New White House Counsel 'embarrassed' by negative ads

By Mark Reutter

"A meanness out there" has created a wave of cynicism and apathy
among U.S. voters, Abner Mikva, White House Counsel and former
Illinois Congressman, said recently at the UI College of Law.

Speaking on the eve of the mid-term election, Mikva, a Democrat,
said he had never seen nor heard as much negative campaigning in
his career in government, which spans four decades beginning with
his election to the Illinois Legislature in 1956.

"There is a difference between changing Congress and tearing it
down," he said. "I am embarrassed that so many members of my
party are engaging in this."

Mikva, who was appointed White House Counsel last month by
President Clinton, was at the College of Law Nov. 7 to deliver
the David C. Baum Memorial Lecture.

Before a standing-room audience, he spoke about the legacy of
retired Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr.,
concentrating on Brennan's landmark 1962 ruling, Baker vs. Carr.

Introducing the doctrine of "one-man, one vote" as the basis for
reapportioning legislative districts, the opinion worked "a small
revolution" in political America. Together with the Voting Rights
Act, the ruling led to a significant increase in black
officeholders and "a far more open political system today," he

But Mikva, who sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington,
D.C., for 15 years, said that judicial involvement in
redistricting has become intrusive.

"If the political process can repair the problem, the courts
should stay out," he said. "There's no way you can draw a map
that doesn't involve some kind of gerrymandering." Several court-
developed solutions, such as "racial gerrymandering," can make
matters worse, he asserted.

Mikva was a victim of redistricting in 1972 when his "safe"
congressional seat on Chicago's South Side was eliminated. Mikva
then ran for Congress from the suburban North Shore and won.

UIUC -- Inside Illinois -- 1994/11-17-94