From senatorial showdowns to statewide money battles to local elections

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From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

Nationally

We’ve avoided what was looking to be a major showdown in the U.S. Senate. I know to some of you it may seem like a big deal over not too much. After all, how significant could a battle be about the arcane rules of the Senate? But it’s really much more than that. It’s a battle, which we’ve had from the beginning of the republic, about the protection of the minority from the majority.

What makes this particularly important is that there may be one or even several Supreme Court appointments coming up. What’s in play is Roe v. Wade and a number of other long-settled legal rules that many conservatives would like to roll back.

This was an unusual situation in politics; the center actually held. My guess is that several of those senators will be under heavy attack from the Christian right, but it may also be a sign that the moderates from both parties have had enough of the extremes on both sides, and are prepared to do battle. The truth is, if they stick together, they control the senate. I suspect there is going to be a great deal of heavy negotiating with the White House, because if the White House and Carl Rove cut loose their attack dogs, as has been their tendency in the past, this temporary wedge could really harden into a permanent split. I would guess that the White House is going to do a lot of huffing and puffing, but they’re really going to tread very gently because there are a number of senators who are very sensitive about the White House trying to roll over the Senate the way it does in the House.

Statewide

Everyday there is another negative story about the Stem Cell Research Initiative and the ongoing battle to get it moving. The problem is that several on the oversight committee are in way over their heads. They really believe that the Legislature and the governor are going to let them play with $3 billion without any supervision.

I don’t care what they think the initiative says. They’re going to have to operate openly, which they are little inclined to do, subject themselves to some sort of conflict of interest rules, which they are even less inclined to do, and accept the fact that the public has a say in what’s going on, which means the Legislature and not the oversight committee is going to have the ultimate oversight in many instances. The truth is, any smart lawyer could tie this thing up for the next decade unless the committee members sit down and work out a set of acceptable rules with the Legislature and the public. If they don’t, they simply are not going to get the money, which would be sad, because we’d be blowing a significant opportunity.

In and around L.A.

Los Angeles has a new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who formerly was the speaker of the Assembly and later a member of the Los Angeles City Council. Most of the pros I know had all felt, toward the end, that Jim Hahn had lost it. But I think that almost everyone was amazed at the victory margin, which was more than 18 percent. In politics, 18 percent is a landslide, actually, a super landslide. But what also was surprising was how few people went to the polls. Villaraigosa got more votes losing last time than he got winning this time. People are definitely turned off to politics. For those of you who are worried about Villaraigosa, I’d say, relax. I saw him in action as the speaker and he was always very rational and reasonable, and got along quite well with both sides of the aisle. It seems to me that L.A. is the better for his brains, his experience and, most of all, his energy. I wish him well because it’s a rough job, but it does have its perks. He’s already the cover boy for Newsweek magazine.

This seems to be the season for celebrity trials with Michael Jackson and Phil Spector both on trial. I saw a picture of Spector in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, and I must say things have really changed since I was in the legal trenches. The first thing we always did was clean up the client, which typically meant toning him down with a new suit, new glasses, a haircut, perhaps even a manicure. I even took one guy to the dentist. Well, there’s Phil Spector looking like he was just beamed in from another planet. Unless they’re pleading NGI (not guilty by reason of insanity) or some sort of a diminished capacity defense (sort of a modified wacko defense), I suspect they’ve got big problems with the defense on this case, and I must admit I don’t know anything about the evidence other than what I’ve read.

Michael Jackson, well, what can anyone say about him other than he is obviously a very disturbed man. Whether that makes him a criminal or just Peter Pan, I sure don’t know.