First, a correction and clarification. In the last column I stated that new Senate President Ted Gatsas was put in office by a majority of Democrats even though he is a Republican, similar to the way Speaker Doug Scamman was elected to office.
Several good friends have pointed out that this is not correct. A majority of the Republicans in the Senate signed a letter asking for the session at which Gatsas was elected. There was no roll call vote when he was selected, so there is no way to know by what majority he was selected. However, both Scamman and Gatsas were selected in a bipartisan manner with the influence of the minority party critical in the selection and in that they are similar.
It is hoped by many that they will lead in a similar bipartisan manner.
Executive Councilor Raymond Burton’s problems arising out of his employing a convicted child molester repeatedly caused a huge swing of political discussion. When first revealed, he was criticized in the press and admitted his mistake. After initial supportive comments, all four members of the congressional delegation — fellow Republicans Gregg, Sununu, Bass and Bradley — joined Democratic Governor Lynch in urging Burton to resign his position. That looked to be an irresistible wave of opinion at one point.
However, with almost equally swift response time, Burton’s friends in the North Country responded. Republicans, Democrats and independents came to his defense, noting his long service and remarkable dedication to the northern half of New Hampshire.
Such notables as former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wayne King wrote articles defending Burton and made the point that it should be voters and not a one-week chorus who should decide if he is to be replaced.
Burton expressed gratitude for that support, as well as the support he received at different political fund-raising events in his district.
As of this writing, unless there are further revelations, the betting is that Burton will survive, at least until the next election and, if past performance can predict the future, he is not going anywhere.
Whether this is good, bad or indifferent, it certainly is interesting political theater and is a testament to the goodwill Burton has put “in the bank” over the years working for the First District.
Just as President Bush’s ratings in the polls have plummeted, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives has been indicted and the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate has come under fire because of stock sales. Whether any of these is justified, they certainly were a bad coincidence for Republicans in Washington.
Amid all of this, the president had to select a new Supreme Court nominee.
His first venture in this field, now Chief Justice John Roberts, was confirmed with all of the Republicans and half of the Democrats, 78-22.
The very day Roberts began his tenure as chief justice, Bush announced his nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor: Harriet Miers.
Most Americans had the same reaction to the nomination: “Who?”
On closer inspection, reports in The New York Times and elsewhere reveal a candidate with surprisingly strong characteristics that could be promising, notwithstanding the fact that she has not served on the bench and might not have made most lists of potential nominees had she not had a personal relationship with President Bush as his attorney and then his official government attorney.
Distinguished graduate of her law school, Law Review editor, clerk to a federal judge, first woman hired by one of the major law firms in Dallas, managing partner/president of that law firm, elected official, conscientious corporate trial attorney representing many major U.S. entities, appointed official in Texas, president of the Texas State Bar Association and, had she not gone into government service, potential president of the American Bar Association. Quite a career for anyone.
When searching for analogous nominees from the past, it occurred to more than one observer that she in large measure had the same characteristics possessed by Lewis Powell, appointed to the Supreme Court from private practice by President Nixon.
Powell turned out to be bright, distinguished, conservative in the sense that he followed precedent, mainstream and thoughtful. When he retired from the Supreme Court, he was recognized as having been a very good justice.
Should Harriet Miers prove to be a justice like Powell, the nomination of this unknown non-jurist may prove to be a major contribution.
In the Miers nomination, as in many things, however, what seemed true at first blush may not prove to be true as people get to know this nominee better.
Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.
This article appears in the October 14 2005 issue of New Hampshire Business Review