At every level, from TV talking heads to senior Senators, liberal Democrats continue to demonstrate that they understand neither Republicans nor the Constitution.
While he's not the only Democrat I've heard say this, let me pick on Juan Williams, a regular representative of the left on Fox News and NPR. This morning he made the claim that extreme liberals in the Senate were right to filibuster Judge Alito's confirmation because Alito was nominated by President Bush solely to pander to his conservative base after they rebelled against the not-conservative-enough Harriet Miers.
As I've written before
, Bush's base did revolt against Harriet Miers, but NOT because she is not conservative enough. Miers was a terrible pick because she appeared to know less about constitional law than I do, and that's not very much since I'm not a laywer. She was a terrible pick because the choice smelled of cronyism. She was a terrible pick, even from the point of view of the christian right, because the main trait that Bush mentioned in his reasons to support her was that she was a conservative christian rather than a Constitutional originalist.
So, Williams simply has it wrong that Alito was chosen as a more conservative replacement of Miers as a nominee.
But even if he were right, it does not follow that a filibuster (or even a no vote on confirmation) would be the appropriate response.
There is a reason we have elections. One of the primary benefits of winning the Presidency is the right to nominate judges to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. The Federalist Papers (as well as two hundred years of precedent) make it clear that if neither the nominee nor the nomination process is corrupt, the Senate has an implied duty to confirm.
: The Senate is not co-equal in the process of appointing Justices to the Supreme Court. In the Federalist No. 76, Hamilton makes the Constitutional position clear: “To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would…tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity.”
If anything, Senators could have had a plausible case to filibuster Harriet Miers but they have no legitimate basis on which to oppose Alito.
This isn't stopping the Massachusetts delegation of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry from making their Constitutional idiocy plain to the world by pressing for a filibuster that even they know can not succeed.
But let's be clear here, this is not really about Alito's fitness to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. It is about truly disgusting political pandering...by the left. Every step of this process has been used by Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and John Kerry to play to the most extreme leftist radicals in the Democratic party for political and financial reasons.
The delay in the Judiciary Committee's vote on Alito was orchestrated by Leahy in order to allow left-wing groups like MoveOn.org to raise money from the Deaniac wing of the party...and to contribute that money to Leahy and friends.
The same process is at work in Kerry's call for a filibuster.
[For the record, I continue to enjoy Kerry's political tone-deafness. He called for a filibuster from the most elite forum of leading capitalists in the world even though a great part of Kerry's lack of appeal to Democrats in 2004 was his appearance as a patrician elitist with nothing in common with members of his party. If there is any place Kerry should not have made himself so visible, it is a meeting of CEOs, traders, and other business tycoons in an outrageously expensive part of Switzerland at a meeting that costs more than most people's annual income to attend.]
But there is more going on than just finance. It is the Democrats absolute need to find a way to motivate their base. There is huge political risk and difficulty in opposing the war in Iraq. This and the fact that the Democrats have very few ideas and thus so few opportunities to energize partisan party members cause them to jump on the Alito nomination in a desperate search to differentiate themselves from Republicans and not appear soft on an issue.
As someone said on Meet the Press today, John Kerry can never again be seen has having "voted for something before voting against it." So he is going out of his way to appear strong and consistent on this issue.
Unfortunately for him, the move is a political loser. While there are many left-wing Democrats who will be pleased with Kerry's move, calling for a filibuster represents his politicial clumsiness because 1) the fililbuster will fail, further marring Kerry's reputation as ineffective and 2) many Democrats support conservative Supreme Court judges.
As far as point #1, the Democrats (and particularly the most calculating ones like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid) have made a specific judgment that it is a political winner to support a guaranteed-to-fail filibuster. I think they are making a mistake, so I am happy they have made that choice.
It does make one wonder how many of these Democrats would support a filibuster which actually had a chance to succeed. My guess is that if it were a secret ballot without a vote count in advance, many Democrats would not support the filibuster since a successful one would probably do even more political damage than a failed one.
I almost feel bad for the Democrats that these are the choices they are left with. Almost. If the only risk were a few votes here or there, that would be one thing. But the Democrats are abusing the fundamental rules of our constitutional system out of electoral panic.
I remain somewhat surprised that more is not being made of the clear desperation of Democrats as shown by comparing their behavior today with the Senate's 96-3 vote in support of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's confirmation. That vote obviously included the support of many conservative Republican Senators who would have found anathema the political views and judicial approach of the former chief counsel of the ACLU.
The Democrats have picked an unwinnable fight and have put themselves in a lose-lose situation. On one hand, I am glad to see political hacks like Harry ("It's not Abramoff money") Reid put in such a pickle, but I am far more concerned with the erosion of the very foundation of our Republic caused by these unjustifiable political machinations.