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Darrell Huckaby - 05/29/09

So now the brouhaha begins.

The Founding Fathers went out of their way to create a Constitution that was plumb full of checks and balances and a stringent separation of powers among the three branches of government. The president can do certain things, but only if Congress approves. Congress can pass all the laws it wants, but the president with one stroke of his veto pen can render a potential law null and void. Of course if enough congressmen in either chamber believe strongly enough that a bill should become law, they can override that veto.

It's a heck of a system, really, and has stood us in good stead for right at 222 years now. And if you consider politics a spectator sport, as do I, the infighting and wheeling and dealing in and amongst the different divisions of our government can be quite entertaining.

Some presidents, for all their noble ideas, have a tough time negotiating with the boys - and now a few gals - on Capitol Hill. FDR was holding all the cards when he entered office after the 1932 election. The economy was in a shambles of course - and I mean a real shambles. We all feel the pain that a 9 percent unemployment rate has brought to our nation. Multiply that by 4 and you will get some understanding of what real hard times were.

During his first 100 days in office FDR pushed more sweeping reform through Congress than any 10 presidents had before him. And when the Supreme Court began to exercise its right of judicial review and declare some of the New Deal programs unconstitutional, Roosevelt threatened to add six more positions to the high court - positions that he, as president, would fill, thus packing the court with men who would rubber stamp even his most radical legislation.

Discretion being the better part of valor, the court backed off and allowed some of the more constitutionally questionable policies to stand and that was that.

JFK never could get along with the Southern Democrats in Congress and was surprisingly ineffective at getting his social agenda passed. His successor, however, Lyndon Johnson, had been in the Senate for three decades. Everybody owed LBJ a favor. Plus he knew where every skeleton was hidden and where every body was buried in Washington D.C. - figuratively speaking. He also had Kennedy's recent martyrdom going for him. He was able to get Civil Rights legislation passed that Democrats had been seeking since Truman was in the White House. He was also able to create a social welfare state that many people thought would be the ruination of the nation - and he got Congress to write him a blank check to escalate the war in Vietnam.

Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976 in large part because he was a Washington outsider. Because he was an outsider he never fully understood the workings of the political system - or maybe he understood but just wasn't willing to play the games necessary to promote his agenda. At any rate, he was one of the most ineffective presidents in history at getting legislation passed.

Just like FDR benefited from serving with a Congress made up of a majority of his party, so did Ronald Reagan and he was able to affect sweeping economic change during his tenure. Bill Clinton presided over the greatest period of sustained growth in the history of this country and with a Democrat as president and a Republican Congress, neither side was able to mess things up too bad.

And now we have a Democrat as president and a virtually filibuster proof Democratic Congress and Barack Obama has been faced with making his first lasting decision as chief executive. He has made an appointment to the Supreme Court, whose members serve for life. (More of those checks and balances woven into the fabric of our government.)

The appointee is Sonia Sotomayer, a 54-year-old women from the lower Bronx. And what are her main qualifications? Apparently that she has a Hispanic heritage and is a woman.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white man who hasn't lived that life." That is a direct quote from the apparent heir to Justice David Souter's position on the highest court in the land.

I know that the Obama apologists will say, "that's not a big deal!" just like it wasn't a big deal when he bowed to a foreign prince, breaking a 222-year-old precedent established by George Washington and just like it wasn't a big deal when he signed a budget with 9,000 earmarks after promising hundreds of times that there would be no earmarks in any budget he signed.

But it's a big deal to me, just like it would be a big deal to the Democrats if, say, a Bush appointee had said, "I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experience would more often or not reach a better conclusion than a (insert the ethnicity of your choice here; Latino, African-American, Native American, Asian American ... take your pick) who hasn't lived that life."

Racism is racism, no matter what the mainstream media chooses to ignore.

How's that change we can believe in working out for us so far?

Darrell Huckaby