Oct. 28 - President George W. Bush wants to make tort reform a top priority in a second term. Using the term "trial lawyer" as a pejorative, he talks a lot about the craziness of our overlitigated lives.
Which is funny, coming from a guy who litigated his way to the White House. But the president seems to have defined a frivolous lawsuit as any legal action filed by somebody else's lawyers.
He certainly voiced no objection to the Republicans who have, according to The Washington Post, already filed more than 35,000 legal challenges to voters' eligibility in Ohio alone. The GOP plans to send thousands of volunteers into polling places to personally challenge "voters they suspect are not eligible, particularly hundreds of thousands of the newly registered.''
Who, one wonders, are these volunteers? Whose idea of community service is not pitching in at the local soup kitchen or teaching English to immigrants but instead, heading to the polls to try and intimidate first-time voters? Do Republicans really want to be known for the efficacy of their "Don't Get Out the Vote" drive?
The president has made clear that he wants to be judged on his consistency. Yet while he's out declaring that "democracy is on the march," in Iraq and Afghanistan, his party is working overtime to disenfranchise prospective voters in Youngstown and Cleveland.
(His aides, meanwhile, are busy explaining how it is that missing explosives in Iraq pose less of a security threat than the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction did, while his surrogates take turns blasting John Kerry's wealthy wife for benefiting from the Bush tax cuts.)
And when the president talks about the high cost of unnecessary lawsuits yet ignores the damage being done by his own personal full-employment program for lawyers, he only validates what John Edwards (that trial lawyer!) has been arguing for the last two years in his "Two Americas" speech. There do seem to be two sets of rules in Bush's America: one for him and his, and another for everybody else.
We can, of course, reasonably differ over the narrow issue of tort reform, which, as a cancer survivor, I happen to oppose. (Like a lot of people who've seen more than their share of doctors, I've concluded that if this is how the poor dears behave when supposedly scared to death of legal hassles, I don't want to even think about the level of care we'd get if awards in medical malpractice suits were ever capped.)
We can also legitimately disagree on whether Bush or Kerry would make the world safer. We can debate which candidate is more likely to strengthen our economy, our military, our schools. For fun, we can even argue over such nonquestions as whether Bush is really "up in the air'' about keeping the country safe or whether Kerry thinks we are even in a war on terror. (Of course he isn't and of course he does.)
Half of us want to believe that Bush thinks outsourcing American jobs is good for the economy. The other half acts as though Kerry outed Dick Cheney's daughter in the last presidential debate. Some of us almost have ourselves convinced that Kerry wounded himself in Vietnam. Others don't doubt for a minute that Bush wants us in a Christian holy war, on a new crusade. (And if it's the end time anyway, why worry?) A few can even claim with a straight face that they haven't decided which candidate they're voting for yet.
But deep down, we know that none of these things are true. Just as we know that we will have undermined everything all of us think we're fighting for if we can't at least agree to make voting as easy as possible for every American. And that if another presidential race is to be decided by the courts, some criminal as well as civil lawyers may end up with a piece of the election-night action.