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> Are the Wheels Coming Off the Trolley?, Two Republican Women Speak Out
BoF
post Mar 11 2006, 09:38 PM
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Recently, two powerful Republican women have thrown bombs at the administration and Republican controlled Congress.

In October, 2005 former Reagan and Bush Jr. (thanks Vermillion) speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote:

QUOTE
Let me focus for a minute on the presidency, another institution in trouble. In the past I have been impatient with the idea that it's impossible now to be president, that it is impossible to run the government of the United States successfully or even competently. I always thought that was an excuse of losers. I'd seen a successful presidency up close. It can be done.

But since 9/11, in the four years after that catastrophe, I have wondered if it hasn't all gotten too big, too complicated, too crucial, too many-fronted, too . . . impossible.

<snip>

Let me veer back to the president. One of the reasons some of us have felt discomfort regarding President Bush's leadership the past year or so is that he makes more than the usual number of decisions that seem to be looking for trouble. He makes startling choices, as in the Miers case. But you don't have to look for trouble in life, it will find you, especially when you're president. It knows your address. A White House is a castle surrounded by a moat, and the moat is called trouble, and the rain will come and the moat will rise. You should buy some boots, do your work, hope for the best.

Do people fear the wheels are coming off the trolley? Is this fear widespread?


http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/p...n/?id=110007460

Then yesterday Sandra Day O’Connor weghed in:
QUOTE
The nation’s founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But, said O’Connor, as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don’t protect judicial independence, people do.

And then she took aim at former House GOP leader Tom DeLay. She didn’t name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case. This, said O’Connor, was after the federal courts had applied Congress’ onetime only statute about Schiavo as it was written. Not, said O’Connor, as the congressman might have wished it were written. This response to this flagrant display of judicial restraint, said O’Connor, her voice dripping with sarcasm, was that the congressman blasted the courts.


http://rawstory.com/news/2006/Retired_Supr...tacks_0310.html

On Countdown last night, Keith Olbermann gave considerable air time to the O’Connor Speech:

QUOTE
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann highlighted recent comments by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, delivered during a speech at Georgetown University, seemingly directed at such conservatives as Tom DeLay and President Bush for some of their criticisms of the judiciary, criticisms which O'Connor argued put America's government at risk of heading toward dictatorship. Olbermann, who has several times compared the state of post-9/11 civil liberties in America to George Orwell's novel 1984, began his show seeming to trumpet the boost in credibility afforded to this comparison when a Supreme Court justice raises similar concerns: "It's one thing for us to throw around references to what seemed to be details from George Orwell's novel 1984 springing to life, thanks to post-9/11 thinking. It's quite another when the same kind of comments come from a just-retired justice of the U.S. Supreme Court..." Olbermann also compared actions by Republicans to those in communist countries that had "allowed dictatorships to flourish." Guest Mike Allen of Time magazine later gushed with hope that Olbermann's attention to the matter would inspire greater coverage of O'Connor's comments and "launch a thousand op-eds." (Complete transcript follows)

As Olbermann teased his Friday show, he was so impressed with O'Connor's use of the word "dictatorship" that the Countdown host repeated the word several times just during the teaser: "The beginnings of a dictatorship? Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor actually talked about the beginnings of a dictatorship here in America? A dictatorship? D-I-C-T-A-T-O-R-ship? A dictatorship, did you say? Justice O'Connor's remarkable speech and remarkable poll numbers. Nearly seven out of ten of us think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Dictatorship, huh?"


http://newsbusters.org/node/4386

From the words of Noonan and O’Connor, I have the following questions for debate:

1. Do people look at the current administration and fear, as Noonan suggests, that “the wheels are coming off the trolley?”

2. Do Bush’s increasingly sinking poll numbers support Noonan’s words?

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/President...04/bush_ja.html

3. Is Noonan correct in saying that Bush seems to look for trouble. In other words is his style confrontational rather than accommodating and compromising?

4. Is O’Connor’s statement about the country possibly being in the beginning stages of a dictatorship accurate?

5. Do you think O’Connor’s veiled criticism of DeLay, Bush and Texas Senator John Cornyn, concerning an assault on the judiciary, is accurate?


This post has been edited by BoF: Mar 11 2006, 11:02 PM
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Victoria Silverw...
post Mar 12 2006, 08:48 AM
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This is a very broad topic, and goes off in a lot of different directions, so I can only offer generalities.

(For one thing, I would like to be able to read the full text of O'Connor's speech for myself. Does anybody have a link to it? I can't find one.)

1. Do people look at the current administration and fear, as Noonan suggests, that “the wheels are coming off the trolley?”

Noonan's essay is a bit vague, and it's hard to figure out exactly what point she is trying to make. As far as I can tell, it mainly seems to be a lament for the Good Old Days. This is a very common human response to changing times, and is probably more common among conservatives than liberals (who, traditionally, have believed in the myth of the Golden Future rather than the myth of the Golden Past.) Concerning the current administration, she seems to be saying that nobody can possibly do a halfway decent job of being President of the United States in the complex modern world, and that this is a brand new situation. Some of this seems to be nostalgia for the Reagan years. (And why not? Has there ever been a time in modern American history when it felt so good to be a conservative?)

Moving beyond this essay, there are certainly many people who believe that the current administration doesn't know how to steer the trolley. There are others who think that the administration is in complete control of the trolley, but that they are going the wrong direction. Other passengers are perfectly happy with the way the trolley is being steered. Noonan seems to believe that the current trolley driver, although not anywhere near as good at the wheel as a recently deceased driver, is doing the best he can, but that the road is full of hazards that weren't there just a little while ago.

Are the wheels truly coming off? Not yet, but they seem quite wobbly.

2. Do Bush’s increasingly sinking poll numbers support Noonan’s words?

As I have said above, this essay doesn't really have that much to do with the current administration. As far as the falling approval ratings go, it seems that a lot of the passengers want their money back. It also seems that the one wheel that is wobbling the most is the one labeled "Iraq."

3. Is Noonan correct in saying that Bush seems to look for trouble. In other words is his style confrontational rather than accommodating and compromising?

Neither one, really. He might be confrontational if he had a reason to be; if he didn't have a Republican majority in both houses, and a badly muddled Democratic minority. For the most part, the current administration ignores the Loyal Opposition, rather than confronting it or trying to compromise with it. (It's only when his own party challenges him -- the Meirs nomination, or the recent flap over foreign manangement of American ports -- that we see what his confrontational style might be. As far as I can see, his style is to stand firm, while quietly working out a way to get out of a bad situation with as little fanfare as possible.)

4. Is O’Connor’s statement about the country possibly being in the beginning stages of a dictatorship accurate?

First of all, it's hard to tell, from what little of the actual text of the speech we are given, if she really said this. For the sake of discussion, let's assume that she implied something like this. Her main point of departure would be certain attacks on the power of the judiciary which have come from the Right. Obviously this would cause some resentment on her part, which may have led to a bit of hyperbole.

Has the United States taken a tiny, baby step towards dictatorship? Perhaps it would be better to say that we have taken some steps away from an open public sector, with the Patriot Act and a notoriously secretive administration.

5. Do you think O’Connor’s veiled criticism of DeLay, Bush and Texas Senator John Cornyn, concerning an assault on the judiciary, is accurate?

Again, let's assume that this speech really was such a criticism. It's no secret that there is a certain segment of American conservatives which feels that the courts have stood in the way of their goals (primarily cultural ones.) I think that a certain amount of caution about attempts by the legislature to wrest control from the judiciary is warranted. Certainly, the executive branch already wields the lion's share of power, and the uneasy balance among the three branches of government could easily crash to the ground.

This post has been edited by Victoria Silverwolf: Mar 12 2006, 08:49 AM
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BoF
post Mar 12 2006, 05:28 PM
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Victoria,

There may not be a transcript of O'Connor's speech at Georgetown University, March 10.

The original source for the story is NPR.

Apparently the speech was not available for broadcast, but NPR's Nina Totenberg covered O'Connor's speech.

For an audio of Totenberg's report click the link below.

http://rawstory.com/news/2006/Retired_Supr...tacks_0310.html

Then click the tab "listen to audio report here."

Edited to add:

I find it interesting that no transcript has yet surfaced on this speech. A while back Hayleyanne wub.gif laugh.gif linked us to some of Scalia's speeches covered by C-Span.

My guess is that either O'Connor or Georgetown wanted to avoid the glare of TV lights and cameras.

I may be completely off base, but I think a transcript, though it may be bootleg, will surface.

Technology is such that one can attach a microphone approximately 2.5" W X 1" H X 1" D to an IPod. I would bet a student or blogger smuggled in a recording device and has everything on tape.

This post has been edited by BoF: Mar 12 2006, 06:57 PM
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Amlord
post Mar 17 2006, 03:34 PM
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Wow is the news THAT slow lately?

4. Is O’Connor’s statement about the country possibly being in the beginning stages of a dictatorship accurate?

Well, it IS overblown.

From the Totenberg piece:

QUOTE
O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.


"It takes a lot of degeneration..." "We should avoid these beginnings"

I don't know who could translate that into "The US is becoming a dictatorship" as Mr. "I'm an idiot, look at me" Olberman put it. I used to think Olberman was funny (as a sportscaster), now I find his opinions and viewpoint funny laugh.gif .

She's defending the judiciary, which is fine. An independent judiciary is an important check in the US governmental structure. She did not say that we are entering a dictatorship. Her examples of "strong-arming" the judiciary seem to be more like disagreement and criticism. Certainly Ms. O'Connor is not against healthy disagreement and criticism, is she? [For the record: I do not think she is.] Her speech decries "verbal attacks" by Congress members. Note to Ms. O'Connor: verbal attacks are also called disagreements.

Ms. O'Connor also notes that judges have the power to make Presidents and governors "very, very angry" with their decisions. I wonder is she thinks that is part of the job description of a judge? [For the record: I do not think she does.]

Her comments are one thing, but headlines such as O'Connor Forecasts Dictatorship are simply out of line since she clearly did not say that.

5. Do you think O’Connor’s veiled criticism of DeLay, Bush and Texas Senator John Cornyn, concerning an assault on the judiciary, is accurate?

It seems petty to me. She can do things to make people "angry" but if they make objections then they are out of line? A judge's decision should rarely be controversial. Interpreting rules is not (or should not be) emotionally laden when it is done evenly and fairly. However, it is when the rules are changed that people object.

I always use the analogy of a baseball umpire. Nobody cares when a particular umpire's strike zone is a bit higher than another's. The players adjust to the rules and (if they are consistent) the game goes on. It is when one pitch is called a strike and the next one in the exact same position is a ball that riles up the emotions. It is inconsistency that is maddening to those affected by judicial decisions.

This post has been edited by Amlord: Mar 17 2006, 03:35 PM
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