Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yes on Roberts

After the confirmation hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it's impossible to understand how any Senator can vote against John Roberts. However, it seems Democrats in the Senate are again taking careful aim at their own feet and wondering whether to pull the trigger. The Los Angeles Times agrees:

It will be a damning indictment of petty partisanship in Washington if an overwhelming majority of the Senate does not vote to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next chief justice of the United States. As last week's confirmation hearings made clear, Roberts is an exceptionally qualified nominee, well within the mainstream of American legal thought, who deserves broad bipartisan support. If a majority of Democrats in the Senate vote against Roberts, they will reveal themselves as nothing more than self-defeating obstructionists.

Beyond his sterling qualifications, John Roberts is the most moderate judicial nominee Democrats could ever expect to get from a Republican president. If they're waiting on another very liberal, ACLU-credentialed nominee like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they would do better to focus on the 2008 presidential election and hope a Democrat wins.

In the meantime, Democrats voting in large numbers to confirm Roberts will perhaps restore some sense of integrity and seriousness to the Senate. Voting against him will not only be a wasted vote, it will reinforce the Democrats' current image of being little more than partisan hacks.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Kevin said...

I happen to agree about Roberts in as much as I think he's a pretty decent candidate, all things considered. But, if you don't think that a party-line endorsement of Roberts by Senate Republicans reveals an absolutely comparable level and quality of "partisan hacks" then I'd have to very seriously question your objectivity.

For every Senate Dem that is not a moderate there is a Senate GOPer who also isn't a moderate. And we know perfectly well that there are plenty on the Right who don't want Roberts on the USSC precisely because he is too moderate with his legal opinions.

1:00 PM, September 21, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, there's no doubt that there are political hacks among Senate Republicans, too. However, all but maybe a couple of Republicans will vote for Roberts despite any misgivings they may have, just as they voted for Ginsburg during the Clinton Administration. Democrats need to show that they can rise above their hatred of the President on at least some issues, and the Roberts vote is a good opportunity for them to do so.

1:09 PM, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous JJR said...

Sen. Leahy just announced that he will vote for Judge Roberts, disappointing, I'm sure many far-left wingers. What I find interesting is that he announced this decision immmediately after meeting with President Bush about possible choices for Justice O'Connor. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall.

One thing I find really irritating about this whole ordeal is the fact that one of the main criticisms of Roberts is that he is not answering questions about specific cases/situations. The ABA (not the most conservative group out there) model ethical rules for judicial candidates prohbits a judicial candidate from doing exactly that. So Roberts is following the model rules and he's criticized for it. It's nuts. There may be plenty of other things to criticize him for (although I haven't seen any so far), but that's not one.

4:16 PM, September 21, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Kevin wrote:
...if you don't think that a party-line endorsement of Roberts by Senate Republicans reveals an absolutely comparable level and quality of "partisan hacks" then I'd have to very seriously question your objectivity.

But Kevin, the same constraints hold for right wing Republicans as hold for Democrats. It's not a question of whether any given nominee is your first choice - it's a question of whether the nominee is a reasonable choice. The president is the one who gets the first choice. If any given person feels that his choices are "musts" than he'd better run for president or support someone with similar beliefs.

Democracies are composed of compromises, and that is not a betrayal of one's principles but a recognition of what we need to do to work together. I think quite a few Democrats will vote for Roberts. Unfortunately they'll get a lot of flak from their own party for that.

7:54 PM, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

MOM, I think you've severely understated the constitutional role of Congress with respect to Presidential nominees.

The president, any president, has the constitutional prerogative of nominating whomever they wish. Whether that nominee is a reasonable one or an unreasonable one is irrelevant, constitutionally speaking.

Congress, and in this case the Senate, is under zero constitutional onus to approve or disapprove any nominee, regardless of whether the nominee is reasonable or not.

The role of Congress, and indeed it's primary reason for existing, is to act as the most direct and responsive representative of "we the people" in the federal government. If enough of "we the people" don't think any given nominee is reasonable... and we voice those views to our representatives... then individual members of the Senate are fulfilling their constitutional raison d'etre to it's fullest extent by voting accordingly. We're not a democracy. We are a representative republic that is organized along democratic principles. And therein lays a crucial distinction that is relevant to this discussion.

That said... I agree with you that quite a few, probably most, Democrats will vote to approve Roberts.

9:51 AM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, from a superficial structural standpoint, it would appear that what you're saying is right. However, by tradition a certain amount of deference is given to presidents when the Senate confirms appointments. These include not just Supreme Court nominees, but cabinet officers, ambassadors, regular military officer promotions, etc. In cases where the president is appointing officers who will work for him and will leave office at the end of his term, quite a bit of deference is given to his nominees. However, that doesn't mean all make it through confirmation--John Tower is a good example. There is less deference and more critical attention paid to Supreme Court nominees, of course, but the Senate traditionally gives the president some benefit of doubt. Beyond that, once it is clear that a nominee will be confirmed, most Senators vote "yes" as a sign of support for the system. That's how Ginsburg, who was anathema to many Republicans, was confirmed 97-3. In unusual cases, where there is serious, substantive doubt about a nominee, the vote can be much closer, as in the case of Thomas, when it was 52-48.

The Senate rarely explicitly rejects a Supreme Court nominee. It's happened 12 times in our history. The votes for the current eight justices were 98-0, 99-0, 98-0, 97-0, 90-9, 52-48, 97-3, and 87-9.

You'll note that for Ginsburg and Breyer (97-3 and 87-9), both Clinton nominees, Republicans suspended their partisan hackery long enough to show some class. I wonder if Democrats can suspend their hatred and narrow-minded partisanship long enough to do the same thing now?

10:56 AM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Tom, your anti-Democratic bias shines thru in no uncertain terms.

You note that Republicans suspended their partisan hackery long enough to show some class. and yet Clinton's second nominee was rejected by roughly 10% of those voting. Were those Liberal Democrats who voted against Breyer?

Not a single Senator has voted on Roberts and yet you persistently couch the Senate Dems in terms of their hatred for Bush and their "narrow-minded" partisanship with respect to the Roberts vote.

None of that surprises me. It's pretty obvious that you don't like Democrats, your protestations that you are yourself a Democrat not withstanding. The manner in which you consistently describe Democrats pretty much tells the tale of the tape, to borrow a Boxing metaphor.

What does concern me is how casually you dismiss as "superficial" the very reason why the Founders created Congress and designed the system so that the executive branch couldn't just install whomever it wanted without regard to whether anyone approved of it or not. Do you mean to suggest that tradition rather than the rule of law ought to govern how this system of government works?

11:29 AM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger carla said...

Actually..none of the Senate should be voting to confirm Roberts.

Given that the White House has flatly refused to release requested paperwork on the guy to the Senate...(not to mention Roberts own refusal to answer pertinent, relevant questions), there isn't enough information on his background work as White House Asst Counsel.

The role of the senate is not just advisory. It's also consensual. Historically, Presidents consult closely with Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle before making a nomination (Clinton consulted closely with Orrin Hatch on both of his nominees..especially Ginsburg). Bush has done none of this.

Complaining that somehow the Democrats are a bunch of left wing partisan hacks whose job is to shut up and rubber stamp Bush's choices is ludicrous. If you're not willing to look at the picture as a whole..then why bother to look at it at all?

It's exasperating.

12:10 PM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin and Carla, understanding the constitutional framework of the government plus some political theory doesn't explain how things work. I was just trying to point out some of the practices and traditions that make it possible to understand the way things are done.

Bush consulted with Senate leaders prior to the Roberts nomination and has done so prior to nominating a replacement for O'Connor. Whether the president consults with the Senate prior to making a Supreme Court nomination, and how much he consults, has varied quite a bit over time. It's neither required nor firmly established in tradition.

No one has the right or the power to decide who is or is not a Democrat or a Republican. In particular, the far left doesn't own the Democratic Party, at least not yet.

I am, in fact, a Democrat, and I'm confident that there are far more like me than there are like those on the far left who would presume to define the Party.

11:54 PM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger carla said...

Bush consulted with Senate leaders prior to the Roberts nomination and has done so prior to nominating a replacement for O'Connor. Whether the president consults with the Senate prior to making a Supreme Court nomination, and how much he consults, has varied quite a bit over time. It's neither required nor firmly established in tradition.

Bush consulted with Senate leaders in his own party. He doesn't consult with leaders of the opposition party..which was my point. That's what makes Bush divisive. That's what keeps Bush from being a true leader.

Consulting is not about his legal obligation. It's about his moral and ethical and leadership obligation. Bush lacks those qualities and has demonstrated this repeatedly.

In terms of your political self identification, I personally don't care. Whatever gets you through the day. But it's clear that you have a disdain for Democrats (who as a group are generally politically moderate) than Republicans (who have marched their party to the hard right).

If you consider yourself a moderate...I would think that your writing would reflect a much more strident approach toward the Republicans.

Just an observation.

12:04 PM, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Carla, Bush consulted with senators of both parties before he nominated Roberts, and he just consulted with senators of both parties on the next nominee. This information isn't hard to find.

I am, indeed, critical of extremists in both parties. But it's the Democrats who most interest me, probably because I honestly expect more from them. I'm also concerned that the far left is pretty much taking over the Party. It takes a long time to recover from that kind of catastrophe, as the Republicans learned after Goldwater conservatives seized control of their Party in the 1960s.

12:16 PM, September 23, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

In particular, the far left doesn't own the Democratic Party, at least not yet.

Who, in your estimation, owns the Republican party - moderates or extremists?

12:32 PM, September 23, 2005  
Anonymous John said...

You need to make a rational case, first, that there is a significant number of "extremist" Republicans. Do you mean the Buchanan conservatives? They left the party years ago. Do you mean the neo-cons? How, exactly, are they extremist? Because they believe in making war aggressively against those who would destroy our nation? Because some of them are pro-life? Because they want to limit Federal involvement in business regulation and local political issues? That makes them nothing more than updated Reaganites. The term "extremist" is a misnomer entirely inconsistent with the nature of conservatism.

8:12 PM, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, that's a valid question. My guess is you're thinking about religious conservatives. There's no doubt that they represent a lot of votes, and Republicans can't afford to ignore them. But they don't control the Party and never will, in my estimation. Most conservatives I read and hear generally find them embarrassing and irritating. Most important, extreme religious conservatives don't in any way speak for the Republican Party.

I also don't think extremist liberals own the Democratic Party, although they seem to have gotten away with seizing the megaphone in recent years. Most Democrats I know find them to be embarrassing and irritating, too. It concerns me, though, that falling public identification with the Party and the loss of Democratic power in government are results of extremist liberal nonsense. Serious Democrats need to change that.

John, there are, in fact, extremist conservatives who form part of the Republican base. To avoid debate over marginal figures, how about Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, David Duke, and all the white supremacy dudes out there like Jared Taylor? Of course, they no more represent the vast majority of conservative Republicans than their counterparts on the extreme left represent the majority of Democrats. But they're there.

12:58 AM, September 24, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Tom, even though his star has clearly faded over the last couple of years, Pat Robertson's 700 Club still has a viewership of roughly 1 million per day and the Christian Coalition which he founded and led until 2002 claims a support base of 2.5 million. Those are not insubstantial numbers...

You still haven't expained how nearly 20% of Senate Republicans voting against Ginsburg demonstrated the kind of nonpartisan class you spoke of.

1:18 AM, September 24, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Do you mean the neo-cons? How, exactly, are they extremist? Because they believe in making war aggressively against those who would destroy our nation?

John, are you trying to insinuate that Kim Jong Ill of North Korea was LESS interested in destroying our nation than Saddam was? I don't know any rational person who would buy that.

North Korea, not Iraq, sold ICBM technology to Iraq. North Korea, not Iraq, is believed to have sold nuclear technology/know how to Iran and Libia.

So then the REAL question is: why did the NeoCons really want to invade Iraq rather than North Korea?

1:27 AM, September 24, 2005  
Anonymous John said...

Tom: conceded on Republican extremists. Thank God they don't dominate the GOP.

Kevin: we didn't take military action against North Korea because the situation different in the Far East than in Central Asia. North Korea can cause a nuclear disaster in South Korea or Tokyo right now. When we attacked Iraq, we still believed (rightly or wrongly) that their threat was still a future threat. Further, an attack on North Korea could bring on an intervention by the Chinese either directly in opposition to our forces on that peninsula (as in 1951) or nearby in Taiwan (as they are planning at this moment). I also suspect that we are waiting to see if the poorly managed regime of that country collapses under its own weight (as in Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union). Failing that, they may manage to blow up a piece of their own countryside with a quality control skill-set that probably would have made Chernboble look like a model of efficientcy.

6:14 PM, September 24, 2005  

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