The time will come for the men responsible to answer for their behavior.
So spoke Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) after state and federal judges failed to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. To read this merely as a veiled threat would be naive, for there was nothing veiled about it. Nor was the judiciary its only target. That DeLay left both the implied retribution and its intended target unspecified, comes as yet another example of the extreme right-wing’s increasing willingness to threaten the lives and livelihoods of all those it perceives as the opposition. And as this threat comes from the House Majority Leader, it should be taken seriously by all Americans, for it demonstrates how disturbingly comfortable the Republican leadership has become in adopting a rhetorical tone that can only be described as fascistic.
And as the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly pointed out today (“Religious rightists using scary tactics to pad courts“), DeLay is not the only Republican embracing “ugly extremism” in the wake of the Schiavo case. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) raised the specter of recent courthouse shootings, warning in a speech before the Senate that the judges’ decisions could lead people to “engage in violence.”
Well… it was not really a warning was it? It was more like a threat. And that is how it was understood.
And now the New York Times reports that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is joining the chorus of Dominionist voices intent on reframing the battle over judicial confirmations into a religious war: “Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue.”
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as “against people of faith” for blocking President Bush’s nominees.
The event takes place as Frist is threatening the “nuclear option”… changing the Senate rules to eliminate the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees. But as Connelly points out, Frist’s feigned outrage is nothing more than “rank hypocrisy.” Ninety-five percent of federal court seats are filled… the lowest vacancy rate in 13 years. But while Democrats have blocked only 10 of President Bush’s 215 nominees, Republicans blocked as many as 50 of President Clinton’s.
But that hasn’t stopped Frist, DeLay and the rest of the leadership from converting a political contest into a supposed holy war between the enemies of faith and God-fearing Republicans.
The telecast also signals an escalation of the campaign for the rule change by Christian conservatives who see the current court battle as the climax of a 30-year culture war, a chance to reverse decades of legal decisions about abortion, religion in public life, gay rights and marriage.
“As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, wrote in a message on the group’s Web site. “For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.”
What a load of hateful, manipulative crap. Apparently the “thieves in the night” now include such well-known enemies of faith as conservative Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee and devout Catholic, who was the target of calls for impeachment from a conservative conference titled “Remedies to Judicial Tyranny.” Let that be a warning to other Republicans who fail to strictly toe the party line… as the extreme right continues to consolidate its power, you too could become the victim of the latest putsch.
I understand why the MSM is hesitant to raise the specter of fascism… it is an emotionally loaded word, used more often as a political smear than a description of a political philosophy. Connelly avoids the word himself, but comes awfully damn close in his poignant and frightening conclusion:
During the recent Lenten season, this writer read the great pro-life sermons of Clemens von Galen, the Catholic Bishop (later Cardinal) of Muenster. Galen used his pulpit in 1941 to reveal the Nazis’ euthanasia program, and detail human rights abuses by the Gestapo.
Along with the Ten Commandments, Galen cited statute after statute of Germany’s penal code in assailing Nazi abuses.
“Our brothers and sisters, all these things cause me today to recall the old truth, ‘Justitia est fundamentum regnorum,’ justice is the only secure foundation of every form of government,” Galen declared.
Bishop Galen was calling for a totalitarian society to return to the rule of law.
Our religious rightists would subject an independent judiciary, in a free society, to mob intimidation and tyranny of the majority.
We must resist these people.
We must resist fascism.