Can Someone Please Tell Congress to Stop the Madness?

Posted April 25, 2005 at 3:25pm

At the end of one of my favorite movies, “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” the doctors simply say “madness.” Just as madness was the running theme of the movie, recent public polls indicate that it aptly describes the obscene level of partisanship in American politics today.[IMGCAP(1)]

On Wednesday in Washington, D.C., my good friend, former Vice President Al Gore, will deliver a tough speech about the Republican Party’s obsession with garnering power for the sake of power and, in the process, undermining our nation’s longstanding commitment to the rule of law and our Constitutional mandate for an independent judiciary.

I’m glad that Gore, who has recently spearheaded the creation of a hot new cable channel directed at young adults, is coming back to educate all Americans about the importance of maintaining our current system of “checks and balances” and to call on Congress to stop the madness.

Gore’s speech, which is being sponsored by MoveOn.org, one of the most eftive and dynamic progressive grass-roots organizations, is titled “Breaking the Rules to Destroy Our Courts.” As the former President of the U.S. Senate, Gore is uniquely qualified to explain to the American people that it’s wrong to alter the rules of the game just because one political party dislikes the outcome.

I spoke to Gore the other day while visiting Tennessee to speak to the graduates of Lane College. Like most of his post-2000 conversations on American politics, Gore has spoken out about how our civil liberties have been undermined in a quest for more power by the current administration. Now he is deeply concerned that the foundation of our great democracy is being torn apart by rampant and uncontrollable partisanship. Gore is going to demand that we put our feet down for the rule of law.

In other words, stop the madness.

Now that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has journeyed to the world of pandering with his appearance on Justice Sunday, Gore will remind Congress to preserve its tradition of separation of powers between the various branches of government. Gore will tell those “drunk” with power to step back and look at the facts before going over the edge.

Gore will stress what is at stake in the coming battles over judicial nominations and that the “nuclear” option “is a poison pill for American democracy. It is aimed at one-party dominance over all three branches of government, and the end of meaningful debate in the U.S. Senate.”

In other word, stop the madness.

Gore will also explain how the threatened elimination of the right to filibuster is more than a ploy to allow the Republican majority to have its way. Gore will declare, “It is actually a historic threat to the health and vitality of American democracy. This is an effort to replace persuasion on the merits with bullying by partisan domination.”

Gore, like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and a growing number of Republicans, independents and constitutional scholars, is now appealing to the current Senate President, Vice President Cheney, not to undermine the judiciary and dismantle the careful system of checks and balances just so all of President Bush’s judicial nominees can be confirmed. Conservative leaders should listen to these appeals before labeling the motives of those opposed to the nuclear option as purely partisan.

It’s maddening to see Congress spending the majority of its time and political capital appeasing its narrow, extreme religious fundamentalist base at a time when the American people are calling on them to stop rising gas prices and save our jobs.

It’s maddening to hear Republican leaders talk as though they are the latest victims of highway robbery when no one has stolen or disrespected the enormous power and clout they enjoy. The fact is, the majority of Americans would like to see the careful balance intended by our founders restored and respected. We — and in this I am part of the majority — refuse to accept judicial activist nominees like Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Terrence Boyle who are on the narrow fringes of the radical right in American politics.

With 95 percent of its conservative, anti-abortion judges already confirmed — more than the last three presidents combined — there is nothing wrong with Frist, Reid and the Bush administration sitting down to figure out a strategy on how to proceed in the near future.

So, I hope that everyone will listen to Gore as he makes his pleas to both Congress and the Bush administration to end its power grab and to get back to the people’s business. And while he’s at it, Gore should urge everyone involved to stop the madness.

Donna L. Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grass-roots political consulting firm.