The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on October 17, 1991 · Page 10
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October 17, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 10

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Thursday, October 17, 1991
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A-10Comment THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Thursday, October 17, 1991 THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER WILLIAM J. KEATING Chairman and Publisher GEORGE R. BLAKE Editor, Vice President THOMAS E. DUNNING Managing Editor THOMAS S. GEPHARDT Associate Editor DARRYLW. EVERETT Vice President, Advertising WILLIAM R. JOHNSTON Vice President, Circulation MARK S. MIKOLAJCZYK Vice President, Production J.AMES A. SCHWARTZ Vice President, Finance GERALD T. SILVERS Vice President, Marketing Services A Gannett Newspaper Term limits A California court affirms the validity of such reforms Senate process needs changes a member of either house can run for the other. In his decision for the court, Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas wrote, "Restriction upon the succession of incumbents serves a rational public policy." The court said the power of incumbency was so strong that 92 of California lawmakers won re-election in the same vote that passed the term-limit initiative. The justices also ripped at the political machines and patronage power long-term incumbency breeds. It is almost impossible for most challengers to match the name recognition and campaign war chests of incumbents, who normally have greater access to media. Elated by the court decision, Jonathan M. Coupal, attorney for the law's citizen sponsors, said, "Term limits are going to sweep the nation, and the political process is going to be better for it. We are going to see a new class of legislators, who are not interested in careerism but in the best interests of their district (s) and their constituents." Colorado and Oklahoma also adopted term limits in 1990, and the state of Washington has a similar proposal on its November ballot. Reflecting the mood of millions of Americans, the California decision sends a warning to long-term incumbents everywhere. The California Supreme Court has spoken loudly and clearly for term limits on elected officials in a 6-1 decision with national ramifications. The justices did so by upholding the 1990 Political Reform Act limiting the terms of state legislators and statewide-elected officials. What was most striking is that the decision not only "upheld term limits but branded them "rational public policy." The court's logic applies to Issue 5 on Cincinnati's Nov. 5 ballot, limiting members of city council to four consecutive two-year terms. Exiting council members could run again after four years. The California decision also upheld the 1990 reform act's provision mandating a 38 cut in the budget of the legislature. But it invalidated the law's third provision removing legislators from the state retirement system. The major feature of the law limits the 80 members of the State Assembly to three two-year terms and the 40 state senators to two four-year terms. Statewide officials can serve two four-year terms. The limits apply only to service since passage of the law. That means Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown, a legislator for almost 27 years, could serve another five years. Limits apply whether terms are served consecutively or not. Having served the limit, Parker's own state endorsed him. Labor attacked him for a decision he'd written as an appellate judge, an opinion ostensibly based on Supreme Court rulings. The upshot, in any case, was an alliance of Senate Democrats, Republicans and Progressives that on a 41-39 vote May 7, 1930 made him the first Supreme Court nominee rejected this century. Hoover waited just two days to nominate in his place Owen J. Roberts, whom the GOP-controlled Senate swiftly confirmed. Two other justices, incidentally, came to the court under Hoover Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Benjamin Cardozo. Politics put aside A civil engineer by profession, Hoover insisted appointments to the Supreme Court should be non-political. In an Indianapolis speech during his 1932 re-election campaign, he accused his opponent, New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, of implying that the party controlling the White House should control the Supreme Court. "For generations Republican and Democratic presidents alike have made it their most sacred duty to respect and maintain the independence of America's greatest tribunal," Hoover said in a speech quoted in The Hoover Administration by William Starr Myers and Walter H. Newton. "... All appointees to the Supreme Court have been chosen solely on the basis of character and mental power (italics added). Not since the Civil War have the members of the court divided on political lines." Whether Hoover was correct that politics had never figured in Supreme Court appointments is unknown. But who could fault a selection process based solely on a potential nominee's character and mental power? Neither without the other would suffice. But together? Assuming the prospect's physical fitness, that should be enough. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., got it right: "The whole thing was a disaster. The whole process was a disaster." Imagine the effect on the nation, espe cially its young, of last weekend's televised Thomas hearing from the Senate's ornate caucus room. Most Americans must have felt in need of a shower when it ended. Nothing like it had ever happened. May nothing like it ever happen again. This is not to blame Judge Clarence Thomas or Anita Hill. They did what they were compelled to do after the FBI report on her sex-harassment charges were leaked. The Senate Judiciary Committee decided her complaints had to be aired publicly, with supportive and rebut ting witnesses, and the two principals complied. Price of awareness Granted, the hearing raised the na tion s consciousness on sexual harass ment. But at what a price! Imagine the twittering, the jokes, the off-color comments around the nation, if not much of the world, in the hearing's wake. Imagine what thousands of boys and girls thought as they watched and heard the testimony and senatorial questioning. Imagine what many must be thinking and talking about now. The episode could scarcely have raised public respect for the Senate. Respect for Congress was already low with the additional jolt recently of the rubber-check and unpaid food-bill scandals in the House. That phone circuits to Washington Monday morning were jammed was scarcely surprising. While many callers may have been casting their votes for or against Judge Thomas, many must have been expressing their dismay and regret, as well, at the weekend spectacle regardless of how they felt about him or Ms. Hill, his former aide who teaches in the University of Oklahoma law school. How can the nation remedy the process by which nominees for the high court may be scandalized, whether confirmed or not? What reforms are in order to protect the public interest without sub- Federal funds Luken correctly challenged EPA's spend-it-fast memo Robert Webb jecting nominees to a public display of their misdeeds or alleged misdeeds? Grand juries are secret to protect the innocent and insure that a trial, if justified, will be in a courtroom not in an internationally televised congressional hearing without the rules of evidence and other traditional standards of decorum and fairness. The Thomas hearing clearly troubled Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer of the Ohio Supreme Court, as it must have judges, lawyers and much of the public across America. "The hearings were harmful," he said. "Thomas was right that the United States suffered. Blacks were hurt. . . . There must be a better way." Justice Moyer suggested one way to improve the process may be for presidents to consult with Senate leaders on prospective nominees. He said he thought Herbert Hoover, as president, did this on at least one occasion. Hoover, as he recalled, showed Senate leaders a list of 10 prospects and asked their opinion. Such consultation might help smooth a nominee's way to confirmation. Whatever Republican Hoover's process of nominating, opposition exploded against his choice April 10, 1930, for the high tribunal of Judge John J. Parker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Parker's supporters included many U.S. district, U.S. appellate and state judges. The president and five past presidents of the American Bar Association endorsed him. So did state bar presidents and highly-regarded lawyers from both political parties. But national black leaders and organized labor chiefs jumped on his nomination. His black opponents attacked a statement they said he made as a candidate for governor of North Carolina. Nevertheless, black leaders in Judge William F. Buckley Jr. long ago that Neil Kinnock inherited a party that had committed itself to unilateral nuclear disarmament and whose hard-left wing (the militant tendency) behaved like a mob assembling to storm the Winter Palace. Gradually, and of course under the impulse of successive defeats at the hand of Mrs. Thatcher, Kinnock rowed right-ward. There is no longer any talk of destroying Britain's nuclear arsenal (though there is talk of its progressive uselessness). And in Kinnock's big speech at Brighton, the Economist reports that "Mr. Kinnock used the 'S' word only twice, and each time with a give-away prefix: 'We are democratic socialists.' For earlier generations, the qualifying adjective would have been superfluous even offensive. Instead, he offered a managerial vision of a better-educated work force and more investment in industry. He would lead a 'value-for-money government.' Some 15 years ago, he was arguing that it was not Labor's job 'to salvage and re-establish capitalism.' " Meanwhile, there was a pleasant surprise at Blackpool. There had been some apprehension about just how Michael He-seltine would be treated. He is at the moment the environment minister, but historically it was he who initiated the challenge that suddenly and unexpectedly unseated Mrs. Thatcher, so that there was concern that the conference would hid Government agencies traditionally don't want much in the kitty when a fiscal year ends. Unspent funds tempt budget cuts. Hence U.S. Rep. Charles Luken's suspicions when he saw a memoran dum urging employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laboratory in Cincinnati to spend what remained in the travel budget. He has properly called for a complete accounting of the laboratory's $945,000 travel budget for the year ended Sept. 30. Representative Luken's interest was piqued by the Luken memo E. Timothy Oppelt, director of the laboratory, wrote Sept. 13, when $11,900 remained in the budget. "It's too close to the end of the fiscal year to show substantial increases to our travel balances," Mr. Oppelt wrote. "Please remind your staff to keep already scheduled trips and to use the remaining travel dollars, if possible." As federal funds go, $11,900 isn't much. For that matter, as federal spending goes, $945,000 isn't much. Major stands on shaky ground Many corporations have curtailed travel, however, from recession-shrunk profits. So should public agencies. Private firms find tele- or video-conference hookups a frequent substitute for travel. Nothing wholly re places person-to-person meetings. But surely much public business could be transacted with less travel. Alfred Lindsey, director of EPA's Office of Environmental Engineering and Technology Demonstration, said Mr. Oppelt was simply trying to reassure employees that funds were available for scheduled travel. Mr. Oppelt was said to have learned workers were canceling trips on the assump tion the funds weren't there. Mightn't some have canceled, how ever, from concern with the government's need for thrift? After all, feder al employees pay taxes, too. In any event, Representative Luken was right to spotlight what would appear to be questionable spending. He should stay on the prowl for other suspected waste targets. mounted for China to halt all shipments of such products. Reaffirmation of the alleged export ban came the same day, incidentally, the Bush administration threatened to reimpose trade sanctions on Chinese goods if the China market doesn't open more fully to U.S. products. Whether the U.S. threat opens that market, however, may be doubtful China has proved ruggedly resistant to threats of any nature. U.S. sanc tions may have to be reimposed not only to lower import barriers but also to end, fully and finally, competition from prison labor. Robert Webb is a member of The Enquirer's editorial board. be divided in receiving him. Not so. He is, by common consent, the crowned king of Conservative orators, and he gave the Conservatives the fighting talk they wanted to hear, including such galvanizers as, "We are going to take the Labor Party apart as we have never done before!" His ovation was stupendous, and there was some concern that however well he did, the prime minister, Mr. Major, would not be able to top the performance of his ministers. There was talk in London that Jeffrey Archer, the politician-novelist, was there among the elect group who put together the lines for Mr. Major's speech. Expressed concern But the problem the Conservatives face is not unlike that of the Republicans under George Bush. They need to be touched by a communicable national concern. The Telegraph 's Charles Moore put it this way: "They will not be convinced if Mr. Major displays only amiability. ... If Mr. Major is merely nice he will be condescending. He will be saying, in effect: 'Don't bother your heads with complicated policies, or upset yourselves with political argument. Just leave it to my decency and my colleagues' ability.' He has to show he Trusts the People enough to explain what he stands for and what he means to do. The reason that Britain needs a Tory government, after all, has nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Major is nicer than Mr. Kinnock." William F. Buckley Jr. is a New York-based author, editor and nationally syndicated columnist. China Ban on forced-labor exports is noted for wide exceptions LONDON: There's nothing like an election coming up to quicken the political pulse, and the Labor Party in Great Britain construes the decision of Prime Minister John Major not to hold elections this November he's required to hold them sometime before July as a sign of weakness. It is that only in the sense that if Mr. Major thought he could easily win another term for the Conservative Party tomorrow, why, he would hold elections tomorrow. His decision to postpone indicates at once insecurity about the present and optimism about the future. Yes, inflation is coming down (from 10 to 4), exports are rising, and the mood is generally good. Thatcher's shadow Mr. Major has had to contend with his emergence from the large shadow cast by Margaret Thatcher. The general scene is about as it might have been at Buckingham Palace after Queen Victoria died what on Earth am I going to do to match that one? In fact, it is more difficult, since in this case Queen Victoria hasn't died, .she is very much around, and she made an appearance at the party's annual conference (at Blackpool), where she was treated like Joan of Arc. A British poll reveals that 80 of Conservatives holding office believe that their prospects for re-election are a little brighter under John Major than under the Iron Lady. And remember, we are talking about a country that cast aside Winston Churchill in 1945 in exchange for Clement Attlee. But the cheer on the other side of the aisle is to an amusing extent a reflection of the gradual departure of the British socialists from socialism. It was not very China now says again that it won't permit the export of goods made by convict labor and will punish violators. The ban conspicuously applies, however, only to prisons the Justice Ministry and its agencies administer. Exempt are the wide array of labor camps where Beijing "re-educates" prisoners denied trial. Prison labor lets China market products cheaper, presumably, than just about anybody. Such goods may be marketed, as well, in a conspiracy with foreign traders. Many prisoner-made goods are believed shipped through Hong Kong in a kind of product-laundering process. But pressure from abroad has V) f ft

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