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Cheney’s Secrets | Sierra Club Controversy | Specter Wins, Democracy Loses in Pennsylvania

by WS Editors

May 15, 2004 | Politics


Cheney’s Rainy Days—The courtroom combat over the Bush administration’s paranoid cover-up of Vice President Cheney’s secret meetings with energy execs continues. Documents from the 2001 White House huddles between Cheney and such high-ups in the energy industry as Ken Lay of the corrupt Enron Corporation, finally reached the Supreme Court on April 27.

It’s about time, because a lower court had already granted the wish of two groups that sued to find out what went on in those meetings. They are the Sierra Club, the liberal environmental-protection association, and Judicial Watch, a right-wing anti-corruption group. The two groups went to the Supreme Court seeking enforcement of what could become a politically charged issue.

A decision by the Court is expected by July. If the High Court decides it lacks jurisdiction, the lower-court decision requiring Cheney to disclose the information will be considered final, unless the White House—in an election year—appeals again.

This fact hunt is also a duck hunt—or a muck hunt. Justice Antonin Scalia, who flew off to hunt duck with “my friend” Dick Cheney in the vice president’s official airplane, Air Force Two, refused to recuse himself from the Supreme Court hearing, and spoke out strongly there for Cheney’s secrecy protection.

Still Green—The Sierra Club, America’s oldest environmental protection association, founded in 1892, has fended off an attempt to put a conservative grip on its board of directors. A group within the organization had been trying to get the club to support a sharp reduction in U.S. immigration levels. But the broader membership fought back, and the good guys won, brushing off this right-wing takeover campaign.

Will We Ever Know?—The joint appearance of Bush and Cheney before the bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 attacks was a breakthrough. The twosome endured a three-hour, no-transcript, no-recording Oval Office talk on the administration’s awareness of the coming terrorist attacks.

The White House had balked at the creation of the 9/11 Commission. It opposed the appearance of administration officials before it, and tried to avoid the joint presidential-vice presidential appearance. One of the questions for Bush about that was: why does he need the vice president at his side?

The piano-clinking comedian Mark Russell said on PBS that Bush appeared with Cheney “for the same reason that Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy appeared together.”

The Phantom—The senior senator from Pennsylvania is a specter. He is Arlen Specter, 74, and he’s hanging in there. Senator Specter, a four-term Republican, regarded by many in his own party as too liberal, barely survived in an April 27 primary despite some strong support from President Bush.

Against Specter, the G.O.P. primary pitted Representative Pat Toomey, a 44-year-old former investment banker and hard-line conservative who campaigned as a strong Bush proponent. Specter won with only 50.8 percent of the 1 million-plus votes cast despite outspending Toomey by three-to-one.

The Democratic contender for Specter’s Senate seat in November is Representative Joseph Hoeffel, a three-term liberal from Philadelphia. Bush lost Pennsylvania in 2000, and because Specter’s close call in the primary raised questions about his re-election prospects, he has now begun citing his Senate votes against Bush proposals, saying that “the people of Pennsylvania have not elected me as a rubber stamp.”

Rigged Elections—With the help of the Supreme Court, other Pennsylvania Republicans may now be shoo-ins. Given a chance to rule on one of several challenges to the recent surge of partisan gerrymandering in redrawing congressional district lines, the Supreme Court blew it.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the Justices rejected a challenge to the redistricting by Pennsylvania’s Republican-dominated state legislature that gave the G.O.P. a hold on 12 of the 19 congressional districts in a predominantly Democratic state.

Justice Anthony Kennedy called it “unfortunate that our legislators have reached the point of declaring that, when it comes to apportionment: ‘We are in the business of rigging elections.'” But Kennedy joined the majority of Justices in declining to rule on the Pennsylvania challenge. Similar challenges are still to come, and Kennedy urged the Court to “be prepared to order relief” in gerrymandering cases.

Earlier, the Court had declined to review a lower court approval of an even more corrupt Republican redistricting scheme, in Texas. Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the Justices had sent a signal that “anything goes.”

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