Wednesday, May 18, 2005
It'll save me time: The New York Times decision to put its columnists and editorials behind a subscription-only service is going to save me quite a bit of time responding to dishonest garbage like this.
Unless the Democrats are smart enough to back down and delay their filibuster fight for a Supreme Court nominee, the Republicans are going to use the "nuclear option" this week or the next. I was originally reticient to repeatedly refer to it as the nuclear option because the term seemed so overwrought -- instead preferring the "Constitutional option" or the "Byrd option" -- not anymore. I'm going to embrace the nuclear option, because I will smile when I see Senate majority leader Harry Reid's head expolde when the Republicans push the button.
And now, for the Times, a fisking.
Of all the hollow arguments Senate Republicans have made in their attempt to scrap the opposition's right to have a say on President Bush's judicial nominees, the one that's most hypocritical insists that history is on their side in demanding a "simple up-or-down vote" on the Senate floor.
Ah yes, the GOP, armed with an impressive stock of duct tape have pounced on every Senate Dem the second they've opened their festering gobs to make sure Democrats haven't had their "say" during the past four years on judicial nominees. As for hypocrisy, I'd say that the Times' editorial writers are experts at detecting it, because they've only recently discovered the positive qualities of that parliamentary procedure.
Republicans and Democrats have used a variety of tactics, from filibuster threats to stealthy committee inaction on individual nominations, in blocking hundreds of presidential appointments across history, including about one in five Supreme Court nominees.
The Times apparently gets its "one in five" figure from People for the American Way. [The link goes to the Feminist Majority Foundation, but I can't find the original article on the PFAW site]. A list of Supreme Court nominees [PDF format] lists every Supreme Court nominee to ever have been formally submitted to the Senate. A total of seven had their nominations withdrawn (including Abe Fortas). One, William Paterson, later had his name resubmitted and was approved by a voice vote. There are a total of six nominees to the Supreme Court who had "no action" taken on their nominations -- one of them was a lame-duck appointment by President Rutherford B. Hayes, Stanley Matthews. Matthews was renominated, and confirmed, by President James A. Garfield a few months later. [Add Matthews' name to proof of Sen. Dick Durbin's dishonesty.]
That's a total of five presidential Supreme Court nominees that have not had an up-or-down vote in U.S. history -- not "one in five". Many other nominees have been rejected by a vote of the Senate -- by including those individuals -- along with those who were withdrawn (not an action the Senate takes) -- is the only way the Times and PFAW have a hope of making its "one in five" number accurate.
Republican majorities blocked more than 60 judicial candidates during the Clinton administration by denying them committee hearings through the use of anonymous "blue slip" holds by individual lawmakers and a variety of other tactics just as effective, if less visible, than the filibuster.
This is true, but omits certain facts which are true of all presidents. Many of these nominees were made in the waning months of Clinton's second term. It's not uncommon for those kinds of nominees to be held up when the opposing party has control of the Senate -- the same thing happened with Bush 41 and Reagan, ad infinitum. Second, some of those nominees hadn't even had their FBI background checks completed before they were submitted to the Senate -- a big no-no.
The majority leader, Bill Frist, who is zealously planning to smash the Senate rules, took part himself in a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nominee.
Attempted filibuster -- not a filibuster. There were enough Republicans who found the idea of the filibuster so antithetical to representative government that they joined the Democrats in a cloture vote. Unfortunately, there aren't six Democrats in the Senate who feel the same duty to the Constitution.
But the majority leader is ignoring that history. With his eye clearly on a presidential run, he is playing to his party's extremist gallery by orchestrating a hazardous rules change that would block Democrats from following his example on a few of President Bush's most ideologically extreme and least qualified judicial nominees.
Two can play this game: "But the minority leader is ignoring that history. With his eye clearly on a presidential run, he is playing to his party's extremist gallery ..." etc. Ideologically extreme? Only if you work at the Times with its lone evangelical Christian long gone. Least qualified? Not according to what used to be the liberals' "gold standard" -- the American Bar Association (last Congress, this Congress).
Democrats have hardly been obstructionists in their constitutional role of giving advice and consent; they have confirmed more than 200 Bush nominees, while balking at a mere seven who should be blocked on the merits, not for partisan reasons.
Seven? Try 10. The Times apparently isn't including anyone who withdrew their name after being filibustered by Democrats (Miguel Estrada, Charles Pickering Sr. and Carolyn Kuhl). Filibustered on the merits? Oh, I guess that makes it OK. (/sarcasm) And just because all of the people who are doing the filibustering are Democrats, you shouldn't take that as a sign of partisanship. No, that would be inaccurate. (/sarcasm) It's not like I really have to make the point, again, that the Democrats have been great about approving district court judges, but horrible at appellate court judges -- and those are the ones at issue here.
This is a worthy fight, and the filibuster is a necessary weapon, considering that these are lifetime appointments to the powerful appellate judiciary, just below the Supreme Court.
If Democrats ever get the presidency and the Senate back and the Republicans start filibustering "qualified" judges, I'm sure the Times will start spinning in the opposite direction so fast that we can hook them up to a turbine and supply all of Times Square's power needs.
In more than two centuries, only 11 federal judges have been impeached for abusive court behavior. Clearly, uninhibited Senate debate in the deliberative stage, with the minority's voice preserved, is a crucial requirement.
Today's non sequitir brought to you by the letter "Y" -- Why did you include this irrelevancy? Is the Times seriously suggesting that these judicial nominees have criminal motives or backgrounds?
The two nominees Senator Frist is putting forth first are singularly unqualified: The first, Priscilla Owen, has openly favored big business and flouted abortion rights on the Texas Supreme Court.
OK, let me figure out what disqualifies someone from serving on an appellate court: A) Ever ruling in favor of a corporation; B) Ruling that a law passed by the Senate legislature means what it says. Got it.
The second, Janice Rogers Brown, has used her California Supreme Court post to belittle minority rights and rail against New Deal programs as a "socialist revolution."
Additional disqualifying offenses appear to be: A) Calling socialistic programs socialist; B) being a black Republican.
Taxpayers can at least be glad that the nominees' records are being publicly aired. Republicans relied on secrecy in bottling up Clinton nominations before they ever saw the light of debate.
Ah, the Times would rather the GOP-controlled Senate brought each of Clinton's nominees to the floor where their "wacko left-wing views" could be exposed and they could be voted down in a properly humiliating manner. Got it. We'll do that next time.
Senator Frist, with the help of Vice President Dick Cheney, would sidestep a Senate precedent requiring two-thirds' approval for a rules change and instead have a simple majority strike down the filibuster on judicial nominees. He promises that there would be no effect on other legislation, but the damage would be incalculable. Democrats are already vowing procedural paybacks and gridlock.
So, Republicans would be responsible for what Democrats end up doing. I wish I could've convinced my parents using that logic when I was growing up dealing with my little sister.
A few moderate senators from both parties - realizing that the Senate's prestige is at stake, as much as its history - are seeking a compromise. We hope President Bush will step in to help find a solution. Otherwise, warns his fellow Republican Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the result will be the harmful crimping of minority rights in a proud deliberative body and "a dark, protracted era of divisive partisanship."
As opposed to what we've got now?