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January 16, 2009

Sore Losers

Roy Meachum

No one probably remembers I called for peace when Jennifer Dougherty and George W. Bush first took office. I suggested they be given the chance to do their jobs before judgment was passed. I supported their rivals in the elections.


Oddly enough, for the mayoral race, I had done everything possible to defeat her opponent the first time Jim Grimes ran; I hoped Fran Baker would win. At the end of his second term, I backed Mr. Grimes against Ms. Dougherty. In any event, I took umbrage when Aldermen Bill Hall and Dave Lenhart refused to cut the new mayor slack. In later columns I conceded they were right all along about Jennifer Dougherty.


George W. Bush was a politician of an entirely different stripe. I voted against him because I understood he was not the brightest kid on the block. The existential problem was not entirely in the man but the ultra conservatives that manipulated him; he was sworn in only after some questionable handling of the election in Florida.


Nevertheless, I urged readers to accept what they could not change and give the White House's newest resident benefit of their doubts. I was appalled, however, at how he yielded publicly to Vice President Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It became apparent quickly he was no leader, even more so when he donned an aviator's flight jacket and postured aboard an aircraft carrier.


His appearances in these waning days no longer provoke anger but sadness. He's the Marlon Brando character in "Waterfront," who had the illusion he could have been a champion. He allowed his presidency to advance every ultra-conservative cause on the national agenda. In that regard he abandoned true Republicans. In any event the GOP was not overwhelmed in the Electoral College – by a whopping percent. Right wing radicals had the honor.


Ultra-conservatives are the poor losers. They're especially determined not to yield control of their widely practiced power to name judges and federal attorneys. Having come off eight years domination of the Department of Justice, they did not propose to yield their dictatorship without a down-and-dirty fight.


Their public leader is Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, who ran the Senate Judiciary Committee when his party was in the congressional majority. He made the rounds of right wing radio talk shows whose hosts constantly attack as heresies any ideas that differ from theirs.


Appearing on Bill Bennett's Morning in America program, Mr. Specter let it be known his disapproval of the committee's present chairman, predicting President-elect Barack Obama's choice would be confirmed. When the host asked how Sen. Patrick Leahy could say that ahead of time?


Mr. Specter replied: "Well, I can't say that ahead of time. I wouldn't and haven't."


Yes he did, but about John Ashcroft, newly elected George W. Bush's choice for the same job. Appearing on "Face the Nation" then-Chairman Specter was asked by CBS' host Bob Schieffer: "Can John Ashcroft be confirmed?"


Mr. Specter: "Yes, I think he can be, and will be. I think the president is entitled to great latitude in the selection of his cabinet officers."


From the recent radio show: "I think it's very important for people in my position to deal on a factual basis and a professional basis and not to make up my mind in advance. That is what a hearing is for."


But the senator appeared on the CBS television show three weeks before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on Mr. Ashcroft.


The Pennsylvania legislator is not the only Republican on the committee and several GOP members agreed with Mr. Specter's earlier philosophy that a new president should be allowed "great latitude in the selection of his cabinet officers."


To their bounding credit, most members of Congress have followed that spirit in their words, at least. The nation overindulged in partisanship the past eight years, and that, as much as any other factor, elected President-designate Barack Obama. In turn, he appears to have turned a blind eye to party labels in putting his new cabinet together.


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