E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post serves up another highly misleading column about what’s happening in the Senate with respect to President Bush’s judicial nominees. Most of Dionne’s arguments are ones he has made, and I have attacked, before. And his new points are as specious as his old ones. For example, early in the piece, Dionne describes the claim that the Democrats are being obstructionist as “laughable.” But he concludes by stating that the filibuster “is the only way to prevent the president from creating a federal judiciary dominated by ideologues of his own persuasion.” So, in fact, the Democrats are using an obstructionist tactic, but for an allegedly good cause. Dionne’s commendably honest assessment at the end of the piece is at odds with his earlier dissembling.
Dionne also tries to conceal the unprecedented nature of these filibusters. But he is unable to cite a single instance in the history of this country in which the Senate filibustered an appeals court nominee. Instead, he cites the filibuster against Abe Fortas back in 1968. Fortas, who was already a Supreme Court Justice, was nominated to be the Chief Justice by his lame duck crony Lyndon Johnson. The filibuster occurred in response to evidence of corruption. In fact, Fortas was sufficiently corrupt that, soon after the filibuster, he resigned from the Supreme Court and was not allowed to return to the Washington, D.C. law firm he had founded. (See here for a brief biography of Fortas). Thus, the one filibuster of a judicial nominee that Dionne relies on (from 35 years ago) occurred under extraordinary circumstances of no relevance to the current situation.
Finally, Dionne claims that this whole mess would end if President Bush would only “reach out” to his opponents. But, as Byron York pointed out in one of the pieces posted below, Bush reached out to the liberal Democrats at the very outset of this process, two years ago. At that time, his slate of eleven nominees included two African-American Democrats apponted by Clinton but not confirmed. Even Senator Leahy, a leader of the current obstruction campaign, told reporters he was encouraged by the president’s conciliatory actions. But that was before the liberal activists who pull the strings issued their orders. In the end, the Senate promptly confirmed the two Democrats, while six of the nine Republicans languished for nearly two years, until the Republicans regained control of the Senate. Three remained blocked.
These are the wages of “reaching out” to the Democrats. Maybe it’s time to reach out to the public instead.
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