Bill Murchison

The filibuster, ah, yes: key weapon in the Southern arsenal against passage, during the '50s and '60s, of civil rights legislation. From Harry Byrd of Virginia, trying to block open accommodation laws to Robert Byrd of West Virginia, conspiring to knock down traditionalist judges -- it has been some journey.

Republicans this week are talking about "filibuster reform" -- changing the rules that allow a minority to keep up the windbaggery, thus preventing a vote they would lose. As President Bush noted last week: "We are facing a crisis in the Senate and therefore a crisis in our judiciary. Highly qualified judicial nominees are waiting years to get an up-or-down vote in the United States Senate."

Well, you know what, that's how the Daschleites like it. They understand the stakes. Traditionalists on the bench? It all could end with -- we near the nub now -- the toppling of that monument to judicial we-know-bestism, Roe vs. Wade.

The end of Roe vs. Wade, and the return of the human life question to state legislatures, as before, would unhinge a key constituency of the Democratic coalition -- the feminist hierarchy, which doesn't want to deal with grubby legislators. Let the people's representatives decide? The horror, the horror! Let's keep this thing as far away from the people as possible. If that means reviving the stalling tactics of the Southern Bourbons during the civil rights era, so be it.

Now, if from the filibuster squad we could only have a little honesty about motives ... ! Best, while we all wait for that unlikely admission, not to leave the collard greens simmering.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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