Et tu Portlanders

At the end of the first week in August of 1974 Barry Goldwater defined what it meant to be the loyal opposition as a member of the minority party in Congress, when he led a group of Republican senators to the White House and informed Richard Nixon his presidency was over. Or as Barry Goldwater put it at the time, “Richard Nixon was the most dishonest politician I ever met.” So what did it mean for Goldwater to be a member of the loyal opposition in the ’74 Congress? It meant being capable putting the national interest ahead of party loyalty. Does that still hold true today? Is there anyone capable of such statesmanship today? You wonder.

Here’s How You Don’t Remove Someone From Office:

Four years ago Republicans attempted a one-party impeachment of President Clinton. Because no Democrats were willing to play the part of Barry Goldwater, the task fell solely to the GOP. A partisan impeachment. With not one Democrat statesman willing to ride to the occasion, it was a stupid thing politically for the Republicans to proceed. The impeachment case against Clinton accomplished many things, but chief among them was raising bitter feelings of contempt between the two parties. Trent Lott had the thankless and dirty job of burying the case in the U.S. Senate. Ironically, Lott instead of being appreciated for his efforts by the GOP, was conveniently ditched by his colleagues when things got politically tough for the Senate leader-reminding Americans that the old adage about the nation’s capitol still held: “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.”

This summer, conservatives are at it again. This time they want to recall California governor Gray Davis from office. Davis’ crime: his failure to tell the voters that California had fallen $40 billion in debt on his watch. Gray Davis, a 1990s spendthrift governor in ’03 fiscally conservative times, looks incompetent. And he is—very incompetent. But about two-dozen other governors across the nation don’t look financially competent right now either. The answer in California to Davis’ incompetence: Recall.

Recall Gov. Davis less then one year into his second term?

And what a recall it will be. Two questions would appear on the ballot simultaneously this fall: 1) Yes or No on recalling Gov. Davis and 2) A vote on Davis’s successor. In the second vote the candidate with the most votes will win and there will likely be dozens of candidates since it requires little signatures or cash to get on the ballot. The next governor of California will probably be elected with a plurality somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the vote. And since Democrats will be able to file along with Republicans, Davis won’t even have party loyalists behind him. Everybody will be a wannabe. Winning the governorship of California with 13 percent of the vote is the best way for a fresh face like Arnold Schwarzenegger to enter politics.

In Portland, two conservative groups are circulating petitions to recall Portland’s three-term mayor, Vera Katz. This idea is just as bad as California’s recall, maybe worse, especially since there is an election for mayor a

mere 10 months away. If you want a new mayor, how about doing something old-fashioned, like going out and campaigning
for one?

This is not to say that Democrats don’t have their own way of violating some basic American constitutional principles. They do. Republicans may like to use and abuse the “recall” tool, but Democrats are especially adept to undermining the country with their ridiculous and absurd abuse of the judicial process.

Want proof? The U.S. Senate is supposed to be offering advice and consent on presidential judicial appointments. At least that’s what the Constitution says. These days, Democrats in The Senate refuse to give President Bush’s appointment to Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Miguel Estrada, even the courtesy of a hearing. Why? Because this conservative Hispanic justice is on the fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court—and that liberals just won’t have. Not with Roe v. Wade supposedly in the balance.

Tottering liberal Supreme Court Justice Stevens reinforces this growing and tacky politicization of the Court by refusing to retire at the age of 83 because he’s not about to let George W. Bush pick his successor. Closer to home, Oregon’s left-leaning Supreme Court has turned their review of ballot measures into what the spinmeisters like to call “extreme” politics. The way Democrats treat out country’s judicial process has badly undermined a sacred American institution, our courts. Respect for this cornerstone of out democracy is not optional—continued political bickering by Democrats could produce disastrous long-term results for our country.

But so too could the Republicans’ recall shenanigans. Respect for the sanctity of office and the term length of an office is the most basic of democratic concepts. Violate it too often and you won’t have a democracy for long.

And that’s not just rhetoric. New York Times columnist William Safire, a former Nixon speechwriter, no fan of Gray Davis, and one of the remaining but dwindling Americans capable of loyal opposition, gets the last word:

“Californians should suffer Gray David for three more years, voting like grownups not as a penance for their mistake last year, but to uphold the principles that election results are final for a fixed term and officeholders should not be removed merely when ratings fall.”

Et tu, Portlanders.

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