WASHINGTON — Messages like Gail Keen’s e-mail to Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) are signs of grassroots fightback against a menacing extremist agenda pushed by President Bush and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. It includes the fight to block Bush’s nomination of John Bolton as UN ambassador and a looming battle against the Republicans’ drive — via the so-called nuclear option — to pack the judiciary with ultra-rightists by ending the Senate’s filibuster rule.

“I sent an e-mail to Voinovich urging the Senate not to confirm Bolton,” Keen told the World in a telephone interview from her home in Springfield, Ohio. “Why would Bush nominate as UN ambassador a man who hates the United Nations?”

A few days later, Voinovich, perhaps reflecting the tide of similar messages from his constituents, jolted the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by announcing that he was “not comfortable voting for Mr. Bolton.”

Voinovich’s stance forced Committee Chair Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to postpone a vote on the nomination for three weeks. It also brought into the open a deepening rift in GOP ranks.

Citizens for Global Solutions spokesperson Harpinder Alwha told the World that Bolton could be blocked. “This is someone who continues to lie about the international situation,” she said. “After what we have gone through in Iraq, we’ve had enough of officials picking and choosing intelligence data to support their highly ideological views.”

Scott Lynch, spokesperson for Peace Action, said, “It shows just how radical these people in the executive branch are that they would name a fanatic unilateralist like Bolton as UN ambassador.”

But the drive to terminate the filibuster rule and pack the federal courts “is even scarier,” Lynch said.

Several moderate Republicans have voiced concern about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) drive to terminate the filibuster rule so Bush can ram through his extremist court nominees with a simple majority vote.

At risk are principles enshrined in the Constitution like the separation of church and state and the system of checks and balances that protect the nation from tyranny, Lynch said.

He cited Frist’s appearance on the April 24 “Justice Sunday” telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council.

On the simulcast that went out to churches around the country, Frist accused the Democrats of being “against people of faith” in using the filibuster to block a handful of Bush’s extremist nominees.

MoveOn.org, the Internet grassroots organization, held rallies in 192 towns and cities, April 27, to protest the drive to eliminate the filibuster rule. Former Vice President Al Gore told a MoveOn rally in Washington, “This is a poison pill for American democracy. It is aimed at one-party dominance of all three branches of government and … an effort to replace persuasion on the merits with bullying partisan domination.”

The Rev. Carlton Veazey, national president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said, “Justice Sunday was not about religion. It was part of an ongoing power grab to take over the courts and reverse decades of progress for minorities, women, the environment, workers’ rights and other issues and groups that have been relatively powerless.” Veazey spoke at an April 25 teleconference sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

“We must not compromise on our rights and freedoms,” he said.