Saturday, May 21, 2005
Oh, I'm going to miss this: Unbowed, or more likely ignorant, of their previous fisking, The New York Times editorial writers continue to demostrate that I am overqualified for an editorial writing job at the nation's "paper of record."
The judicial nominations debate reached a new low this week when a Republican senator compared his Democratic colleagues to Hitler.
Granted, Sen. Rick Santorum's remarks were over the line. That makes the two parties even after Sen. Robert C. Byrd compared Republicans to Nazis last month -- something I don't think Times editorial writers deigned to condemn.
This rampage by the Republican majority, driven by a zeal to eliminate the Democrats' voice in the appointment of judges, poses a real danger of permanently damaging the system of checks and balances at the heart of American democracy.
Eliminate Democrats' voices? Hardly, it's just once each and every Democrat has said each and every possible thing about each and every judicial nominee, they should vote. If the Times editorial writers are really concerned about the "system of checks and balances," then they should learn what the checks and balances are -- minority filibusters being considered a "check" is a recent development, not the "heart of American democracy."
It is encouraging that moderates from both parties are trying to work out a compromise. But they should agree only to one that does not make unacceptable concessions on Senate procedures and does not lead to the appointment of unqualified, ideologically extreme judges.
Oh, this I've got to see. All of the reporting on the "moderates' compromise" betray the fact that none of these judges are so very extreme or out of the mainstream, because Democrats are always talking about allowing some of them through -- and the ones that they allow through are always changing.
The Senate has confirmed a vast majority of President Bush's judicial nominees, but Democrats have used the filibuster to block a handful.
At what point does it cease to be a handful? Democrats have blocked 10 of the president's appellate nominees. Does 11 become more than a handful? And what does the number of nominees that Democrats have blocked really matter, when each and every one has had the support of a bipartisan majority of Senators?
This is nothing new. In previous Congresses, Republicans blocked many Democratic judicial nominees, and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, participated in a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nominee.
No, this is something new. While filibusters have been attempted before, never before have they been successful. The aformentioned "filibustered" nominee the Times refers to is Judge Richard Paez -- who now sits on the federal bench. Oh that President Bush's nominees got the same treatment.
Now that the Republicans are in the majority, however, they are threatening to use the "nuclear option," which would declare the filibuster null and void for judicial nominations.
Actually, Republicans were in the majority when Paez was under consideration. But that was a Democrat president's nominee, so I guess that makes all the difference in the world to the Times editorial writers. Yes, they would declare the filibuster null and void for judicial nominations, because, before the last Congress, it had never been used against judicial nominees -- no matter what the Times revisionist history would lead you to believe.
The Republican attack is deeply misguided. There is a centuries-old Senate tradition that a minority can use the filibuster to block legislation or nominees.
Legislation, yes. Nominees, no. If this statement was contained in a Times news story, then even Daniel Okrent would have them running a correction the next day. But, since it's an editorial, a little creative fiction is apparently OK.
The Congressional Research Service has declared that the nuclear option would require that "one or more of the Senate's precedents be overturned or interpreted otherwise than in the past."
Yep, they'd have to overturn a precedent -- maybe two -- but it ignores the fact that Democrats, by use of the filibuster, have already broken a different precedent: Never before has a partisan minority used the filibuster to prevent a bipartisan majority from confirming a president's judicial nominees. The Times only concerns itself with precedents when it's its ox being gored.
As a showdown nears, the Republicans' words have grown uglier. The Hitler reference came on Thursday, when Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania compared Senate Democrats to the Nazi occupiers of France. So it is a wonder that moderate senators from both parties, dubbed the "gang of 12," have kept trying to reach a compromise.
Like I wrote before, now the parties are even.
There are two things the compromise must do, however, for it to be worth making. First, it must take the nuclear option off the table. The filibuster protects minority rights, and senators like Susan Collins, a Maine Republican in the gang of 12, should recognize the importance of that principle. It is the reason that senators from sparsely populated states like hers were given a vote equal to that of senators from densely populated states.
Is this some sort of thinly veiled threat that the Times would like the Senate to be apportioned by population like the House is? "You losers from puny states from Delaware and Rhode Island should remember that we let you have this 'two Senators' rule 217 years ago -- don't make us regret it," spake The New Yorke Times!
Second, no compromise should allow unworthy nominees to be confirmed. Some of Mr. Bush's nominees, like Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen, are hard-right ideologues who would do serious damage to the law and to the parties who appeared before them. Democrats should agree only to a deal that would still allow them to block the worst nominees.
So, let me get this straight. The only compromise that the Times will consider acceptable is one where the Republicans do all of the compromising and the Democrats get everything they want. This is obviously some use of the term "compromise" with which I am unaccustomed.
Without a compromise, there could be a dramatic vote on the Senate floor. The American people strongly oppose the nuclear option, according to recent polls, because they see it for what it is: rewriting the rules to trample the minority.
Americans oppose it -- or not -- based on how you phrase the question. Poll questions which simply state: "Do you believe that the Senate should have up-or-down votes on President Bush's judicial nominees?" show that a majority of Americans think that the Democrat filibusters are wrong. Appeals to authority -- especially when the "authority" is not authoritative -- are the weakest of philosophical arguments.
Unfortunately, the far right wing of the Republican Party has been driving the debate.
Really? I thought the far left wing of the Democrat Party started it.
In the end, the balance of power may well lie with a very few moderate Republicans: Ms. Collins, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. We hope that they have the courage to stand up to the leaders of their party.
Why doesn't the Times try this one on for size?:
In the end, the balance of power may well lie with a very few moderate Democrats: Max Baucus of Montana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. We hope that they have the courage to stand up to the leaders of their party.
If Democrats halt their filibuster, then no nukes are needed. Democrats have held the key to defuse this bomb all along -- they'd be well-advised to use it.