Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 1/13/2006 [Archive]

Inside the Beltway with Kate O'Beirne

Inside the Beltway with Kate O'Beirne

Kate O'Beirne definitely doesn't need a GPS to find her way around the conservative political landscape in Washington. Since the early 1970s her employers have included a U.S. senator, the federal government, the Heritage Foundation and National Review magazine, where she is Washington editor and a columnist.

O'Beirne, a regular panelist on CNN's now defunct show "The Capital Gang," is becoming a frequent guest on "Meet the Press." Her new provocatively title book, 'Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports,' was ranked in the low 40s this week on Amazon's best-seller list. I talked to her by phone from her office in Washington.

Q: Why have the Judge Alito confirmation hearings been such a fizzle?

A:They fizzled because there's no there there, there's no fat. His Democratic inquisitors, try as they might, have not been able to make a compelling case understandable to a broader audience, of why this extremely experienced judge is anything but a scrupulously fair, careful judge who judges simply on the law and the facts before him. And because Judge Alito didn't 'cooperate' in fitting the caricature that would have made things helpful for the Democrats, it is awfully hard to convince the public that this man being elevated is a frightening prospect for America's liberties and freedoms.

Q: Does this tell you more about the Republicans' strength or the Democrats' weaknesses?

A: I don't think you could bork Robert Bork in 2006. The courts are increasingly a matter of interest to rank-and-file Americans. Supreme Court jurisprudence is no longer the specialty of law schools and faculty lounges and law journals. Because the federal Supreme Court has featured in some of our most contentious issues -- the gay agenda, property rights, the Boy Scouts, religious liberty and other issues the public understands -- I think the role it plays and issues it handles have been broadly popularized.

Also, part of this goes to the alternative media. It's a totally different environment now. Putting aside that Robert Bork faced a Democratic majority Senate, in the old days, when in his opening salvo Ted Kennedy did such an injustice to Robert Bork by so unfairly caricaturizing his distinguished career on the bench, it was uncritically repeated endlessly. Those who knew better, those who were motivated to defend Bork -- where were you going to do that? Get on the nightly news?

You saw what happened in the John Roberts case. He upheld the arrest in Washington, D.C., as a D.C. Circuit Court judge, of a young teen-age girl arrested on the Metro for eating a french fry. Well, for some period of time, the left was saying, 'This is the kind of guy who thinks you should be arrested for eating french fires.' But within hours you had immediate access to people saying, 'Hello? This is what that case was about.' You were able, in real time, to have the resources to shoot down the very unfair mis-characterizations of both John Roberts' records and Sam Alito's records. You no longer have a news monopoly that serves the interests of people who want to get out these unfair portrayals.

Q:Is the Republican Party in big trouble? Is it breaking up into parts and factions that will cause it trouble this fall and beyond?

A: Not necessarily. We're seeing what a majority party looks like. It's so much easier when you are in the minority, right? To be concise, to agree on all the fundamental issues.Majority parties are messy. You've got to accommodate people from across the spectrum.

Q: We see the battle between Big Government, Big Spending Republicans -- moderates, so-called -- and the old-fashioned Republicans.

A: That's the battle. That's the battle. I hope this isn't too inside baseball, but one reason it's potentially more damaging now is that the Democrats in the House are showing such unity. It used to be that on a lot of economic conservative issues -- not that long ago, like two years ago -- the Republicans could pull off the last 10, 12, 15 votes they needed from the Democrats. (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pilosi is very effectively enforcing discipline on her caucus. If you don't have those sympathetic Democrats, and there are some whose votes have helped in the past, you need every one of your Republicans.... That really empowers the more liberal (Republican) members.

Q: Do you see problems with Abrahamoff scandal?

A: Potentially, yes. They could be in real political trouble regardless of what happens with respect to criminal indictments or charges or how successful they might be. I think the symbolism of the Abrahamoff scandal is potentially perilous for Republicans -- the sense of excess, the sense that Republicans might have forgotten who sent them here and why they are here--. And it's no response to say donations also were given to Democrats.

Q: What is the sound-bite synopsis of your book?

A:Too many people think the feminist movement is a spent force, that feminism died with the ERA 30 years ago, or to talk about feminism today is so Seventies, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. What I chronicle in the book is feminism is alive and well. Just because we aren't having the big, contentious public debates we were having 30 years ago doesn't mean their agenda doesn't have enormous influence. I name names. I explain what they say, what they believe, where they are. People can then decide for themselves if these are the kind of women they want their tax dollars subsidizing. I react against the monolith that is the modern women's movement and their campaign to persuade people that there is a monolithic women's vote.I don't speak for the American woman. I don't pretend to. I object to the fact that they do.

Q: Will Hillary Clinton be able to disguise her feminist genomes and become president?

A: She'll try, I think. First of all, none of them call themselves feminists because the word has been damaged. It doesn't mean they don't still subscribe to all its tenets. Hillary Clinton is a committed feminist. She would be a reliable supporter of all their pet causes.

Q: Do you think she will make it?

A: I think she intends to run. Obviously, a woman can always change her mind. Am I allowed to say that, Bill? At the moment I don't see who in the potential field can deny her the nomination. I think she'll bankroll an awful lot of money and that will intimidate a lot of challengers. I think barring some major unforeseen circumstance, there's an inevitability about her being the candidate in '08 for the Democrats.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at © Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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