Thursday, January 12, 2006


From the mailbag: the Alito confirmation process

Am I violating some blogging law by moving a comment thread from the comments into an actual post? Well, here goes.
[Question] Are you really a lawyer? Pardon the sarcasm, but do you really think Sen. Teddy's usual array of straw men could offer a primer on anything, other than being a demonstration of the Senator's excessive love for Chivas Regal?

I'm 46, and within my lifetime the "politics" of supreme Court nominees didn't matter. Only qualifications did. The idea that this has always been a "political" process is laughable.

What lefties, again and again, do is act as if fairly new practices are long-standing traditions; sometimes even people who are law profs do this.

[Answer] Are you really 46? You seem so much younger.

Name me one Supreme Court nomination process that was not political. Let's go back to your early years (1968-69): Warren Burger? He was one of the least qualified justices in the last 75 years, but Nixon knew he would make good on Nixon's "law and order" campaign promise. How about Lyndon Johnson's nomination of the highly liberal and super-qualified Associate Justice Abe Fortas to become Chief? The Republicans blocked the nomination with a filibuster. They went on and threatened to impeach him (and, after Fortas resigned, the liberal Justice Douglas), with Republican floor leader Gerald Ford saying that "high crimes and misdemeanors" (impeachable offenses) are "whatever Congress says they are."

How about Roosevelt's court-packing plan? Didn't the "politics" of the Justices matter then? How about the pro-slavery "politics" of justices between, say the1830s and the 1860s -- do you think Presidents and the Senate didn't think about that?

The only occasions when Supreme Court nominations don't seem "political" is when the nominees are too middle of the road to bother -- but then, the politics occurred behind the scenes, when the President was selecting the nominee precisely to avoid a political battle. Gee whiz, you can even pick that up from The West Wing.

Sometimes you can learn a lot from a West Wing episode. At least, I do.
No dissing The West Wing on my blog! I love that show and feel like I learn a lot watching it. I thought they did a great job showing how middle-izing the political vetting process can be with Supreme Court nominees in season five. I'm just saying, the info is right out there on network TV.
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