Mass. senators are spitting into the wind on attempted filibuster

Oh, boy! We're fixin' to have some fun now. The potential confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has just taken a nasty little turn as those two bastions of statesmanship, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy - who both happen to be senators from Massachusetts - have called for a Democratic filibuster to block a vote on Alito's confirmation.

John Kerry reminds me of the rich kid on the playground who, when he doesn't get his way, takes his ball and goes home so nobody gets to play. You might recall that John Kerry wanted to be president and if he had won the 2004 election, he would be. Then he would get to pick who replaces Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

But he didn't and he doesn't and so now he claims that Samuel Alito's confirmation would be an "ideological coup." What that means is that Samuel Alito doesn't think like John Kerry. Thank goodness for that.

Kerry, by the way, made these comments from Switzerland. It takes talent to stir up this big a stink from 4,000 miles away - as the chicken flies.

Ted Kennedy says that his opposition to Alito is "a matter of conscience." It seems funny to hear Ted Kennedy talk about conscience. I wonder how long it took for his to quit bothering him after Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in the front seat of his car.

Of course, we shouldn't be too hard on the senator. He did report the incident to the authorities - the next day.

Now there was a time when a good filibuster was quite a spectacle.

The procedure is designed to ensure unlimited debate on important issues and there was a time when, according to Senate rules, once a senator was recognized by the president of the Senate, that person had the floor and could talk until doomsday - as long as he or she didn't yield the floor, stop talking or sit down.

Remember that great old movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"? Now that was a filibuster! Jimmy Stewart, sweat popping out his forehead, tie askew, barely able to mumble - reading from the Bible and the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution - trying to buy a little time so the truth could be set free.

Most filibusters, in real life, have not been nearly so noble. Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, holds the record for the longest individual filibuster. He stood and spoke for more than 24 hours in an effort to block legislation that would necessitate his white grandchildren having to mix in society with his black grandchildren. It was wrong-minded and mean-spirited, of course, but it was fashionable and won old Strom a lot of friends down in this part of the world.

Well, Kerry and Kennedy's proposed filibuster may not be as wrong-minded as Sen. Thurmond's, but it is not about ideology either. It's about politics, plain and simple.

There was a time when I might have enjoyed a good filibuster. After all, politics has always been a spectator sport in the South. Now, however, the Senate rules have been rewritten to take all the fun out of the process. Now you can just declare a filibuster. You don't have to actually stand and think of things to say.

I'll explain. You know how, in baseball, when the pitcher decides to walk a batter intentionally he has to actually throw the four pitches to the catcher? In slow pitch softball, though, you can just tell the umpire you want to put the batter on base.

Same thing here. You just have to declare a filibuster.

The Senate rules have also been changed, however, so that a filibuster can be brought to a close if 60 senators so vote. The floor leader of the Democrats, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said Thursday that the first thing you learn in the Senate is how to count, implying that Kerry and Kennedy have not done their math homework. In other words, the Massachusetts KK boys don't have the votes to sustain a filibuster and all their so-called efforts amount to little more than grandstanding, which is what a lot of politics is all about.

But at the end of the day, Samuel Alito will become the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Will that make a difference in the country's direction?

That remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though. President George W. Bush, whose intelligence his opponents like to question, will have been smart enough to have placed two people he really wanted on the highest court in the land.

And Brer Fox often thought Brer Rabbit was crazy, too - but he sure did cause him a lot of consternation, didn't he?

Darrell Huckaby is a Newton County native and the author of six books. He lives in Rockdale County, where he teaches high school history. Visit his Web site at www.darrell.huckaby.net.