Friday, April 22, 2005
Civility and politics: David Brooks' column in Thursday's New York Times is well worth a read. While I don't agree with his assessment of the effects of the proposed change to the Senate's filibuster rule -- or even the accuracy of his portrayal [PDF document] of it.
In response, Republicans now threaten to change the Senate rules and end the filibuster on judicial nominees. That they have a right to do this is certain. That doing this would destroy the culture of the Senate and damage the cause of limited government is also certain.
The Senate operates by precedent, trust and unanimous consent. Changing the rules by raw majority power would rip the fabric of Senate life. Once the filibuster was barred from judicial nomination fights, it would be barred entirely. Every time the majority felt passionately about an issue, it would rewrite the rules to make its legislation easier to pass. Before long, the Senate would be just like the House. The culture of deliberation would be voided. Minority rights would be unprotected.
Pshaw! As the the Martin B. Gold and Dimple Gupta noted:
During his two terms as Senate Majority Leader, Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) initiated four precedents that allowed a simple majority to change Senate procedures without altering the text of any Standing Rule. Two of Byrd’s precedents overturned procedures then standing, and two others would appear to contravene via reinterpretation the plain language of an existing Standing Rule.
But what was really enlightening to see was the letters to the editor Brooks column generated.
To the Editor:
Re "Roe's Birth, and Death," by David Brooks (column, April 21):
Republicans in the Senate would destroy the 200-year-old tradition of the filibuster to ram through judicial nominees who are far from the mainstream on many issues, not just abortion. They would rip apart the fabric of the Senate for power's sake, and power's sake only.
By conflating the issue of abortion rights with the contemplation of the "nuclear option" on filibuster, Mr. Brooks tries to obfuscate this.
He also seems to forget that it is the job of the judiciary in this country, not the legislatures, to decide the constitutionality of law.
Houston, April 21, 2005
Leslie is woefully misinformed. If Ms. Walker can locate the "right to privacy" in the Constitution she's definitely liberal judge material. As far as the filibuster goes -- according to the Gupta & Gold piece, there were no filibusters until the late 1830s. In fact, the number to close off debate was 2/3 of senators present until 1975 when the number was reduced to 3/5.
David Brooks puts his finger on the crux of the issue when he asserts, "Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists."
A religious conservative who doesn't want an abortion is not denied any rights under Roe v. Wade. There lies the problem: religious conservatives think that it's their democratic right to deny other people their right to get an abortion.
Baldwin, N.Y., April 21, 2005
No, Mr. Peskoff. Religious conservatives don't see this as a one-person issue. We see the unborn child as a person too. That person is deprived of the most basic right -- the right to life -- by Roe v. Wade. We don't know whether the unborn child is a religious conservative, but I'm willing to bet that they'd rather be born than killed.
David Brooks writes that Roe v. Wade must be overturned so that politics will "get better." But if this happens, the lives of millions of women will likely get worse.
Given a choice between women and politics, I would opt for the women.
Baltimore, April 21, 2005
Yeah Alan, all those babies just make women miserable. Tragic. You're lucky your mother didn't feel the same way.
Roe. v. Wade is a compromise.
For the first two trimesters the Supreme Court has recognized a woman's right to choice. Regarding the last trimester, the court said the states have the right to make the rules.
People who are against a woman's reproductive rights are the ones who are extreme, and it shows that they do not accept the compromise of Roe v. Wade.
Bellingham, Wash., April 21, 2005
Wrong Mr. Hawkins. Roe v. Wade provides that an abortion is available at any time if the "health" of the mother is in danger. That has been so loosely interpreted that a headache qualifies. Just about every restriction on abortion has also been struck down by the court. When was the last time you heard about a woman who couldn't get an abortion anywhere in America because it was the third trimester and state law barred it?
I agree with David Brooks that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but for very different reasons.
The decision rests on weak constitutional grounds of a "right to privacy." The real issue is that a pregnancy subjects a woman to a risk of death.
Volumes have been written on the diseases of pregnancy, including hypertension, gestational diabetes, immune disorders and the risks of childbirth itself.
There is no comparable body of work on diseases of paternity.
As such, unless a woman willingly agrees to become pregnant and carry the fetus to term, her condition falls under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. That is where the battle should be fought.
James S. Mellett
New Fairfield, Conn., April 21, 2005
I'm going to guess that Mr. Mellett is trying to be funny. Otherwise, he's just nutty.