Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Newsletter: November 15, 2005

“Life has taught me: we must put our convictions into action” ~Margaret Sanger

Is Public Health a House on Fire?

Click here to see a video of the speech I gave at the University of Alabama School of Public Health.

Spinning Justice

It appears to me that President Bush and the Republican Senate leadership are attempting to suppress opposition to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court by convincing us that a) Alito respects precedent, Roe is the precedent, and thus he is not likely to vote to overturn Roe and b) Alito’s position in Roe (i.e. the right to privacy)is the central question. The central question actually is: Do you, Judge Alito, believe a woman has the fundamental human and civil right to make her own childbearing decisions? This is what the Senators must ask Alito and insist that he answer. If he says “no” or equivocates, then he should not be confirmed. Period.

The Women's Lawyers Association of Los Angeles presented me with their Courage Award on October 20th. Click here to read my speech.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Newsletter: October 17, 2005

Harriet Miers:

Is the Right Protesting Too Much?

The most virulent attacks on Miers are coming from George Bush’s base—the right-wing ideological groups like the Eagle Forum and their cronies in the Senate such as Sen. Sam Brownback.

“Souter in a skirt” they have called Miers, revealing more than a whiff of sexist derision.

EC for EW

(Every Woman Who Needs it When She Needs it)

Want to reduce abortions by half?

Want to know who is keeping the means from American women?

Want to do something about it?

The War on Choice has achieved cinematographic fame!

If you look really closely at the table in the room where the 40 Year-old Virgin is awaiting his appointment for birth control information, you’ll see WOC, along with Tom Davis’s excellent book Sacred Work.

Also, WOC made the “Bitch List” in the latest Bitch magazine: “Tempting as it can be to focus tactics narrowly on abortion, such an approach serves neither women nor feminism well, and The War on Choice is an important recognition of that fact.”

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Harriet Miers: Is the Right protesting too much?

Last week, I happened to see a lawyer who runs an association of women judges and has a long history of national leadership in the legal field. She basically knows everyone who is anyone in the legal profession. I asked her what she thought about Miers.

“Well”, she replied in all seriousness and after some thought, “she’s not a monster.”

This hit me like a ton of bricks--that in this era of hard-right conservative grip on our nation’s political institutions, “not being a monster” could be a qualification for the highest court in the land—the United States Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the Constitution, the nine men and women who decide how laws can intrude upon or enhance our lives, our liberties, our fundamental civil rights.

Now the interesting thing is that the strongest concerns being voiced about and even outright opposition to Miers are coming not just from Democrats and organizations on the progressive side of the ledger. In fact, the pithiest language progressives seem to be able to muster is that they are “troubled” by the nomination. Makes me want to pour buckets of starch into their backbones—but that’s a subject for another day.

The most virulent attacks on Miers are coming from George Bush’s base—the right-wing ideological groups like the Eagle Forum and their cronies in the Senate such as Sen. Sam Brownback.

“Souter in a skirt” they have called Miers, revealing more than a whiff of sexist derision.

You do have to wonder what Bush is thinking:
But then there is this Administration’s recent record—appointing a male veterinarian to run the women’s health division of the FDA—a former horse association director to run FEMA—the Texas Lottery commissioner to USSC-- do we see a pattern? Cronyism rather than qualifications perhaps?

In the absence of information, people tend to make up their own, so it’s no surprise that both sides have big questions about Harriet Miers.

Perhaps this nomination is arrogance as usual from the Bush White House, once again thumbing its nose at anyone who dares to question them. “You want to judge my nominees by their past decisions? Well, I’ll show you—I’ll give you a nominee who has written NO decisions.”

Or--is this a sign that the right is losing its power, in the wake of Schiavo and Katrina and DeLay and Rove and Frist and voter anger about the war in Iraq? Should the Democrats simply declare victory and go home, since Bush didn’t nominate a monster?

The only way for the public to find out is for the Senate Judiciary committee—R’s and D’s alike--to insist (at a minimum) upon the release of Miers’ legal memos during her tenure as White House Counsel and Deputy Counsel. These are the only documentation of her legal thinking on the great issues facing our nation.

And Miers must—MUST-- answer questions on her judicial philosophy and Constitutional perspectives on those issues.

‘Strict scrutiny” of Harriet Miers is absolutely necessary in the interest of the integrity of the Court and the esteem in which we should all hold it and its opinions.

There is a fragile centrist balance on the current USSC today. It divides 5-4 on many criitcal issues like reproductive and other civil rights, and separation of religion and government. This appointment to fill the seat vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will either hold that center or tip the scales toward the Scalia and Thomas side of the Court.

Miers tried to get the American Bar Association to rescind its pro-Roe position. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty reliable code for the probability that Miers will sit on the rightward end of the Court’s liberal to conservative continuum.

And I think the braying you hear from the political right is just a cover, that they desperately want Miers to be confirmed because they have been assured by the White House that she is one of their own.

Copyright 2005, Gloria Feldt

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harry, Sam, and the Incredible Vanishing Woman

Here's what I've been thinking lately. What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court nominations?

The cartoon got me thinking. The one with President Bush looking at a free-falling Harriet Miers and saying something like “Somebody had to take the fall, Harriet”, and Miers in mid-air smiling and saying something like “You’re still the very best president that ever was!”

Except for her legal career and the fact she never married, Miers is the very archetype of the 1950’s ideal woman: deferential to men yet cheerfully ready to do their bidding, self-effacing, focused on the minutiae rather than the big problems of the world, a little dowdy in her dress as appropriate for her age, churchgoing. She’s the perfect back-to-the future woman precisely because it can be said that she is professionally accomplished but still has those traditional hierarchical family values that the right-wing loves so much.

So then, why didn’t the right love Harriet Miers? Why was her nomination killed by her own while the Democrats played ‘let’s you and her fight” and watched, smiling, from the sidelines as she went down in flames and bobbed right back up ready to help with the nomination of the next nominee?

Was she just a stalking horse from the beginning, a set up for failure so she could be superseded by Bush’s appointment of a more reliably far(ther) right justice, such as Samuel Alito seems to be? Was she an example of the worst kind of affirmative action—in which a member of a disadvantaged group is appointed to a position for which he or she is eminently unqualified so that when the inevitable failure occurs those in power can say “See, I told you so.”, and proceed to appoint someone else of their own advantaged group? Or was it something even more difficult to define because it is more insidious—the story of the incredible disappearing woman? The story that has repeated itself over and over in history every time women have ascended in power and influence? Is the covert message in the right’s opposition to Miers rooted in the deep-seated misogyny that underpins the vicious backlash that has hamstrung the feminist movement?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Newletter: September 28, 2005

Robert’s Court Will Show Women Who’s Boss

Let me resist the impulse to start lambasting the Senate Democrats for once again dividing and conquering themselves, starting with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid opposing and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, supporting John Roberts' confirmation as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let me stay on the issue at hand: the specter of a Roberts court.

It will change the country in numerous and profound ways.

Read more at Women’s e-News...

Commander in Chief

A White House Project screening of the first episode of the new television series “Commander in Chief” left me and most of the audience alternately cheering and tearing. Genna Davis admirably plays the first woman vice-president who becomes president after the president dies (and after being counseled to resign since obviously a woman could not be taken seriously on national defense issues, would not be acceptable to Muslim heads of state, does not have sufficient power needs to do the job, etc.). It’s a premise whose time has come, and by the time the 2008 elections come along, perhaps its time will have gone and no one will think necessary for the first woman president to inherit the presidency rather than winning it fair and square at the ballot box.

Surrounded by history-Looking toward the future

I believe that every generation has to speak in its own language about the important issues of the day. So it is with the struggle for women to achieve an equal place at life’s table. We won reproductive rights from the top down with Roe. Now we are going to have to win them again, from the bottom up, vote by vote, state by state, and heart by heart, mind by mind.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Newsletter: Day 1 of Roberts Hearings November 12, 2006

Hearings Day 1:

Should Progressives Oppose John Roberts?

The argument goes something like this: things aren’t as bad as they could be, so don’t exert the energy to fight for what you believe. Anyway, if and when the Court does roll back, say, reproductive rights or religious freedoms, that will “only” have consequences where legislative bodies pass laws against them...there will be future, even worse, nominees to the Court; save your resources till things get worse. Read More

Roberts and Roe

Am I saying then that John Roberts supports or condones violence? Of course not. But I am saying that when he had a chance to weigh in and explicitly oppose the rising tide of violence that continued to escalate over the ensuing years, he did not. That is a serious question of character. Read More

On August 15th, I appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss NARAL’s decision to pull their ad on John Roberts and raised my own questions about the nominee.

Click here to watch the interview and read the transcript.

What’s she doing now?

This is the question I most frequently hear since I left the presidency of Planned Parenthood Federation of America earlier this year. After a wonderful few months of travel and family fun (the summer of my content, I call it), I’m writing a new book, taking speaking engagements, and doing media commentary about my passions. It’s liberating to speak in my own voice, which might just be a tad edgy these days.