Thanks again to James Taranto's Best of the Web for this speech by John Kerry:
"Forces outside the mainstream now seem to effortlessly push Republican leaders toward conduct that the American people really don't want in their elected leaders, inserting the government into our private lives, injecting religion into debates about public policy where it doesn't apply.
Jumping through hoops to ingratiate themselves to their party's base while step-by-step and day-by-day real problems that keep Americans up at night fall by the wayside here in Washington. We each have to ask ourselves, Who's going to stop it? Who's going to stand up and say: Are we really going to allow this to continue? Are Republicans in the House going to continue spending the people's time defending Tom DeLay or they going to defend America and defend our democracy?
Will Republican senators let their silence endorse Senator Frist's appeal to religious division, or will they put principle ahead of partisanship and refuse to follow him across that line? Are we really willing to allow the Senate to fall in line with the Majority Leader when he invokes faith, faith, all of our faiths over here? Joe Lieberman's a person of faith. Harry Reid's a person of faith. And they don't believe we should rewrite the rules of the United States Senate, and we certainly shouldn't allow this issue of people who believe in the Constitution somehow challenging the faith of others in our nation.
Are we going to allow the Majority Leader to invoke faith to rewrite Senate rules to put substandard, extremist judges on the bench? Is that where we are now? It is not up to us to tell any one of our colleagues what to believe as a matter of faith. I can tell you what I do believe though.
When you have got tens of thousands of innocent souls perished in Darfur, when 11 million children are without health insurance, when our colossal debt subjects our economic future to the whims of Asian bankers, no one can tell me that faith demands all of a sudden that you put the Senate into a position where it is going to pull itself apart over the question of a few judges. No one with those priorities has a right to use faith to intimidate any one of us."
Kerry is really all over the map in this speech. He seems to be talking about the Republicans' [as yet unexecuted] plan to change Senate rules to require a simple majority for a cloture vote (i.e., a vote to stop a filibuster - although this is a misnomer because in the case of judicial nominees there is no filibuster; merely the threat of one).
I have followed this issue very closely and I don't recall any Republican Senator invoking religion as a reason to confirm judicial nominees. In fact the only discussion of religion I have heard has been from Democrats criticizing nominees such as William Pryor. Senators Feinstein, Kennedy and Schumer accused Pryor of having such deeply held beliefs (i.e., his Catholic faith) that they would cloud his judgment on abortion. To be fair, Pryor has been a vocal critic of Roe v. Wade, but the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were unable to cite one instance in his record where he allowed those beliefs to affect his carrying out the duties of his office (as Attorney General of Alabama).
I am really tired of Democrats feeling as if they have a right to characterize the positions and the actors on the Republican side. Many people in America think abortion is wrong. That doesn't make them extreme or outside the "mainstream". All this illustrates to me is that John Kerry doesn't have a clue what the "mainstream" really is.
And the endless characterization of Republican nominees as "extremist" is tiresome. Haven't there been any judges nominated by Democrats that were "extreme"? This is like news reports in which no-one is identified as "liberal" only "conservative". And calling the president's nominees "substandard" is just plain insulting - not to mention wrong. These jurists wouldn't be nominated without high marks for suitability from the American Bar Association.
I think it's flat-out hysterical that any Democrat can accuse the Republicans of trying to "insert government into our private lives". If any party can be said to stand for the idea of reducing government involvement in the lives of private citizens, it is the Republicans (although sadly in recent years it seems that the Republicans, too, have abandoned the idea of limited government).
Lastly, as Taranto points out, it's just possible (and I'm just spitballing here) that the Republicans want these nominees to be given an up-or-down floor vote so that they can get on with the real business of the Senate.