Friday, March 25, 2005

To the Editor:
This Sunday, Bill Frist will – once again – heap shame on the people of Tennessee through his apparently unquenchable lust for power. Frist – he deserves no honorific – will lend the authority of his position as Senate Majority Leader to a conclave of radical extremists who have taken Christianity hostage for their own political purposes.

The so-called "Justice Sunday" telecast emanating from a Kentucky church on April 24, with Frist's eager participation, is part of a diabolical plan to foment religious conflict – perhaps even religious war – among the American people by perpetrating a twisted lie: that anyone who opposes a handful of George W. Bush's judicial nominees is in league with Satan against "people of faith and moral conviction." The claim is that Democrats are maliciously blocking upright judicial candidates "whose only offense is to say that abortion is wrong or that marriage should be between one man and one woman."

This is, of course, a monstrous and poisonous falsehood. Here are the facts. In the past three years, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 205 of Bush's nominees to the federal judiciary. As reporter Joe Conason points out, these include open abortion opponents like Mike Fisher and John Roberts, and staunch anti-gay activists like Timothy Tymkovich, who has also argued in court against Medicaid funding of abortion even in cases of rape and incest. These and many other Bush nominees hold very hardline views – yet they faced no blocking, no filibuster from the Democrats. Why? Because they are competent, experienced jurists who have demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and objectivity on the bench. That is the real "litmus test" for judicial nominees – not the fantasies of religious persecution being whipped up by Frist and his extremist allies.

Only 10 of Bush's judicial nominees have been held up by Senate Democrats – that's 10 out of 215. In fact, 95 percent of all federal court seats are now filled – the lowest vacancy rate for 13 years. And why was the vacancy rate so high in the last decade? Because Senate Republicans – such as Bill Frist – blocked 50 of Bill Clinton's judicial nominations.

These few blocked Bush nominees are being held up not because of their "moral stands" but because of questions about their judicial competence and ethical standards. For example, one of Bush's sterling nominees for a lifelong seat on the federal bench is a lawyer who has never even taken part in a courtroom case. Another is a Texas judge who took wads of campaign cash from corporations – such as Enron – even when they had cases before her court. Other nominees from the lower courts have shown a marked predilection for judicial activism, overriding the law in order to advance their own political – not moral – views.

But there is something else going on here – beyond Bill Frist's pandering to extremists to advance his presidential ambitions, and James Dobson's fearmongering efforts to stuff his own fat coffers with donations and "love offerings." The "Justice Sunday" hatefest is part of a wider and very deliberate effort to destroy the independence of the American judiciary – one of our three co-equal branches of government. The Bush gang despises the rule of law because it puts a brake on their authoritarian ambitions. They want to rule the country by the arbitrary will of the divinely-blessed "Leader," free of any legal restraints. (Bush has often "joked" about his desire to be a dictator.) Meanwhile, the so-called Christian Right wants to break the Constitutional power of the courts in order to establish a theocratic government, ruled by their own skewed and ignorant understanding of "God's Law."

They are very clear about this goal. Frist has been keeping company with David Barton, the "Christian Reconstructionist," who states proudly: "The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law." This so-called "Dominion Theology" includes public execution for a range of sins, slavery for debtors and the exclusion of non-believers from the rights of citizenship – plus the elimination of all taxes, regulations and legal restrictions on big business. (How convenient for those Bush-Frist country-club Republicans, eh?)

Frist's appearance at "Justice Sunday" thus represents the convergence of two very powerful – and very sinister – trends in American society: the rapacious appetite of Big Money, gobbling up small businesses, family farms, and the financial, social and civic security once enjoyed by American working people; and the rise of hardcore religious extremists who, like the Taliban, want to impose their sectarian views on "every area of life." Frist now stands with the liars and demagogues who are tearing down the Republic. In his slavering ambition, he has dishonored us all.

Chris Floyd