Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Confirm This

     Some of the biggest headlines and political controversies over the past 6 months have been over confirmation hearings of judges. In April, all the politicians could talk about were filibusters or a "nuclear option". But the Republicans not only control Congress, they control it in a way no party has ever controlled it. Because the Republicans would rather cut off their balls than vote contrary to the President, Republican Congressmen are about as worthless as Presidential Electors. (I'm comfortable saying "balls" because only 28 out of 286, or 9.9% of Republicans in Congress are women. Only 22% of Dems are women, FWIW.) So what options to Democrats really have if they don't like a judge?
     In normal times, even if there aren't split majorities in Congress and the White House, some members of each party will cross the aisle to vote against the President's pick. Integrity used to count for something, after all, and each of these Senators and Representatives were elected by local people in their home districts, not selected by the national party office. Extremists of any persuasion were rarely appointed and almost never approved. But today, Republicans are certain to approve anyone that makes it to the floor for a vote. By a unanimous vote. (You know who also used to win by unanimous vote? Saddam Hussein. But I digress.) So what's a Democrat to do without a majority when an incompetent or extremist like Darth Miers or Scalito is nominated?
     As it turns out, Dems have a few options. They can vote "No" and complain loudly, either on C-Span or their local news. This option is called, "Preaching to the Choir, but they get to maintain their integrity. They can filibuster, but this option has 2 problems. One is that Americans are not comfortable with the idea of a minority blocking the will of a majority. Despite being one of the pillars of American society from Day 1, it remains unpopular. A filibuster, of course, doesn't allow a minority to pass unpopular legislation. It just keeps majorities from doing so. And there's a limit on the power of a filibuster - minorities in the Senate must have at least 41 participating members - hardly a tiny fraction of the 100 member Senate. But because of its unpopularity, it would be unwise for minority Dems to use this tool too often. Clearly a filibuster would have been used in case Harriet Miers had not resigned her nomination, since she was so unpopular and unqualified. But the Democrats' beef with Scalito is that he's too partisan. They just don't like him. And if they choose to filibuster him, Senate Republicans might just remove filibusters altogether, making the need to ever compromise again on anything non-existent.
     So Scalito will most likely be confirmed, barring some revelation of his past in which his wife had an abortion or he accidentally used Jesus's name in vain. So why are the Democrats not using Option #3 - using the confirmation hearings to trash him, trash the Republican opposition, and trash Bush, but not hindering the actual vote? They're wasting their everloving time asking him about precedent and abortion memos and conservative rulings. He's getting confirmed anyway and you know the answers, so why bother asking stupid questions that put even the producers of C-SPAN to sleep? Dems need to ask questions in the vein of, "Are you sorry you beat your wife?" - questions with no good answer designed for public relations value only. Show a little backbone, for goodness sake. (Note: I don't condone asking the man if he's sorry he beats his wife, unless it's actually true) I mean, you have one shot at national press before you shuffle back off into obscurity. Make the American people believe that you believe in something, because for some reason the Rush Limbaughs and Karl Roves of the world have convinced Americans that the people who stand for civil rights and the environment and diplomacy and charity and responsibility don't stand for anything anymore. You're going to lose this battle. Don't quit the war.


Ben said...

Miers was a stupid pick, and if you'd done your homework you'd know that plenty of Republicans were planning to vote against her. Why the heck do you think she's no longer in the running? Because Bush discovered that he wasn't going to get the rubber stamp.

Altio is a different story. He's a principled conservative with a long paper trail and lots of experience. None of his judgements show him to be extreme in any manner. There is no reason for a Republican to vote against him, and the only reason Dems can is that he doesn't share their political ideology, but it's ridiculous to expect Bush to nominate a liberal, just as it would have been ridiculous to expect Clinton to nominate conservatives.

If you bother to read any of Alito's rulings, you may disagree with his conclusion, but you will find only a strict interpretation of the law in his briefs, and no moralizing or politicizing to influence the decision.

I know you were a fan of the Kelo decision. Alito would want to reverse that as it's unconstitutional. The majority of the American people don't like it either, so by the logic of your previous entry, that should be reversed.

Scott said...

Ben, please don't use the word "logic" in your posts - it doesn't fit. You're saying he should overturn Kelo because it's unpopular?? I don't like the result of Kelo, but I agree that it's supported by the Constitution. But I'm glad you're OK with "Judicial Activism" as long as the ruling he's changing is "unpopular".
And by the way, I never suggested a judge should be swayed by polls, just our elected officials. But clearly, as one of the 37%, you only feel that way when it's convenient to you.
If you'd actually read my post, by the way, you'll notice I never said Scalito was unqualified. I was suggesting a course of action for the Democrats. And regarding Miers, no Republican was ever really going to vote against her - she was forced to resign to prevent that from happening.

Ben said...

In your democracy entry, you said that this is a quasi-democracy, so elected officials should listen to the will of the people in the form of polls. Once you go down that route, soon enough people will want the Supreme Court to follow the will of the people, and it will happen eventually as the Constitution is further eroded. I support overturning it because it's unconstitutional, and plainly so, with only a retrofitted definition providing justification. I'm being perrfectly consistent. You just decided to misunderstand me.

You made my point with Miers. First you said no GOP would vote against Bush because they are all loyal. I said you were wrong and they would vote against Miers. Then you said they would in fact vote against Miers, so Bush forced her to resign the nomination so he wouldn't have to face GOP no votes. Obviously he isn't very sure of their "lockstep" loyalty, so I don't know why you are.

Oh, and I'll take you on in a logic test any day.

Mr Furious said...

Dahlia Lathwick at slate had a really good point on this last week. I pulled a chunk out and posted on it here.

Basically, the Dems are preparing to use the hearing to pose and preen for the cameras and constituents, but not really pursue anything of substance. That's a waste of everybody's time.

Lithwick: It's time for Senate Democrats to recognize that a) there is a national conversation about the role of judges now taking place; and that b) thanks to their weak efforts, it's not a conversation—it's a monologue.

More at my place and a link to the original. Hate to link-drop and run, but I am pressed for time right now. I'm enjoying the blog, Scott. See you around.

Scott said...

Ben, how about an "Inability to Tell The Truth" test? I said GOP senators would vote against Miers? We're obviously reading different things here. I'm reading the comments and you're reading Neal Boortz's talking points.

Ben said...

Here's the exact quote, "And regarding Miers, no Republican was ever really going to vote against her - she was forced to resign to prevent that from happening." What other interpretation is there except that they would have voted against her, so she was forced to resign to prevent that. No reason to have said what you said unless you thought GOP people would have voted against her.

Don't call me a liar, what you wrote is right there in black and white. If anyone lied here, it's you, denying something you said.

Mr Furious said...

I'll confess I read it the same way Ben did at first, and found it slightly confusing. Now I realize what you meant.

In order to preserve the lockstep, she had to go before the vote. The Republicans unity is as much illusion as anything else. It wouldn't do to have a candidate that couldn't pass muster and garner a unanimous party vote. So, in order to ensure the Republican unity they changed the nominee rather than face the ignominy of breaking ranks.

That's how bad a nominee she was and what a screw-up Bush is. Even ensured a 100% party vote, Bush manages to screw it up and has to recant. But, of course, Bush cannot admit a mistake either, so Miers has to withdraw.

Party above all else.

Ben said...

So we've both come to the conclusion that Scott's original point, that "Republicans would rather cut off their balls than vote contrary to the President" is wrong. Thank you, good night.

But I should point out the recent ANWR vote and the anti-torture bill as definite examples of GOP members voting contrary to Bush, again rendering Scott's point incorrect.

Mr Furious said...

No, that is not exactly my conclusion. They would rather cut off their own balls than vote against the White House until the point when voting with the WH is a drawback.

We are reaching that point rapidly.

The President is a lame duck and all the other party leaders are under investigation. This is leading to a bit of "Every man for himself" right now among Republicans. As a result, they are actually worried about pissing off voters, not Karl Rove or Tom DeLay.

All in all, that's a good thing.

As far as Scott goes, being wrong (which he's not really) or making a mistake (unclear statement) is not the same as lying. Forcing the withdrawal of a Supreme Court nominee from a President of your own party IS pretty serious self-mutilation to avoid a "NO" vote. Scott is right on that one. Just because they broke ranks against a plummeting President into the embrace of overwhelming poll numbers is hardly cause for a celebration of independant thought.

Ben said...

There's a long record of GOP members voting against Bush on any number of issues. There's also a long record of Republicans speaking out against Bush policies, and people like me who are accused of being Bush lovers have blogs filled with criticism of various issues. Medicare drug plan, for example, bad planning in post-major-combat operations in Iraq, nominating Miers, giving too much credit to the Palestinians who have gone back on their word time and time again. Y'all just decide to ignore any dissension because it goes against your viewpoint. You also ignore the fact that the Democrats vote en masse AGAINST Bush on most issues. I guess it only shows lack of independent thought when it is Republicans, though, since I never hear any of you whine when that happens.

ORF said...

I think in truth that what the GOP is experiencing is a loosening of the reins. They have begun to reach a point in the Bush administration in which the public is saying, "wait a minute, maybe we should re-thing some things" about him and as a result, members of the party have grown a pair and started to understand that it's ok to distance themselves from him. I would imagine that their staunch party support up to this point has not been so ideology-minded as votes-counted minded. The Prez has some important and powerful people on his team, for better or for worse, and come election time, the GOPers will need them. But not as much if all the President's men are tainted. So now the House and Senate have a little leeway because if they contradict Bush they are not writing their own death sentences these days.