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Trent Lott, the Stealth Accomplice

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

When Republicans wilt under pressure from the White House, it no longer makes news. It is as commonplace as a Bill Clinton photo-op or a new Hillary hairdo. But the latest capitulation promises to have an enduring and, most likely, injurious effect. The western states have just been saddled with two more liberal activist appellate judges.

Through the use of executive orders, presidential directives, military deployment, recess appointments, and other wily strategies, the Clinton administration has consistently displayed contempt for the Constitution. But when President Clinton violated an agreement he had previously made and misused the power of recess appointments, it appeared to push several members of the Senate over the proverbial edge.

The president is expressly authorized to appoint those vacancies that "...may occur during the Recess of the Senate. This provision is included in the Constitution in order to facilitate the continuity of a functioning government, not to be used as a means of bypassing the Senate,s approval power.

President Clinton had previously agreed to comply with a policy set by prior administrations and provide a list of any prospective appointments to the Senate before a recess occurred.

However, his reappointment of Sara Fox to the National Labor Relations Board in December of 1999 was an outright breach of the precedent prescribed by his predecessors, as well as his own commitment to the Senate.

So it was heartening when a group of Republican senators, led by James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), became as fed up with this insufferable misappropriation as was much of the public.

Inhofe and 18 other Republican senators united in solidarity to bring to a standstill all future judicial nominees. Inhofe properly described this blockade of judicial nominees as "the only chance in eight years to hold the president up to his word.

Under Senate tradition, a single senator can effectively prevent all further floor action on a presidential nomination. But the majority leader has the authority to override this strategy, and so he did. Leave it to Trent Lott to take on the role of stealth accomplice. Transforming the meaning of his title, the majority leader actually engineered another misapplication of the Senate,s confirmation power, assisting the president in furthering an illicit agenda.

Why would Lott engage in such ostensible disloyalty? Some attribute an apparent testosterone deprivation to a fear of Tom Daschle deploying the race card. Others point out the coincidental appointments of a Mississippian to the Tennessee Valley Authority and an opponent of campaign finance reform to the FEC. Whatever the motive, this incident is only the latest in a catalogue of defections from Republican pursuits that the majority leader has taken.

President Clinton,s latest additions to an already unenlightened federal bench are Californians Richard A. Paez and Marsha Berzon. These two individuals have been offered as applicants for the notoriously liberal activist Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers a massive area of California and the West.

The problem is that Paez and Berzon lean so far to the left their courtrooms will have to be counterweighted to prevent the scales of justice from toppling. In addition to tying a record, receiving the fewest votes of approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee for Clinton nominations, they are both charter members of the David Souter fan club.

Paez and Berzon share the view that jurists must do their part to thwart the will of the people. Judge Paez, a federal district court judge in California, denounced Proposition 187, an initiative that sought to end taxpayer-funded benefits for those who criminally entered our country. Paez described this referendum of the people of California as "heightened discrimination and hostility.

Paez and Berzon also weighed in on California,s Proposition 209, which prohibited racial discrimination by the state of California. Paez called it an "anti-civil rights initiative. Even the aforementioned Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the proposition, noting the obvious, that prohibiting discrimination is not anti-civil rights.

Berzon was on the board of the California American Civil Liberties Union when the organization brought an action to prohibit enforcement of Proposition 209. She is currently associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO.

Paez was involved with the wrist-slap plea bargain arranged by the Justice Department for the ex-Commerce official and campaign financier extraordinare, John Huang.

When Trent Lott pledged to allow the judicial nomination process to go forward, he mouthed the penetrating declaration that he was "not one to get all weepy-eyed about having more federal judges of any kind, anywhere. No, Senator Lott, the tears will be shed by millions of Americans who will suffer for years to come under the perverted brand of judicial activism these nominees espouse.

There still remains a glimmer of hope. Although it is unlikely, Republicans can offer a motion to indefinitely postpone a vote. Senators must be pressured to engage in this clear act of deliverance for the citizens of the West. And one other item might be given some serious consideration - a long overdue replacement of an ineffectual and faithless majority leader.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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