All forward progress anyway.
Americans elected President Obama in 2008 with great hopes and an insatiable thirst for change. It was as palpable as it was heartfelt. But through recalcitrance and institutionalized obstruction the Republicans in Congress soon dashed those fervent hopes, and poured sand down the collective throats of Americans' thirsting for meaningful change in Washington.
But congressional Republicans didn't act alone. They had a partner in crime; a co-conspirator in D.C. operating for the most part under the proverbial radar. In fact, for every initiative or progressive piece of legislation the president had blocked by Senate Republicans, their co-conspirators in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals right down the road blocked three or four, and worked steadily to weaken some of those passed by President Clinton... and Carter... and even Nixon, at the same time.
We just never heard about a good number of them.
A decade or two from now, President George W. Bush's legacy will not only be that it was under his watch(sic) that 9-11 happened -- at least on the conservative side. Nor will it only be that it was under his administration that arguably the most undemocratic piece of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in the last century, i.e., The Patriot Act, was signed into law. And, unfortunately, I doubt it will even be the unjust wars of choice or the neocon-conspired war on terror that the Bush administration will be remembered for most. Conservatives, will no doubt attempt to marginalize those issues. And with the concerted aid of a compliant media they just might be successful in their efforts.
But even a propaganda-laden media cannot ameliorate what Americans are feeling everyday of their lives; the issues that profoundly touch each and every one of us in significant ways. Face it, unless they're caught up in the middle of such things, issues like war and foreign policy don't directly affect most Americans. But issues like corporate regulations, environmental policy and food and water safety DO affect ALL of us. They are intertwined and debilitating if enacted without the best interests of the People at heart. And those are the issues under continuous assault by the little known but surprisingly powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- packed to the brim by President George W. Bush with rabid conservatives -- bought and paid for by huge corporations.
The diabolical duo consisting of Senate Republicans and the D.C. Court is effectively controlling Washington. And that includes the conversation emanating from it.
In my estimation it'll be the courts for which heir Bush will be remembered. The far-right ideological judges and justices that Bush installed on courts all across the land (with little resistance from congressional Democrats) are responsible for one of the most radical far-right turns in American jurisprudence history; a turn from which America may not recover for generations. That's what the Bush legacy will look like. And that legacy will not come cheap. Americans, both of this generation and most likely the next, will all pay a clear and dear price for the younger Bush's ignominious role as
commander-in-chief despot-wannabe. Yet conservatives will no doubt rejoice.
To get an idea of just how influential the D.C. Court of Appeals is on political issues in Washington during the Obama era; one only has to look at the sheer volume of cases heard there each year, as opposed to the relatively few cases seen by the Supreme Court -- in itself not even close to being a bastion of liberalism.
But I digress.
The disparity between the two judicial venues is stunning to say the least. While the SCOTUS chose to hear a total of 79 cases during the 2011-2012 period; the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard nearly twelve hundred cases during the same time period. And only a tiny percentage of those Appeals Court decisions were overturned by their counterparts at the higher court. The appeals court has acted more or less as a clearinghouse of sorts for some of the most unpublicized but no less important cases affecting every American at one time or another during their lives.
For his part, President Obama sure didn't do himself (or us) any favors by getting off to such a slow start on nominating judges. He's not blameless. And I'm sure he'd do it differently had he another bite of the apple. But such as it was and is, Senate Republicans took full advantage of the president's late start in the nominating process. At this point, he's yet to get a single judge appointed to the appeals court in the D.C. Circuit. That's going on five years without an appointment to a court that still has four open seats out of the eleven seat court.
The overall strategy should be plain as day to any progressive by now. The Republicans are using the Harry Reid filibuster to block all potential liberal nominees, essentially protecting the overwhelming conservative majority even if it means defying the president by keeping the seats that would balance the court empty for as long as they possibly can. Meanwhile, the court continuously undermines the president's current agenda with the majority they have whilst doing away with regulations enacted before Obama's terms began, regulations meant to protect the environment, food and drug safety, consumer rights and a whole host of other aspects of everyday life, including workers' rights and general public safety.
People for the American Way (PFAW) recently released an extensive report: AMERICA’S PROGRESS AT RISK: RESTORING BALANCE TO THE DC CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS that outlined the untenable situation in which we find ourselves.
President Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to fail to have a single nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit during his first full term in office.Incidentally, President Obama's first nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Caitlin Halligan, despite being demonstrably qualified, was blocked [not once but] twice by Senate Republicans using Harry Reid's filibuster.
Here's a short list of some of the D.C. court's recent evildoing. Some you may be aware of... and some perhaps not.
• Noel Canning v. NLRB: In January, the D.C. Circuit invalidated three presidential appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, undermining the Board’s ability to protect the rights of workers and giving the green light to Senate Republicans who wish to decimate any federal agency by blocking appointees.And by "property" I think we can safely assume she's really talking about protecting corporate profits.
• EME Homer City Generation v. EPA: In 2012, the D.C. Circuit sided with utility companies to strike down EPA air pollution regulations that would have prevented an estimated 34,000 premature deaths and saved $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.
• Business Roundtable v. SEC: In 2011, the D.C. Circuit overturned an SEC rule requiring greater accountability from corporations to their shareholders in selecting board members. One observer noted that in doing so the judges – none of them securities experts – had “waded into a political fight under the guise of dispassionate scientific oversight.”
• RJ Reynolds Tobacco v. FDA: Last year, the D.C. Circuit ruled that FDA regulations requiring cigarette manufacturers to place graphic, factually accurate warnings on their product violated tobacco companies’ First Amendment free speech rights.
• Hein Hettinga v. USA: George W. Bush nominee Janice Rogers Brown used a case about milk market regulation last year to issue a call to arms against eight decades of progressive reforms. Courts that have allowed the government to implement reasonable regulations of industry have, she said, put “property…at the mercy of pillagers.”
I don't know how the administration extracts itself from this deep, ideological morass, and puts this country back on a progressive path. I do know however, that the blame only lies in part on the president's learning curve. In my humble opinion, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will forever carry the bulk of the blame for this ongoing travesty of social injustice. Why he didn't change the filibuster rule while he had the chance I'll never know. I used to respect and admire his legislative skills. But not anymore. Whether he himself realizes it, Harry Reid has done more to thwart the president's legislative agenda than any other single player on the Washington stage.
I certainly hope awareness spreads regarding this ongoing disaster. I also hope the state of Nevada wakes up and subjects the ne'er-do-well senate majority leader to a decent primary.
WTF did you think would happen, Harry?