It appears obvious that John W. Donohue, S.J., (Of Many Things, 1/5) missed the fundamental reason for the refusal of Senate Democrats to allow the confirmation of Miguel A. Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The D.C. court is one of the most important courts in the country and is often a stepping stone for Supreme Court appointments. Estrada’s slim record shows him to be an extreme conservative, some say an ideologue. Yet the White House refused to release information on Estrada that would provide the Senate with adequate information necessary for its advice-and-consent responsibility.
His appointment was opposed by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. President George W. Bush was catering to Hispanic voters in much the same way as his father, former President Bush, did when he sought to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall with Justice Clarence Thomas.
Leo J. Jordan, Esq.
West Orange, N.J.
The column by John W. Donohue, S.J., was not only well written, it was also very well reasoned. The entire Democratic effort to obstruct the confirmation of judicial nominees by means of the filibuster has, as Father Donohue notes, caused great damage to the judiciary; but it has substantially weakened the Senate as an institution as well. Use of the process to require, in effect, a supermajority of 60 percent for the confirmation of judges, who by rule and tradition really need only 51 votes to be confirmed, should give pause to any citizen who might foresee tragic abuses of this process. The resulting diminution of our civil rights in high stakes areas, where senators in the minority party may repeatedly play the poor loser (terrorism legislation and voting rights immediately come to mind) should cause all U.S. citizens who care about their government to call on the Democrats to abandon such tacticsimmediately.
With regard to Miguel Estrada, Father Donohue might have also noted that Mr. Estrada is a former federal prosecutor in New York, that he is often appointed as amicus curiae by the U.S. Supreme Court to argue cases of import to the public and that he dedicates a significant portion of his valuable time to pro bono activities. Beyond being highly qualified for a judicial position, Mr. Estrada defines what a public citizen lawyer should be. The Democratic opposition to him is shameful and demonstrates that the party is interested in racial and ethnic diversity only as long as the diverse think and believe what their leaders want them to.
Stephen J. Murphy
Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Victorious and Blameless?
Your editorial greeting the new year, Fare Forward Voyagers... (1/5), quotes Santayana’s characterization (in 1911) of the modern American as convinced that he always has been, and always will be victorious and blameless. As you suggest, we Americans have matured somewhat since; wars, depression, disease and time have left their mark. However, I found the discussion of victory and blame that followed the Santayana quote disturbing on several counts.
President Bush did not announce victory in the war in Iraq from that aircraft carrier on May 1. He announced the successful completion of major combat operations in Iraq. No fair listener at the time took his statement to mean that our job in Iraq was finished. I am sure that the editors at America did not either.
Citing our loss of brave soldiers and others in Iraq, and citing reports that the United States is now thought of rather as the Roman Empire was thought of by its uneasy neighbors, seems to me to lay too much blame for the conflict in Iraq on the United States. When it comes to the regime of Saddam Hussein, there is plenty of blame to be shared. In the 1980’s the United Nations let Iraq’s aggression against Iran go unchallenged, and the United States even rendered covert support to the Saddam Hussein regime. In 1991 we honored our pledge to our allies, and thus failed to take the war to liberate Kuwait all the way to Baghdad. Then we spent the next 12 years working through the United Nations to contain Saddam Hussein through force and sanctions, passing resolution after resolution long after it had become obvious that this monster, unattended, was not about to leave his neighbors at peace, while he tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of his own people.
Yes, many share blame for a failure to act against Saddam Hussein; but finally in 2003, perhaps because of lessons learned on 9/11, we formed a coalition and acted. The Saddam Hussein regime is gone, and if we succeed in stabilizing Iraq and leave the Iraqi people with a degree of freedom and hope exceeding many of its neighbors, the word credit will come to mind, not blame.
I suspect that some of the uneasiness abroad, particularly in continental Europe, may have less to do with fear of U.S. power than with Europe’s repeated failure to confront tyranny in a timely fashion. First there was Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s, and then more recently the Balkans, where Europe failed to act in its own backyard until we finally led, without, incidentally, U.N. authorization. In Iraq, most failed to act at all. Too much of this could cause a European to feel uneasy, perhaps from a sense of guilt, or even envy.
President Bush has accepted blame. In his speech on Nov. 6, he said, Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe. He has not declared victory; but, God willing, he will.
As for our failure to achieve victory over AIDS, terrorism, poverty and job creationwell, you sure ask a lot. For now, let’s celebrate progress: a record U.S. financial commitment to fight AIDS, no foreign terrorist act on our shores since 9/11 and evidence of a strong economic rebound that is creating jobs and thereby reducing poverty.
Happy New Year. Really, you are allowed to be happy!
Paul A. Vermylen Jr.
Lloyd Harbor, N.Y.
Recalling the Council
My thanks and congratulations to Nathan D. Mitchell for his excellent retrospective on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s landmark document on the liturgy (The Council’s Call, 1/19). Many of my students in the 1960’s were surprised that my liturgical studies had enabled me to predict what the council should do and most of what it did do. As Mr. Mitchell points out, the constitution was not a radical document in terms of what was needed. It is distressing to hear young priests with no sense of history criticize the council document. The liturgical reforms that Mr. Mitchell cites are of uneven quality, depending on the leaders who inaugurated them, and, more important, the resources at their disposal. With the earlier work of liturgical reformers like Parsch, Jungmann, Klauser et al., we had excellent resources and excellent people on the commission.
(Rev.) Thomas J. Conroy
St. Paul, Minn.
Your cover photo, intended to accompany Nathan Mitchell’s enlightening article, made me laugh! Not identified, it reminded me of old churches and chapels I had visited throughout Europe: two candles on one end of the altar, a small floral arrangement on the other end and occasionally an arrangement on the floor. The Council’s Call was better illustrated by the art of Gerard Quigley that accompanied the article inside the magazine. At least it included people, although, as far as I can tell, not women.
A Welcome Gift
Thomas McCarthy’s column Gift of Waiting (l/5) is award-worthy work. Tying a lifelong Christian’s familiar experience of sleeplessness to Dylan Thomas’s memorable lines Do not go gently into that good night... was brilliant in both imagination and artistry. Essays simply do not come better than this. My thanks to Mr. McCarthy.
Richard B. Morris
San Juan Bautista, Calif.
Thomas McCarthy’s reflections challenged me to move beyond the highly addictive dualism to which our culture constantly seeks to seduce me. God wants my soul to grow; the world wants it to stay stunted.
Struggling to free himself from the world’s seductive traps, the writer has given us the gift of an extremely personal and authentically human insight: The gift is not the end or culmination; waiting itself is the gift.
It was a joy to read a piece that so masterfully wove together philosophy, literature, sociology and economics, all for the sake of encouraging individuals to grow spiritually.