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April 17, 2005
Judiciary -- The Harm In Waiting

One of the results of the posts I've written about the lack of effort on the part of the Senate GOP in resolving the obstructionism of the Democrats on judicial nominations is a tremendous debate on the right about strategy and consequences of action and non-action, by both politicians and voters alike. The debate has resulted in well-written arguments on all sides, and even those criticizing me make excellent points well worth considering. For the small amount of time I've had in front of the computer tonight, I've spent it reading the rebuttals as well as the agreements, which has given me food for thought.

One of the questions many have asked on their own blogs as well as in their comments is why I feel that the time for patience has run out. Some argue that waiting a few more weeks or even months -- or even until next year's election -- will not make much of a difference and may convince more waverers to support the rule change. I feel this is incorrect. The Senate GOP received a tremendous mandate for the end of Democratic obstructionism in November 2004, and the more time that elapses between then and an eventual rule-change attempt, the less likely the centrists will keep that mandate in mind. The Exempt Media will work over the proposal to make it sound more and more extreme, as it already did this week when Bill Frist discussed it with religious leaders like James Dobson. The more that happens, the more trepidation centrists will feel about ending filibusters and being seen as siding with so-called "extremists".

Strategy doesn't account for all of my impatience, either. Earlier I alluded to the harm done to the nominees themselves. One of the reasons I have not posted much tonight is because of a long phone conversation I had tonight with a state appellate court justice with a personal connection to one of Bush's nominees. This well-regarded jurist spent over an hour with me tonight recounting the personal toll that this process has taken on the nominee and his/her family. And this jurist does not blame the Democrats for this, at least not exclusively.

The judge does fault the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for a lack of ethics and common courtesy on their behavior towards the Bush nominees. However, he reserves special criticism for the GOP for abandoning these unfortunate pawns in this petty power game. Each nominee has been given specific instructions not to defend themselves against the character assassinations coming from Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy, et al, with assurances that the GOP would move quickly to resolve the impasse and restore their public reputations. Instead, even with the votes to remove the filibuster reportedly in Frist's pocket, the GOP has gone silent and allowed these judges to twist slowly and silently in the wind while the last shred of dignity and honor has been stripped from them.

The hearings have been bad enough. Normally, nominees would have family members attend hearings as support and a demonstration of the comity expected in the proceedings. That practice has begun to die in direct proportion to the invective hurled at these jurists -- every one of which has been found qualified by the ABA, which prior to Bush taking office was considered the gold standard by Democrats for confirmation. Quite frankly, the spectacle has proven too painful for families to watch in person, and that's just in the hearings. Afterwards, they have to listen to their spouse, or parent, or grandparent, insulted and vilified by the likes of Nan Aron or Ralph Neas, with nary a peep from Frist, Specter, or any of the other GOP members of what used to be the world's greatest deliberative body.

Given this humiliating process, the motivation for accepting a nomination to the federal bench has dimmed considerably. The Democrats have the knives out for everyone proposed for federal appellate seats, and the GOP won't lift a finger to defend them. Three of the ten nominees blocked by the unprecedented filibusters have withdrawn, and more will likely follow soon. The one known to this jurist plans to stick it out for personal reasons, seeking victory as the only redemption left in the process. How many more qualified and honorable jurists will decline now to have their names placed in consideration knowing that not only will the Democrats sling mud incessantly at them, but that the GOP will insist that they remain silent while the party that nominated them abandons them to ridicule?

Not many, I'll bet.

In the next few days, this jurist will be sharing more of his thoughts and experiences with me in the two-and-a-half year nightmare with the filibuster debacle, as well as insights into the Senators involved. I decided to keep his name and his connection to any nominees confidential, only because revealing it might impact the process even further. As an appellate justice, this person has impeccable credentials and a long and distinguished record of service. Starting on Monday, I plan a series of posts on how the GOP has allowed this process to mistreat others who have spent years trying their best to support justice and the rule of law while our Senators wait, McClelland-like, for a mythical "perfect opportunity" to call the vote.

In the meantime, however, I commend the blogosphere for giving us what the Senate can no longer provide: a sincere and heartfelt debate on complex issues that allow for the dignity of all who disagree. If the Senate at one time was the world's greatest deliberative body, the blogosphere may now have eclipsed them, mostly by their default.

UPDATE: Bump to the top for Sunday, April 17.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 17, 2005 12:32 PM

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