In a perfect world, the judicial appointment process would not resemble an episode of World Wrestling Entertainment's Smackdown!: Republicans and Democrats would share agreed-upon standards of competence and experience for appointees. The White House would consult widely with senators and nominate mostly consensus candidates to the federal bench. And there would be broad agreement about the role of judges in the constitutional system.
In George Orwell's novel 1984, the authorities trace every act of sabotage, every heresy, every defeat, to a fellow named Emmanuel Goldstein. Little is known about the man except his face, his past and his alleged crimes, but his existence is extraordinarily convenient. If Goldstein didn't exist, his opponents would have had to invent him. In fact, Orwell suggests, they more or less did.
About three years ago, pollster Celinda Lake sat down with then-Representative Debbie Stabenow -- a Michigan Democrat preparing to run for the Senate -- to put together a campaign proposal for prescription drugs. Stabenow had already made headlines busing senior citizens across the border to buy affordable prescription drugs in Canada; she wanted to make high drug prices the focus of her campaign against Republican Spencer Abraham, a leading ally of the pharmaceutical industry. Lake's polling showed that people resented high drug prices enough that they were ready, even eager, for a plan that would tackle the issue head-on. "Why aren't we for price controls?" Stabenow wondered. "That's what everybody wants."
On its face, the United Seniors Association (USA)
decision two weeks ago to launch a major advertising blitz in support of the
House Republicans' prescription-drug proposal was not unusual. The pharmaceutical
industry, which funds the USA, has a huge stake in how the prescription-drug
debate plays out in Congress. Since the 1994 elections, the drug industry's
campaign contributions have tilted Republican at about 72 percent. And even the
ad campaign's $3 million price tag made sense: Steep, but a worthwhile investment
to influence what could turn out to be a massive new government spending program.