Our logo

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

The Delaware Valley's Progressive Alternative

Volume 1 - Number 1 - July 2005

Our logo

U. S. Political News and Opinion/Editorials

News around the Jewish community that may have been overlooked in the local Jewish press.

Rick Santorum Exploits Holocaust

While debating the nuclear option on the floor of the United States Senate, Rick Santorum unconscionably compared Senate Democrats to Adolf Hitler. Santorum's destructive comment was:
'I mean, imagine, the rule has been in place for 214 years that this is the way we confirm judges. Broken by the other side two years ago, and the audacity of some members to stand up and say, how dare you break this rule. It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'

Immediately after the Senator's remarks, our campaign swung into rapid response mode while many others remained silent. Here are the comments I released to the press shortly after our junior Senator embarrassed Pennsylvania on the floor of the Senate: "As an historian of Holocaust-era Germany, I find Rick Santorum's comment to be offensive, divisive and destructive. Rick Santorum should immediately issue a public apology, and then retreat with conscience to consider the lasting damage he has done to the United States Senate and to the memory of 12 million Holocaust victims." "How ironic is it that he would make such an extremist comment comparing Senate Democrats to Adolf Hitler while his own political party seeks to consolidate all governmental power in its own hands?"

When Rick Santorum went on his Social Security "town hall" tour, it was our campaign that got the mainstream media to pick up the now infamous chant by Santorum supporters: "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Social Security has got to go!" Please help us spread this information across the country as well.

-- Chuck Pennacchio.

Senator Santorum -- who recently made it clear that he finds rhetorical references to pre-Holocaust Germany on the Senate floor to be "inexcusable" -- last week compared Democrats to Hitler on the Senate floor during the filibuster debate.

According to the Associated Press, "Santorum said that Democratic protests over Republican efforts to ensure confirmation votes would be like the Nazi dictator seizing Paris and then saying: 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.' Santorum later said in a release that his remark 'was a mistake and I meant no offense.'" (Click here for AP article.)

National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman commented, "Senator Santorum's actions give hypocrisy a bad name. Recently he was wailing and gnashing his teeth at Senator Byrd's Germany analogy, which he called 'inexcusable' at the time; now he compares Democrats to Hitler for their position on Senate rules. Does Senator Santorum understand what the word 'inexcusable' means? After the Anti-Defamation League and others took note of his abhorrent comments, Senator Santorum claimed that he 'meant no offense' by comparing Democrats to Hitler; this simply does not pass the laugh test.

The unmitigated gall displayed by Senator Santorum is truly amazing. Did Senator Santorum think the Jewish community wouldn't notice his comparing Democrats to Hitler? In this case, 'hypocrisy' is not a strong enough word -- but it'll have to do," Forman added.


Letter to the Editor Re: Column by Krauthammer on Filibusters 

The chutzpah of Charles Krauthammer is beyond belief – at least it would be if he didn’t have such frequent examples of the black is white, truth is fiction Orwellian doublespeak of the Bush White House to mimic. Let me blow up the basic premise that it is the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who want to overturn 200 years of Senate precedent and tradition. As cataloged by the People for the America Way, in the last 32 years of the twentieth century, there were 34 instances where the Senate leadership was forced to file cloture to end a filibuster on the Senate floor. Included in these 34 were 13 judicial nominations, of which 3 were U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominations and 8 were federal circuit court of appeals nominations. Twenty-six of the 34 filibusters were led by Republican Senators.

Krauthammer also manages to leave out the fact that existing Senate rules require a 2/3 majority vote to change the existing rules. As the GOP Senate majority, a majority that represents a MINORITY of American citizens (the population of the states represented by Democratic Senators exceeds by a substantial margin that of states represented by Republican Senators), does not have the votes to change the rules, it therefore must break the rules to change them – and they intend to do exactly that. Trent Lott knew exactly what he was saying when he called it the nuclear option.

Joe Magid, Wynnewood, PA

Gun Commission Report

Ed Rendell's commission issued their report on the gun violence in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, this empty report does not mention reasonable proposals like CeasefirePA's bill limiting most people to one handgun per month, or a rollback of state pre-emption, which is preventing Philadelphia from enacting the kind of gun legislation which yesterday's election indicates Philadelphian are overwhelmingly (4:1) in favor of. We are especially concerned in light of information that a majority of commissioners would have voted for these recommendations, but that a couple of legislators successfully blocked the measure from being put to the whole group. This soft report will be used an excuse by edgy lawmakers to continue to not support future gun violence prevention legislation.

The governor is not bound by the commission's recommendations, so please:

  • contact the governor's office at governor@state.pa.us
  • complain that the commission failed to meaningfully address Pennsylvania’s illegal handgun distribution system
  • ask/demand that the governor publicly and forcefully renew the commitment he made while he was mayor of Philadelphia to gain a one-handgun-per-month law.

Senator Reid on the Responsibility of the Senate

As a former professional historian I can identify a handful of moments when the power of the written or spoken word altered the course of the nation. In my lifetime, Joseph Welsh's 'have you no shame' retort to Sen. Joseph McCarthy; John Kennedy's Inaugural address. Today, on the floor of the US Senate, Harry Reid may have joined the above with a simply stated, articulate pronouncement as to what this fight over judicial nominations is all about.  It is simply one hell of a speech which should be sent every member of the press you know. -- Stephen Rozov.
SENATOR HARRY REID'S FLOOR STATEMENT ON "ADVICE & CONSENT: (Source: Dailykos. Remarks as prepared for delivery:)

Mr. President, I've addressed the Senate on several recent occasions to set the record straight about Senate history and the rules of this Chamber. I'd much rather address ways to cut health care costs or bring down gas prices. But the Majority Leader has decided that we will spend this week debating radical judges instead.  I'm happy to engage in that debate, but I want it to be accurate.

For example, the Majority Leader issued a statement last Friday in which he called the filibuster a "procedural gimmick."  I took some time yesterday to correct that assertion.  The filibuster is not a gimmick.  It has been part of our nation's history for two centuries.  It is one of the vital checks and balances established by our Founding Fathers.  It is not a gimmick.

Also, Republicans have not been accurate in describing the use of the filibuster.  They say the defeat of a handful of President Bush's judicial nominees is unprecedented.  In fact, hundreds of judicial nominees in American history have been rejected by the Senate, many by filibuster.  Most notably, the nomination of Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice of the United States was successfully filibustered in 1968.  And during the Clinton Administration, over 60 judicial nominees were bottled up in the Judiciary Committee and never received floor votes.

In addition, Republicans engaged in explicit filibusters on the floor against a number of Clinton judges, and defeated a number of President Clinton's executive branch nominees by filibuster.  It's the same Advice and Consent Clause - why was a Republican filibuster of Surgeon General nominee Henry Foster constitutional, but a Democratic filibuster of Fifth Circuit nominee Priscilla Owen unconstitutional?  The Republican argument doesn't add up.

And now, the President of the United States has joined the fray and become the latest to rewrite the Constitution and reinvent reality. Speaking to fellow Republicans on Tuesday night, he said that the Senate "has a duty to promptly consider each...nominee on the Senate floor, discuss and debate their qualifications, and then give them the up or down vote they deserve."

Duty to whom?  The radical right wing of the Republican Party who see within their reach the destruction of America's mainstream values? It's certainly not duty to the tenets of our Constitution or to the American people who are waiting for progress and promise, not partisanship and petty debates.

The duties of the United States Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States.  Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees "an up or down vote."  It says appointments shall be made with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.  That is very different than saying that every nominee receives a vote.

This fact was even acknowledged by the Majority Leader on this floor last week.  Senator Byrd asked the Majority leader if the Constitution accorded "to each nominee an up or down vote on the Senate floor?"

Senator Frist's answer? "No, the language is not there."

Senator Frist is correct. And the President should read the same copy of the Constitution that Senator Frist was referring to. It is clear that the President misunderstands the meaning of the Advice and Consent Clause.  The word "Advice" means "Advice." President Clinton, consulted extensively with then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch.  Senator Hatch boasts in his autobiography that he personally convinced President Clinton to nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court instead of more controversial choices.

In contrast, this President has never ever sought or heeded the advice of the Senate.  But now he demands our consent.

That's not how America works.  The Senate is not a rubber stamp for the Executive branch. Rather, we're the one institution where the Minority has a voice and the ability to check the power of the Majority.   Today, in the face of President Bush's power grab, that's more important than ever. Republicans want one-party rule.  The Senate is the last place where the President and his Republican colleagues can't have it all.  And, now President Bush wants to destroy our checks and balances to ensure that he does get it all.

That check on his power is the right to extended debate. Every Senator can stand up on behalf of the people who have sent them here and say their piece.  In the Senate's 200 plus years of history, this has been done hundreds and hundreds of times...to stand up to popular presidents arrogant with power...to block legislation harmful to America's workers...and yes - even to reject the President's judicial nominations.

Who are the nominees now before the Senate? Priscilla Owen is a Texas Supreme Court Justice nominated to the Fifth Circuit.  Justice Owen sides with big business and corporate interests against workers and consumers in case after case, regardless of the law. Her colleagues on the conservative Texas court have written that she legislates from the bench.    Her own colleagues have called her opinions "nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric," her interpretation of the law to be "misconceptions," and even rebuked her for second guessing the legislature on vital pieces of legislation.   If she wanted to legislate, she should run for Congress.  If she wants to interpret and uphold the law, she should be a judge.  She can't do both.

In case after case, Justice Owen's record marks her as a judge willing to make law from the bench rather than follow the language and intent of the legislature or judicial precedent.  She has demonstrated this tendency most clearly in a series of dissents involving a Texas law providing for a judicial bypass of parental notification requirements for minors seeking abortions.  She sought to erect barriers that did not exist in law, such as requiring religious counseling for minors facing a tough choice.

Janice Rogers Brown, a California Supreme Court justice nominated to the D.C. Circuit, is using her seat on the bench to wage an ideological war against America's social safety net.  She wants to take America back to the 19th Century and undo the New Deal, which includes Social Security and vital protections for working Americans like the minimum wage.    Every Senator in this body should tell the more than 10 million working Americans already living in poverty on minimum wage why someone who wants to make their life harder and destroy their hopes and dreams should be elevated to a lifetime to one of the most powerful courts in the country.

Justice Brown has been nominated to the court that oversees the actions of federal agencies responsible for worker protections, environmental laws, and civil rights and consumer protections.  She has made no secret of her disdain for government. According to Justice Brown, government destroys families, takes property, is the cause of a "debased, debauched culture," and threatens civilization.

Moreover, Justice Brown received a "not qualified" rating from the California Judicial Commission when she was nominated for the California Supreme Court in 1996 because of her "tendency to interject her political and philosophical views into her opinions" and complaints that she was insensitive to established legal precedent.

Speaking recently at a church on "Justice Sunday," Brown proclaimed a "war" between religious people and the rest of America.  Is this someone we want protecting the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state, or freedom for all Americans to practice religion?

She has expanded the rights of corporations at the expense of individuals -- arguing to give corporations more leeway against attempts to prevent consumer fraud, to stop the sale of cigarettes to minors, and to prevent discrimination against women and individuals.

Janice Rogers Brown may be the daughter of a sharecropper, but she's never looked back to ensure the legal rights of millions of Americans still fighting to build better lives for their children and children's children.

These are the nominees over which the Republican leadership is waging this fight.  And they are prepared to destroy the Senate that has existed for over 200 years to do it.

The Senate is a body of moderation. While the White House is the voice of a single man, and the House of Representatives is the voice of the Majority, the Senate is a forum of the states.  It is the saucer that cools the coffee. It is the world's greatest deliberative body.

How will we call this the world's greatest deliberative body after the majority breaks the rules to silence the minority?

This vision of our government - the vision of our Founding Fathers - no longer suits President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate. They don't want consensus or compromise. They don't want advice and consent.

They want absolute power.  And to get it, the President and the Majority Leader will do all they can to silence the Minority in the Senate and remove the last check on Republican power in Washington.

The White House is trying to grab power over two separate branches of government - Congress and the Judiciary - and they're enlisting the help of the Republican Senate leadership to do it.

Republicans are demanding a power no president has ever had, and they're willing to break the rules to do it.

And make no mistake Mr. President. This is about more than breaking the rules of the Senate or the future of seven radical judges.

At the end of the day, this about the rights and freedoms of millions of Americans.

The attempt to do away with the filibuster is nothing short of clearing the trees for the confirmation of an unacceptable nominee on the Supreme Court. If the Majority gets its way, George Bush and the far right will have the sole power to put whoever they want on the Supreme Court -- from Pat Robertson to Phylis Schlafley.   They don't want someone who represents the values of all Americans, someone who can win bipartisan consensus.  They want someone who can skate through with only a bare partisan majority, someone whose beliefs lay in the fringes of our society.

Nobody will be able to stop them from placing these people on the highest court in the land - extremist judges who won't protect our rights and who hold values far outside the mainstream of America.

Here's what's really at stake here:

The civil rights of millions of Americans.

The voting rights of millions of Americans.

The right to clean water to drink and safe air to breathe for millions of Americans.

The right to free speech and religious beliefs.

The right to equality, opportunity and justice.

And, nothing less than the individual rights and liberties of all Americans.

It is up to us in this Chamber to say no to this abuse of power. To stand up for the Constitution and let George Bush and the Republican Party know that the Supreme Court is not theirs to claim.

This debate all comes down to this: will we let George Bush turn the Senate into a rubber stamp to fill the Supreme Court with people from the extreme right's wish list?

Or will we uphold the Constitution and use of advice and consent powers to force the President to look to the mainstream?

Mr. President, I hope it's the latter. I know that is what my fellow Democrats and I will fight for, and I hope the responsible Republicans we've heard from will have the courage to join us.

Bush Coddles Saudis, Again

On Monday, Saudi leaders once again descended on President Bush's Texas ranch. And once again, Bush gave the Saudis a free ride when it comes to the virulent, outspoken anti-Semitism of Saudi leaders; or their support for terrorism, or their other repressive policies.

Time and time again, this White House refuses to confront the Saudis where it counts most. On Monday, Bush held hands with Crown Prince Abdullah, who regularly blames Jews, "Zionists," and Israel for a laundry list of evils. Just last summer, on Saudi television, he blamed Israel for the executions of an American hostage in the Middle East. (Source: Jerusalem Post.)

Perhaps emblematic of the depths of Saudi Arabia's terror ties, the AFP wire service reported on Monday that one member of Crown Prince Abdullah's delegation was actually found to be "on a government list meant to screen out possible terrorists" -- and was denied entry to the United States.

An editorial in the New York Jewish Week asserts that the White House photos just "pointed to the administration's failure to hold the desert kingdom to the same standards it demands from others in the region." The Jewish Week notes the Saudis "continue to support some of the same terrorist groups that are killing Americans today."

So who is leading the charge to stop giving the Saudis a pass?

The Democratic Party and its leaders.

Below is just a small selection of what leading Democrats have to say about America's relationship with Saudi Arabia.

>Governor Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee Chairman:

Just last month, Gov. Dean condemned "what Saudi Arabia is doing around the world to finance the teaching of hatred of Americans, Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims. We need to confront that, and we need to confront it boldly because there is a long-term danger in what the Saudis are using our oil money for. Source

Senator Charles Schumer:

In advance of President Bush's meeting with the Saudis, Senator Schumer wrote to Bush noting his deep concern regarding "the government of Saudi Arabia's commitment to the War on Terror, which is drawn into question by its continued support for extremist religious incitement, recruitment, and education around the world." Senator Schumer urged Bush to "completely and directly" confront Crown Prince Abdullah. Source.

Senator Ron Wyden:

Senator Wyden commented, "For too long, the Bush Administration has let Saudi Arabia off easy. It's time the Administration got tough and held the Saudis accountable for their financial and philosophical support of terrorism. It's unacceptable for the Saudi government to turn a blind eye any longer to radical factions whose ideologies and activities threaten the Middle East and the wider world."

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer:

Last May, Rep. Hoyer noted that "the time has come for the United States and the rest of the civilized world to pressure Saudi Arabia to crack down on those within its borders who fund, facilitate and rationalize terrorism. Furthermore, the Saudi government can no longer escape responsibility for supporting and exporting the intolerant brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, which breeds hatred of other countries, including the United States and Israel...." source

Senator John Kerry:

In a speech to the Anti-Defamation League last May, Senator Kerry said: "With Saudi-funded hate speech littering the textbooks of children and the Saudi interior minister claiming that 'the Jews' were responsible for 9/11, our current administration thinks that our current relationship with this regime is acceptable."

Historical Context

  • Dore Gold, Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations, recently testified before the U.S. Senate Government Affairs Committee that between 50 and 70 percent of Hamas’ funding comes from Saudi Arabia. Sophie Hoffman, President of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington stated, "We cannot conduct business as usual with the Saudi Arabian government, while their support of terror enables Israeli streets to run with blood."
  • President Bush considers Saudi Arabia "a friend," (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/20030516-15.html ) even though Saudi Arabia openly bankrolls Palestinian terrorists like Hamas. Recent intelligence estimates indicate that up to 60 percent of Hamas’s annual budget – some $12 to $14 million – flows from Saudi Arabia. (See Who Pays for Palestinian Terror? by Matthew Levitt, senior fellow in terrorism studies at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.)
  • Saudi Arabian charities have been a primary source of Al Qaeda financing. 9/11 commission vice-chairman Lee Hamilton has said, "We have found evidence of individual Saudis and Saudi charities…whose funds have found their way to the support of al-Qaeda and terrorism."
  • Saudi Arabia spreads anti-Semitic textbooks. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) noted that "The American Jewish Committee and the Center for Monitoring The Impact of Peace found that Saudi Arabian textbooks promote anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-Western views." (March 4, 2003)
  • Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister holds Jews responsible for 9/11. In 2002, Saudi interior minister Prince Nayef blamed September 11 on "Zionists." (See http://www.memri.org/bin/media.cgi?ID=98904 )
  • The Council on Foreign Relations observed, "Individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al Qaeda; and for years, Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem. Experts say the Kingdom is not doing enough, and Saudi Arabia has been blamed for financing terrorism while simultaneously fighting it." (November 11, 2003; see http://www.cfr.org/background/saudi_terror.php )
  • Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham said on CNN, "In August of ‘02, a CIA agent said there was incontrovertible evidence that the Saudi government was involved in assisting the terrorists in the United States. In my judgment, there is a trail that starts from a Saudi governmental organization, goes through a company which is owned by a major supporter of al Qaeda, through a firm which had been paying a ghost employee, who ends up being a Saudi agent in San Diego, who was the conduit for $30,000 to $40,000 going to the two terrorists." (September 8 & 12, 2004)
  • Even Fox News has questioned George W. Bush’s blind friendship with the Saudi leadership: "The Bush administration…[has] insisted Saudi Arabia is a friend to the United States, but information continues to surface that suggests otherwise. The fact that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia has only added fuel to a fire that began before the attacks." (July 29, 2003; see http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,93139,00.html )

* Front Page * Exponent Watchpost * In Their Own Words * Around Our Community * Living Judaism * U.S. Political News & Op/Ed *