is my problem."

As a result, he said, 'it will be difficult for Pataki'. "Bush's victory strengthens the ability of the Christian right to nominate the next Republican nominee as much as the last one," Mr. Finkelstein said.

A spokesman for Mr. Pataki, Kevin Quinn, said the governor had no response to the comments.

Mr. Finkelstein also criticized the campaign tactics of Mr. Bush's opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, saying he should have responded more aggressively when he was attacked by Vietnam veterans who questioned the details of his military service. Mr. Finkelstein said Mr. Kerry's initial silence was a mistake, adding, "If he had dealt with the crisis differently, he would be president today."

Mr. Finkelstein said he believed that Democrats regarded Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York as the early favorite for the 2008 nomination but that her candidacy would "deepen even more the divisiveness" created this year. "She will put off Democrats from the center," he said. "In terms of the Republicans, Hillary Clinton is a wonderful candidate for the presidency."


GOP consultant: Bush win is bad news for moderates

A spokeswoman for Pataki sought Thursday to distance the governor from his longtime adviser's remarks. "Arthur Finkelstein's assessment of the presidential campaign is simply wrong," said Lisa Dewald Stoll. "The governor strongly disagrees and thinks the president ran an outstanding race, and he was proud to have an active role in the campaign." Pataki has been a supporter of abortion and gay rights, and of gun-control legislation, as has another New York Republican who may be eyeing the 2008 race for the White House, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Another veteran American GOP operative, Roger Stone, said Thursday that Finkelstein is correct in his assessment of the growing power of evangelical Christians and its impact on moderates who might seek the Republican nomination for president. "Pataki's prospects of being nominated for president are zero," Stone said. "The party is increasingly dominated by the evangelical right."


PATAKI MAN SLAMS BUSH

Gov. Pataki's top political adviser has trashed President Bush, attacked the "Christian right," and said Bush's re-election means Pataki can't become president in 2008. The shocking comments by Arthur Finkelstein appeared in the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv, which also quoted the nationally known GOP consultant as saying that in the presidential election, "the Republican Party became the Christian right, the most radical in modern history ever."

Finkelstein, who is credited with orchestrating Pataki's stunning upset victory over then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994, told the newspaper Bush's victory is bad news for Pataki, a social liberal who supports abortion and gay rights, because it means the "Christian right" is in charge of the GOP. Asked if Pataki could run for president in 2008, Finkelstein responded: "Bush's victory not only establishes the power of the American Christian right in this candidacy, but in fact established its power to elect the next Republican president."

A prominent Republican familiar with the interview called Finkelstein's comments "a big embarrassment for Pataki. "Arthur isn't comfortable being a Republican anymore when he's so unhappy with our success and that's why he's so flamboyantly bashing the president."

Finkelstein, the one-time political guru to former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, is also described by Maariv writer Boaz Gaon as "hating" Bush. In the story, which ran last Friday, Finkelstein accused Bush of trying to "dictate to America how to live and what to believe in." Finkelstein, who has helped run several Israeli elections, is also described as claiming Bush is more interested in banning abortion than he is in winning the war in Iraq. And Finkelstein, who told a Boston newspaper several years ago that he is homosexual, described Bush's campaign strategy as being more interested in banning gay marriages than in improving the American economy.

The debate over gay marriage has become a symptom of the insanity to which this nation has succumbed. This insanity has led to these crazy situations:


Anti-Gay GOP Candidate In Standoff With Police

(Pompano Beach, Florida) A man who lost his bid for state representative and his campaign manager are in police custody following a nine-hour standoff with police. Ed Heeney, 50, and Frank Crimi, 49 had barricaded themselves in a Pompano apartment after Broward County sheriff's deputies attempted to serve an eviction order. When sheriff's deputies arrived at the apartment they believed no one was home but when they attempted to enter they found barricades had been set up. With the two men holed up inside, the SWAT team was called in and the nine-hour standoff began. The pair finally surrendered to officers.

Heeney does not have a criminal record. Heeney ran on an anti-gay ticket, campaigning against gay marriage, adoption, and the inclusion of gays in hate crimes laws. He had never held state office before and failed to get the nomination of the Republican Party. He was defeated Nov. 2 by incumbent Susan Bucher.

But his hatred of gays and their issues led him to listen to this crackpot:

Crimi had lived in the apartment for about a year and a half. His landlord said that Crimi was quiet man and had caused no trouble until a few weeks ago when had stopped paying rent. Crimi was tried in 1999 on charges that he shot off the middle finger of a police officer in Fort Lauderdale. A jury convicted him in the case, but several months later a judge ruled he should get a new trial because of a jury selection error. A lawyer who represented Crimi in that case said his ex-client had been found incompetent to stand trial.

But that didn't stop Heeney from taking him on as campaign manager!

It really has come down to that. The crazies are the ones leading the debates. The lack of civil discourse to work out compromises over issues - my way or else, if you will - is what led to this shameful incident:


Teen Beaten Over Bush Gay Marriage Remark

(Apple Valley Minnesota) Three Minnesota high school students Wednesday were charged in an attack last week on another student who said only gays would vote for Sen. John Kerry.

The four were part of a science program for 400 students at the Minnesota Zoo. "We were sitting in the computer room at school, and there was kind of a political debate," Chad McKay, a friend of the victim told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. McKay said that victim, whose name has not been released by police, said "only gay people would vote for Kerry because he supports gay marriage."

After the class ended the election talk spilled out into the parking lot and the debate became heated. The three teens who supported Kerry began to beat the victim. At one point the trio began to attack the victim, hitting him in the face and kicking him. One of the teen brandished a baseball bat, but police say it was not used in the beating. The suspects fled by the time Apple Valley police arrived.

The victim, a senior, was treated for cuts and bruises at a medical clinic and released. "He got pretty messed up," McKay said. All three of the juveniles have been charged, one with felony second-degree assault, one with misdemeanor assault and one with disorderly conduct. County attorney spokeswoman Monica Jensen said one teen faces a felony charge because he went to his car to get the bat during the assault. The teens are expected to appear in court within three weeks.

I don't condone this sort of behavior, but I understand the frustration that led to it. When there is no acceptance on the part of one side of a debate of the other side's position, then such violence is the only alternative. We saw it recently in Taiwan when the debate over accepting American weapons grew acrimonious as some Taiwanese legislators expressed the opinion that to accept these weapons would only hasten the invasion by Mainland forces, something some experts believe will happen before the Olympics arrive in Beijing. We also saw violence replace discussion recently in Thailand over the Muslim unrest in the south. We now see it in our own streets. How long before a modern-day Preston Brooks attacks some modern-day Charles Sumner on the floor of the Congress? Will John Dean and others be proven right as the Second American Civil War erupts?

The muzzling of opposition to the Bu$hCo agenda - even if one agrees with it - cannot be good for this nation. We have never been a monolithic society, and that variety was what made this such a resilient nation. Ridigity of any kind has no place in our society, for each time it was allowed the nation underwent serious travails, not the least of which was the Civil War.

But rigidity is the order of the day - and so once again we must travel down that horrendous path - until we hopefully regain sanity through exhaustion.


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