Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Everything has changed: When President Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Justice Byron White, she was confirmed 96-3. There were no concerns voiced by either Democrats or Republicans that Clinton was replacing a conservative with a liberal. There were no cries that the court should maintain its "balance." There weren't even any serious opposition to Ginsburg based upon her work as general counsel for the ACLU, which included her taking such out-of-the-mainstream positions as advocating for co-ed prison facilities and lowering the age of consent to 12.
More than a decade later, the Democrats, on the verge of becoming a permanent minority party, are changing the rules.
Sen. Harry Reid, at one time considered a moderate Democrat, has revealed himself to be anything but.
Though he ruled out a filibuster, Reid said in a speech on the Senate floor that he could not vote for approval because he has ''too many unanswered questions" about Roberts's record on civil rights.
That made Reid, his party's ranking member in the Senate, the first Democrat to make a formal declaration of his opposition to Roberts.
''I must resolve my doubts in favor of the American people whose rights would be in jeopardy if John Roberts turns out to be the wrong person for the job," the Nevada Democrat said.
You didn't hear Reid voicing similar concerns when it came to Ginsburg and her respect for basic property rights.
Others have said this and I'll echo it: If Democrats can't vote for John Roberts to replace William Rehnquist, then no Republican nominee will ever meet their test. The days (or more accurately, 200+ years) of senators acknowledging that the president has the right to nominate qualified judges that he wants and the Senate confirming them absent a serious ethical flaw has gone.
If the Democrats ever retake control of the White House (something unlikely to happen anytime soon because of their lack of credibility on national security in an age of terrorism), then Republicans should feel free to behave likewise. Republicans play far too much softball with Democrats in the hopes that if/when they're in the minority again, they'll be treated fairly. They're fools if they believe that Democrats will remember any kindnesses.
Judge Roberts should get 90+ votes for chief justice. Instead, I predict he'll get no more than 65. This will play well with the left-wing base, but the vast majority of the American people, Republicans certainly, but independent moderates too, will see the Democrats for the craven, divisive ideologues that they are.