Column No. 62a By Dr. Steven Jonas - May 26, 2005

On September 30, 1938, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrived back in Great Britain following the conclusion of the Munich Agreement with the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.  Waving his copy of the document as he stepped out of his airplane, he announced that the agreement had achieved “Peace in Our Time.” That agreement permitted Hitler to march his army into Western Czechoslovakia and incorporate into the German Reich significant sections of it that happened to have significant numbers of German speakers in them --- an area known in German as the Sudetenland.

In doing this, the British, and their French allies, declined to honor treaty obligations they had to defend Czechoslovakia, ignored the open offer that Stalin had made to make the Soviet Army available for action against the Germans, and prevented the strong and well-equipped Czech army from fighting the Germans in defense of their own country.  In return for these non-actions, Chamberlain received a promise from Hitler that this would be his “last territorial claim in Europe.” In March 1939, Hitler marched into Prague, took over the balance of the Czech part of the original country and set up Slovakia as an “independent” country under a pro-Nazi, but native, dictator.

In resolving the “Nuclear Option” crisis in the US Senate, the Democrats agreed to confirmation by the full Senate on the Bush nominations of Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, and Priscilla Owen, for seats on various Circuit Courts of Appeal.  Among other things, Brown is a judge who, like Scalia and Thomas of the US Supreme Court, believes that there is some “Natural Law” standing above the US Constitution.  Since that Natural Law is unwritten, in practice that means that it is whatever she says it is, thus replacing the Constitution as the highest law of the land.  Pryor believes that church and state should be one.  Owen believes that judges who have previously taken money from corporations should represent their views on the bench.

In return for this agreement, the Democrats have received a promise from the Republicans that, with one exception, they will never invoke the “Nuclear Option” to destroy the power of the minority in the Senate to employ the filibuster to prevent a vote on judicial nominations. According to current Senate rules any change in them requires a two-thirds majority.  Under the Nuclear Option, the Republicans would violate this rule with a ruling from the Chair by the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, about which the Democrats could do nothing but scream bloody murder.  Oh yes, it just so happens that the “one exception” the Republicans gained as part of the deal was that they could employ the “Nuclear Option” in the future anyway, if they thought that its use were really indicated.

Sounding sort of like Neville Chamberlain, Harry Reid, the Democratic Minority leader said (New York Times, May 25, 2005):  “It took the nuclear option off the table.  The nuclear option is gone for our lifetime.”  Further (quoted in The Times), “Democrats said that there was a clear signal to President Bush that he needed to engage in ‘true consultation and cooperation’ with both parties before naming future court nominees, particularly to the Supreme Court.”  Big victory for the Democrats, eh, sort of like “peace in our time?”  Well, probably not.

The very next day (same issue of The Times), a headline said “Many Republicans Are Already Eager To Challenge Agreement on Filibusters.”  “This deal is really no deal,” said Sen. Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho.  According to The Times, “Other Republicans threatened to immediately invoke the nuclear option” anyway, if they happened not to like how the Democrats were interpreting the supposed agreement.  And as to the nature of the agreement itself, one which Sen. Reid saw as disposing of the nuclear option in  “our lifetime,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican and former Chair of the judiciary Committee said “this is merely a truce; it’s not a treaty.”  As for the Bush Regime and any possibility that they might change their criteria for choosing judges, namely, the further to the Right, like the three described above, the better, they said that they “did not intend to change  in any substantive way their method of selecting, vetting, and nominating candidates for the Federal bench, including the Supreme Court.”

Gee whiz, at least Hitler waited more than five months before he took over the rest of Czechoslovakia after promising that he would go no further than the Sudetenland.  The Republican Religious Right just has no class whatsoever.

Junkie:  Dr. Jonas’ article is an expanded version of his article currently published from THE MOVING PLANET BLOG, one of TPJ’s favorites. The Moving Planet Blog is published by TPJ Editor Michael Carmichael.