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Judicial Halitosis
January 27, 2004
By Dan Gougherty

During the 1984 Presidential election, I was asked by a co-worker who I was going to vote for. When I nonchalantly said Walter Mondale, my co-worker, a self-described pro-choice moderate, had a deer-in-the-headlights reaction. "How could you vote for Mondale? He's promised to raise our income taxes," she said. "You don't want to pay more taxes, do you?" she asked in a patronizing manner.

"Of course I don't want to pay more taxes than necessary," I said. Then in a burst of wisdom that I still can't believe I possessed as a twenty six year old, I noted that while taxes rates fluctuate like hemlines over time, judicial appointments are like halitosis. Once you have it, no matter how much you try to cover it up, it's always there. I said a vote for Reagan was a vote for a conservative Federal judicial system and Supreme Court. My pro-choice co-worker stared at me for a minute before leaving in a huff.

Of course my co-worker didn't listen to my irrefutable logic, nor did anyone else for that matter. Reagan won in a landslide and quickly appointed Antonin Scalia, one of the most reactionary Supreme Court jurists our country has ever seen. Since that point we have suffered through a severe case of what I like to call "judicial halitosis." And just like the drunk with bad breath next to you on the bus, you're stuck until one of you, hopefully the drunk, gets off the bus.

For most voters, the issue of judicial appointments doesn't even register on the radar. Of all the duties bestowed on the President, this perhaps has the longest lasting impact on everyday lives. While we have been fortunate that Bush has not been able to make any Supreme Court appointments, if elected to another term we already know his prototype for a Supreme Court Justice. Think Scalia, Clarence Thomas or worse, Charles Pickering.

While I shudder at the thought of up to three hard core right-wing ideologues being appointed in a second Bush term, there is something scarier. Given the current Republican stranglehold, another term for Bush would mean a Supreme Court packed with a strong majority of conservative justices beholden to neo-cons. If this happens, our country runs the real risk of becoming a one-party system.

Or as a scheming Karl Rove is saying right now, "Two down, one to go."

If you are outraged by the audacity displayed by Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay's gerrymandering of Texas congressional districts, hold on to your hat. With a lap dog judicial system packed with right-wing ideologues, the neo-cons will undoubtedly run roughshod over the Democrats for years to come by simply redistricting them out of existence. And guess what - with a Federal Judicial system packed with like minded people from Pickering on up to Scalia, Thomas et. al., good luck winning any court battle.

If you don't think that sort of bias happens in our judicial system, have you already forgotten Gore v. Bush? Still not convinced? How about all those fine dinners and hunting trips recently lavished on Justice Scalia by his good friends Cheney and Rumsfeld. You don't really think they were talking about duck blinds, do you?

Don't make the mistake of being hoodwinked with the lower taxes argument. It is just a facade for the neo-cons ultimate goal of marginalizing and squashing dissent and turning our democracy into a one-party system. So when you belly up to the ballot box come November 2, remember not only are you voting for the next four years, you're casting a vote that will have consequences for years to come. Vote for freedom, vote for social justice, vote for a two party system and most importantly, vote Democrat.

Maybe then, we will have found a cure for the stinking breath of judicial halitosis.

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