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America, America… 

We'll work it all out, one of these days, and the country will seem like the one we say we want. Maybe we'll even resurrect civil discourse.

But not, I'm afraid, before we regress dangerously into the past, to a time when myth held sway over science, abortions were available only through back-alley practitioners, workers' rights were non-existent, corporate interests took precedence over health, safety, and environmental concerns, and political leaders openly stoked the fires of prejudice.

The tenuous compromise eked out by the seven Republican and seven Democratic Senators on May 23 was already teetering by the end of last week. And maybe it never had a chance; too many powerful Republicans in Washington want absolute control of the government.

In that compromise, Democrats promised that they won't use a filibuster (that quaint process of preventing a vote by extending debate) except in "extraordinary circumstances." A filibuster can't be far off, though; President Bush will present one of those extraordinary circumstances any day now. Some of us think he's already done it, with judicial nominees like Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. But there will almost certainly be a filibuster over Supreme Court nominations, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist is expected to retire soon.

When the filibuster comes, everything in Washington will be focused on the rules of the Senate. And out here in the hinterlands, we'll be damning the senators for bickering over process instead of taking care of the nation's problems.

But this particular "process" is one of the most important things the Senate has debated in years, because it involves protecting the rights and interests of millions of Americans. The right to filibuster keeps the Senate majority from trampling the minority.

Republican leaders insist that the president's nominees "deserve an up-or-down vote." That's good old majority rule. But if we wanted pure majority rule in this country, we'd have a different form of government. We'd have no US Senate, where the half-million residents of Wyoming have as much clout as the 19-plus million residents of New YorkState. There'd be no need for a separation of powers.

And the right to filibuster isn't unlimited; 60 of the 100 senators can vote to stop a debate, and things will move forward. Any judicial nominee who has the support of 60 senators will get that up-and-down vote.

So think this through: The country is closely divided, on many issues. Federal judges act on behalf of everybody, not just those who voted for a particular president and a particular group of senators. Is it unreasonable, and un-American, to expect that federal judges have the support of at least 60 percent of the Senate?

Are there no nominees acceptable both to the president and to 60 percent of the senators elected by the American people?

What does it tell us if there are not?

Bush in our town

Boy, did we bask in the glory! The president of the United States came to see us!

Big event!

The Democrat and Chronicle published a commemorative edition!

The president came to see only some of us, of course, not all of us. Presidential visits, like pop music concerts, are designed for the faithful, not the public. You couldn't see Bush last week, much less talk to him, unless you were invited to.

What a country.

And what a president! The man is not dumb, liberal myth to the contrary. But I do love to listen for those little truths that slip out from his lips, intentional or not.

After repeating a line in his Rochester speech, Bush quipped: "That's the third time I've said that. I'll probably say it three more times. In my line of work, you gotta keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in." Uh huh. Repeat something often enough, and people will believe it.

And so he is flying around the country, repeating and repeating and repeating, selling his idea that the best way to save Social Security is to privatize part of it.

The repetition doesn't seem to be having an effect on the public. Polls continue to show that most Americans don't like the idea. And opponents to Bush policies packed FirstUniversalistChurch downtown the day of the Bush visit.

The fate of Social Security depends more on pressure and horse-trading in Congress than on public opinion and sanity. Bush will be putting plenty of pressure on New York's Republican representatives. Make sure you're doing your part in pushing back. Send your comments to Rochester-area Representatives Tom Reynolds (www.house.gov/reynolds; 332 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515) and Randy Kuhl (www.house.gov/kuhl); 1505 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515). (Democrat Louise Slaughter opposes privatization.)

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