The cornpone Arlen Specter

For the first time in the memory of most, we have a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a Supreme Court nominee in which Sen. Arlen Specter is not participating as a Republican. Unfortunately, the Republican committee membership still includes Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Arlen Specter of the South. And in his opening statement, Graham served up a cornpone rendition of Specter.

Graham opined that, barring a meltdown, Judge Sotomayor wil be confirmed. That may be true, but shouldn’t Graham’s role be to provide analysis about whether she should be confirmed, not predictions about whether she will be?

By serving up his prediction, Graham achieved two purposes. First (and this is always a critical element for him), he got noticed by the press (as in this report which mentions his remarks before those of all the other Senators), which naturally jumped on his prediction and gave him credit for livening up the proceedings. Second, he laid the groundwork for voting to confirm Sotomayor, if that’s what he decides to do (see below). The more Graham can reinforce the notion that opposing Sotomayor is a lost cause, the less heat he may take if he votes in favor of confirmation.

Graham stated that he does not yet know how he intends to vote, and I take him at his word. You can tell, though, that he is itching to vote in favor of Sotomayor in the name of restoring the days when the president’s Supreme Court nominees received great deference in the Senate. (With Graham, the well-intentioned gesture is always a big deal, especially if, as in this case, he has reason to believe the gesture will be well-received by the MSM and in the salons of Washington, DC).

Thus, the Washington Post reported as follows:

When making his decision about whether to vote for her, Graham said “My inclination is that elections matter . . . [note – here Graham gave himself a plug for working so hard for John McCain’s candidacy] President Obama won the election, and I will respect that.” He criticized Obama’s rationale, when a senator, for voting against the nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, but he added, “We’ve got a chance to start over. I hope we take that chance.”

But confirming Sotomayor with strong bipartisan support would not be starting over for Republicans — this has been the consistent Republican practice for Supreme Court nominees, as in the cases of Justices Ginsburg and Breyer. Nor would it represent a new start for the Democrats, who would simply be voting for a Democratic nominee.

If Graham believes that the Dems will turn over a new leaf when it comes to future Republican nominees if only Republicans vote for Sotomayor, he is the biggest fool in the Senate. And despite my many objections to Senator Graham, I have never considered him a fool.

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