The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1993 · Page 27
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The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland · Page 27

Baltimore, Maryland
Issue Date:
Friday, July 2, 1993
Page 27
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I THE SUN FRIDAY, JULY 2,1993 27A OPINION o COMMENTARY 8 White Justices and the Odd Man By CARL T.ROWAN Washington. In the final dramatic moments of Its 1992-93 session, the United States Supreme Court gave us new evidence that the Issue of racial justice divides Americans as brutally and destructively today as It did during the Civil War. Eight white Justices divided evenly over what Justice Sandra Day O'Connor delicately called "the propriety of race-based state legislation designed to benefit members of historically disadvantaged racial minority groups," More bluntly, the Issue was whether, after 125 years of white denials of the vote to blacks, and of districts gerrymandered to dilute or nullify black political power, a predominantly white North Carolina legislature could lawfully atone by "positive gerrymandering." The Justice Department, headed by white Republicans In the Bush administration, had told North Carolina that the Voting Rights Act forbade state officials from continuing to draw district boundaries in ways that had ensured that no black North Carolinian had been elected to Congress since Reconstruction. Blacks had been voiceless and powerless, even though they made up one-fourth to one-third of North Carolina's population during most of this century. Under Justice Department pressures, the North Carolina legislature used the 1 990 census to redlstrlct in a way that created two majority-black districts, Nos. 1 and 12. In 1992, two black candidates, Eva Clayton and Mel Watt, were elected to Congress. The Republican Party and some white Individuals went to court, claiming that the legislature's race-consciousness in carving out District 12 violated the rights of white people under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. That clause, ironically, was written to protect black people from the political racism that North Carolina had practiced for more than a century. The Supreme Court had to decide whether, all of a sudden, every Judge or legislator must become "colorblind," ruling out race-based remedies for previous gerrymandering and other electoral discriminations. "This court never has held that race-conscious state decision-making is Impermissible In all circumstances," wrote Justice O'Connor. But then she leaped to the fact that District 12 was a 160-mile-long "bizarre" silver that snaked from Durham, between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, on down to Charlotte. "It is unsettling." she concluded, "how closely the North Carolina plan resembles the most egregious racial gerrymanders of the past. . . . Racial gerrymandering, even for remedial purposes, may Balkanlze us into competing racial factions." Justice O'Connor was Joined by three white men. Chief Justice William Rehnqulst and Justices Anton-in Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy, In casting doubt upon the North Carolina plan. They asked the federal district court to explore whether there was some "compelling" societal interest In approving this "racial gerrymandering." Four white justices, Byron R. White, David H. Souter, Harry A. Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, dissented forcefully. Mr. Blackmun said Justice O'Connor and those who joined her had abandoned law that was long before "settled." Mr. Stevens said that nothing in the Constitution requires a congressional district to be compact, or have all elements contiguous, or that It not have a "bizarre shape." "The duty to govern Impartially Is abused when a group with power over the election process defines electoral boundaries solely to enhance Its own political strength at the expense of any weaker group." wrote Justice Stevens. "That duty, however, Is not violated when the majority acts to facilitate the election of a member of a group that lacks such power." He noted that district boundaries have been drawn to give representation to "rural voters, union members, Hasldlc Jews, Polish Americans or for Republicans." He said "it Is permissible to do the same thing for members of the very minority group whose history in the United States gave birth to the Equal Protection Clause." So there they were. Eight white justices in seemingly irreconcilable conflict. So who broke the tie? The lone black member of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, who Joined the conservative wing In throwing up another legal roadblock to blacks and Hispanlcs who only last year got a chance to have their voices heard and votes cast in our ultimate lawmaking body, the U.S. Congress. Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated col-ironist 1 The lights blinked out suddenly about 10 one recent evening. Left standing at my kitchen sink in complete blackness, I felt a moment of panic. Where were the matches, the candles? Why had we lost power? The darkness enveloped not Just our Baltimore home, but also all the neighboring homes and the streets. There was no obvious reason for the blackout. It was a cool, clear evening In early summer. Power-hungry home air conditioners had not been In use. Within seconds, the outlines of objects began to emerge from the darkness as my eyes adjusted. I felt for the candle that I remembered was right on the kitchen counter and for the box of wooden matches that was In a nearby cabinet. His video game interrupted, my 13-year-old son clunked up from the basement. We lighted the candle and found others. The candles shed a surprising amount of light, but it was a soft light whose limited range encouraged Intimacy. The brief silence had been succeeded by the hoots and laughter of teen-agers and young Fireflies By KATHLEEN McCARTY adults who were outdoors enjoying the summer evening. In the candle glow, all fear vanished. Leaving the candles burning inside, my son and I sat out on the back steps to watch the night. Within five minutes or so, the hooting stopped. At first, the unaccustomed darkness seemed eerie, but as we sat there companlonably, It turned peaceful. Without the glare of the street lights, the stars shone brighter. Then my son noticed something we had never seen before: Lightning bugs by the dozens swarmed in the treetops, twinkling brighter than the stars. It seemed magical. I had never noticed lightning bugs more than 10 or 15 feet off the ground. We wondered whether this was an everyday phenomenon or whether the fireflies were, like us, confused and disori ented by the blackout. I suppose they seemed brighter because the darkness was blacker than the dusk, when we normally saw them. Their diamondlike brightness 60 to 80 feet above in the huge oaks that overspread our yard reminded my son of a fireworks display. We sat watching for a while and then went to look out the front door Just In time to witness a start-lngly large crescent moon sink toward the horizon behind the trees. Both sets of neighbors In the duplex next door sat chatting In candlelight on their porches. We talked for a moment, then returned Indoors, where I began puttering with a sputtering candle and my son read by candlelight. With a rush and whir of the fan In my dining room, the power returned. I gave a small cry of dismay. The blackout of a little more than an hour had been exotic fun. It had brought mother and son together In companionship and neighbors together for a friendly talk. Surely, much Is gained by the technologies of electric power and modern communications. But surely much Is lost as well enjoyment of the natural world and of human intimacy. Without the power outage, my son would have continued to Interact with animated figures on a video screen and I would have continued listening to a radio as I finished my nightly kitchen routine. We would have missed the miracle of the lightning bugs and the startling closeness of the crescent moon. One of the latest soclo-technologl-cal wrinkles Is a computerized telephone service that calls elderly loved ones for their harried offspring. Wouldn't we all be better off If we could be unplugged from our modern way of life and be tuned into ourselves, our fellows and the real world of nature for at least an hour a day? Kathleen McCarty writes from Baltimore. Rockvllle. Laura Houghtellng was murdered last October about a mile from my house. Her body was found the other day about a half-mile from here. Laura's death has shaken this quiet suburban community on the border between Bethesda and Rockvllle. For weeks after the young Bethesda woman disappeared, I compulsively double-checked the locks on my doors and windows. Now that Laura's murderer has confessed In open court, I find myself even more troubled by how the Montgomery County police handled the case. Hadden Clark, a homeless man with a history of mental illness who did some part-time gardening for the Houghtellng family, became the lead suspect In the case. He knew Laura's mother would be out of town the weekend of Laura's murder. He had also expressed a sexual Interest In Laura to one of his acquaintances. Clark was Initially represented by a Montgomery County public defender, who advised him to remain silent and who Instructed Montgomery County police not to question Clark without his attorney present. Nonetheless, on November 6, the suspect was questioned for seven hours about the Houghtellng case. The videotape of the Interrogation revealed that Clark asked for his lawyer more than 100 times. Besides denying Clark his right to see his attorney, police officers threatened him with "death in the gas chamber" and taunted him "to do the manly thing and kill himself." When confronted about their behavior by the public defender, the officers responded that Clark did not meet the financial guidelines of the public defender's office, so they did not consider the public defender to be his lawyer. Whereupon the public defender Informed the police that such decisions were to be made by his boss, not by Montgomery County Police, and that it was common practice for a defendant to be represented by the public defender while financial eligibility was still being determined. The Fifth Amendment states that no person shall be compelled "to be a witness against himself." This Is the heart of our accusatory system of Justice; the government must find evidence to prove Its case. In an inquisitional system the defendant can be forced to testify against himself. Such a system lends Itself to abuse because it puts a premium on confessions. Torture can become a way to get the Job done. In this regard, the inquisitional system is more efficient than the accusatory system. In the words of an English legal scholar, "It Is far pleasanter to sit comfortably in the shade rubbing red pepper into a poor devil's eyes than to go about in the sun hunting up evidence." But In America, as the Supreme Court has ruled, "Our accusatory system of criminal Justice demands that the government seeking to punish an Individual produce the evidence against him by Its own independent labors, rather than by the cruel, simple (means of compelling It from his own mouth." . For this reason, coerced confessions are not admissible as evidence. In Miranda v. Arizona Greater Good By LINDA R. MONK (1966), the Supreme Court held that unless a defendant has been informed of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to an attorney, police questioning of a suspect in custody is Inherently coercive. Wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren: "It Is obvious that such an Interrogation environment Is created for no other purpose than to subjugate the individual to the will of the examiner." Montgomery County police clearly violated Miranda while questioning Hadden Clark, and they knew it. They also knew that any evidence discovered In that interrogation would be inadmissible. Trying to defend their actions, the police later stated that they believed they already had enough evidence to convict Clark and purposely chose to question him without advising him of his rights. Detective Richard Fallln, the chief investigator in the Houghtellng murder, testified that police abandoned their normal procedures for the "greater good" of convincing Clark to disclose the location of Laura's body. Police also wanted to find the body of Michelle Dorr, a 6-year-old who disappeared in 1986 near where the suspect then lived. Clark made no Incriminating statements in the seven-hour interrogation. Detective Fallln's Invocation of "greater good" is especially ironic given that Laura's family later Insisted that disclosing the location of her body not be a factor in negotiating a plea bargain with Clark. Clearly, they wanted to assure that Laura's murderer was punished, whether or not her body was ever found. Clark eventually pleaded guilty to the murder and voluntarily revealed where her body was hidden. To his credit, Montgomery County State's Attorney Andrew Sonner is consulting with the police chief to make sure such incidents don't happen again. "This Is atypical behavior," Mr. Sonner said, "and I want to make sure it says atypical." Frankly, I'm not as sanguine as Mr. Sonner. When a police officer decides to serve a "greater good" than the Bill of Rights, we're all In trouble. Where law enforcement Is concerned, there Is no "greater good" than the Constitution. That's why it Is the supreme law of the land. We ask a lot of our police officers. Faced with the depths of society's depravity, they must uphold our highest values. But If they don't, we're no different than the. Hadden Clarks of the world. Laura Houghtellng knew that. As a student, she wrote that each of us has some evil within. The Bill of Rights is how we try to keep that evil In check. Linda R. Monk is the author of "The Bill of Rights: A User's Guide," which won the American Bar Association's Gavel Award. Clever Clinton's Got the Drop on the GOP Ti Washington. here's never been a better time to run as a Republican," Rep. Bill Paxon. chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told my colleague Fred Barnes recently. Didn't a Republican recently win the open Texas Senate seat with 67 percent of the vote? Meanwhile, direct-mall fund-raising campaigns are sucking record sums out of right-wing wallets. Rush LImbaugh has 16 million listeners. Antl-CHnton-Ism, writes Mr. Barnes, has "revived the conservative movement beyond its wildest dreams." Maybe I have wilder dreams than conservatives. But I doubt It. And It seems to me that the most under-discussed news of the first six months of the Clinton presidency Is that, as far as his re-election is concerned, he now has the Republicans right where he wants them. Don't laugh. Start with the issue that won the Texas Senate seat for the GOP a call to cut the deficit by slashing spending rather than raising taxes. Barely two weeks after the Texas election, Senate Republicans presented their actual deficit-reduction plan. It was unveiled June 23 and defeated the same day. It came and went so quickly that few people noticed how pathetic It was. The Republican plan didn't contain any tax increases, all right. But It also didn't come close to eliminating the deficit. The Senate Democrats' plan, striped of various accounting tricks. ByTRB cuts the deficit about $445 billion over five years. The Republicans, according to their own calculations, managed only a $367 billion reduction. They got that by, first, accepting all Mr. Clinton's defense cuts. Then they accepted all the Senate Democrats' spending cuts. Then, to make up for dropping the Democrats' tax increases, they proposed "caps" on spending. Spending "caps." of course, are not spending cuts. A spending cut directs that a specific expenditure not be made. A spending cap is simply a pledge by Congress to force itself to cut something, somewhere, at some time in the future. It is like promising to start your diet next week. The Republican plan Is now a piece of paper in last week's trash. But it's still significant because it undermines two of the GOP's most feared electoral strategies. The first Is the claim, reiterated for at least 13 years, that the deficit can, In practice, be controlled through spending cuts alone. That's no longer credible. Second, It will be hard for Republicans to claim President Clinton has gutted defense when they have embraced his defense cuts. No tax issue. No defense issue. No communism issue. What does the right have left assuming Mr. Clinton doesn't hand them the compe-terice issue? Well, they can hope for a recession. More aggressively, they talk of a "culture war" against liberals, featuring battles over crime, abortion and family values. The problem here is that, since the 1960s, most Democrats have moved "right," while mainstream culture has moved "left." The gaps that remain often consist of differences in nuance or degree. William Krlstol, Dan Quayle's former chief of staff, told the New York Times that "I do not think society can or should treat homosexuality the same as heterosexu-allty, or at least the same as the heterosexual family." Mr. Krlstol did not say homosexuality is evil. He couldn't even bring himself to say It's flatly worse than heterosexuallty. Some "culture war!" In order for the "culture" issue to work, Democrats have to take the bait proposing to legalize gay marriage, for example. President Clinton isn't about to do this. Quite the opposite. Mr. Krlstol suggests that conservatives might coalesce around a "one-nation" agenda combining opposition to reverse discrimination with "English-only," pro-assimilation sentiments and some immigration controls. Sounds coherent and powerful. It's also nothing Mr. Clinton can't endorse. President Clinton can only really be cornered when a powerful Democratic InteAst group or an in tensely held Democratic doctrine prevents him from being flexible. He could never embrace a true "choice" plan to replace the public schools, because the teachers' unions wouldn't stand for it. But schools are mainly a local Issue. Name a federal question where Mr. Clinton Is similarly shackled. I can't. This is the real significance of Mr. Clinton's much-publicized "shift" to the center. It's not so much that he is now positioned where most of the votes are (though he is). It Is that he's now positioned where he can move to co-opt any particular conservative "culture" Issue that threatens to catch on. Sidney Blumenthal of The New Yorker criticizes the president's neo-centrism, arguing "there Is no new, post-Cold War consensus hldingjust beneath the surface of public opinion, waiting to be fished out." The opposite view, suggested by analysts William Schneider and E.J. DIonne Jr., is that American voters have been pretty clear about what they want (e.g., an abortion compromise), but the Ideologies of the two parties have somehow conspired to prevent them from getting It. If this Is true, then the president who frees himself from his party's demands and seizes the middle ground is capable of dominating national politics for a long time. That's what Bill Clinton is on the verge of doing. TRB is a column of The New Republic, written by Mickey Kaus. Summer, and the Readin' r Is Easy ! By ELLEN GOODMAN t 1 Boston. Have you tried flying lately without taking John Grlsham or Michael Crichton along? Were the people to the right of you reading "The Client" and the people to the left of you reading "Jurassic Park?" Messrs. Grlsham and Crichton together have seven books on the best-seller lists. It's enough to make even an agnostic on Rush LImbaugh wonder if that's "The Way Things Ought to Be." But this is no time of year to get cranky. Summer Is not Just a season) It's an adjective. So in honor of Summer Reading. I offer a Grisham-and) Crichton-free, entirely quirky and thoroughly personal list of books that I Just plain liked over the past months. Don't leave home without one. i First of all, two novels written on the Intimate scale of living rooms, not 767s. "Before and After." Is Ro-sellen Brown's unflinching tragedy about what happens when a safe, even smug family Is divided Into its parts and members are tested according to values as different as loyalty and Justice. When the fateful doorbell rings at the Reiser home. It's to announce that their son may have killed a young girl in their small New; Hampshire town. Suddenly, the fa ther knows Instinctively "our life as a family, our single life as an eight1 legged graceful animal alive under & single pelt, was over." -it Sue Miller's "For Love" Is a love story for the second act, when people come with children and ghosts, baggage and hopes. Lottie Gardner Is a woman In the first year of an uneasy second marriage, with a 20-year-old son, a mother In a nursing home, and a brother In the throes of a lov$ affair. This is the summer that sh$ and we explore romance and' excess, illusions and real love-life, n' In contrast to this modern angst, a trip down "The Road to Wellvllle"; may be Just what the doctor ordered, " T. Coraghessan Boyle has written a' delicious and nutritious historic tale about turn-of-the-century Battle-Creek, Michigan, when John Harvey, Kellogg rode the crest of the health craze. It's a terrific antidote to the current oat-bran brigade. We've been there before. We've also been through the Fifties and I am not at all sure that I welcome the return. But they're back. For serious readers, David Hal-berstam's trek through the decade, i "The Fifties," stands as a reference! book to read from the back the index forward. jf. But for the feel of the time, J would choose Calvin Trillin's elegant memoir, essay, reflection all of the above called "Remembering' Denny." Mr. Trillin "remembers" the golden, smiling Yale classmate , who was "a Rhodes scholar, of: course," a man whose classic "uri- fulfilled promise" ended in suicide at;, age 55. In some ways this careful evocative and elegant book Is both ' an exploration and an example of the Fifties generation's painfull don'l-get-too-close restraint. J Repression is a better word for the stifling atmosphere of Jeffrey Eut genides' Seventies suburb In his novel rne virgin suiciaes. ine, narrators are middle-aged men still haunted by the suicides of the flvd i Lisbon girls In a house that gradually J "receded behind Its mists of youth :i being choked off." Y-; Mr. Eugenldes draws a spell in . creating the atmosphere of near-1., madness around these young girls;-, But Susanna Kaysen breaks Just such a spell. "Girl, Interrupted" is not confessional or accusatory. It is a literary work about the three years Ms. Kaysen spent in a private mental hospital, it's about hospital life and its keepers. "As for finders." she writes "well, we had to be our own , finders." i, If you want to spend this summer reading ahead, Paul Kennedy's book, " "Preparing for the 21st Century" of- '- fers up some fairly sober food for ad- vance thought. For personal prepat ration, however, I finally caught up with John Allen Paulos' "Innumera,- cy" a 1988 book that offers even 11 the mathphoblc a motive and rneth'-. od for learning her numbers. And If Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq are models, the .': world is likely to offer even more rear son to read Michael Walzer's classic work, "Just and Unjust Wars." Finally, about "Possessing the Se ' ! cret of Joy." I had something akin to -approach-avoidance to this Alice.'" Walker novel. It took me a year to get past the theme genital mutilation and open up the cover. Well, It's tough, it's powerful and deeply poetJ -ic. As one character said. "They do not want to hear what their children ';Y suffer. They've made the telling of ; suffering Itself taboo." Writing at Its 'j best, and Alice Walker at her best! breaks taboos. . ; : . Ellen Goodman is a syndicated col: umnist. ) v

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