I just finished reading an excellent book, "Supreme Conflict" by Jan Crawford Greenburg. Greenburg is an attorney and Supreme Court analyst for Newshour with Jim Lehrer and CBS' Face The Nation.
It's a good read that focuses on the recent history and controversy over the confirmation process for federal judicial nominees and Supreme Court Justices in particular. It starts with Sandra Day O'Connor and continues on through the confirmation of Samuel Alito.
I was left with one searing impression: my contempt for Senate Democrats is confirmed and strengthened. What a feckless, unprincipled lot they are, led by the likes of Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy.
I won't go into the infamous and scandalous attack on Robert Bork by Ted Kennedy (the infamous "Robert Bork's America" speech). That was a shameful episode, but it set the stage for all that comes after.
Instead, I want to compare and contrast the judicial confirmation process during the Clinton administration with a Republican-controlled Senate and the Bush administration with a Democrat-controlled one.
Bill Clinton appointed two Justices to the Supreme Court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Neither were pilloried by any Republican on the Judiciary Committee or in the Senate as a whole. Neither were vilified for their left-wing judicial philiosophies. Ginsburg was not dragged through the mud for her work as General Counsel of the ACLU. Rather the issue before the Senate during her confirmation was her suitability as a Justice. Did she have the academic credentials and work experience to do the job? It was easily determined that she did, and she was easily confirmed. 93-7, if I am not mistaken. Likewise, Breyer had a relatively easy time of it.
Now contrast that with the scurrilous treatment of so many of the Bush appellate nominees, and the rhetoric from Democrats in reference to the Roberts and Alito nominations. The Democrats decided, unilaterally, to change the rules. No more would the judicial confirmation process be about a nominee's suitability for the bench. Now the issue would be the nominee's judicial philosophy.
This, and the misuse of the filibuster, really makes me angry. It is understood that one of the prerogatives of being president is the power to nominate judges and justices whose philosophy most closely matches the president's. It's absurd to suggest that a Republican president must nominate someone who is ideologically acceptable to Democrats. Certainly that thought never crossed Bill Clinton's mind when he nominated Ginsburg and Breyer.
And, yet they got away with it. The reputations of sterling nominees like Miguel Estrada were dragged through the mud at the behest of People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice because Estrada was a Hispanic who dared to be conservative.
Of course, the Democrats were ably aided and abetted by the major news media organizations in this effort. But even more disappointing than that was that Republicans were so ineffectual in countering these despicable tactics. I ached for someone, anyone, to say, "Well, of course the President nominated conservative jurists. It's one of the things he was elected to do." It never happened. Instead we got John McCain and the Gang of Fourteen.
This game of "one set of rules - anything goes as long as we say so - for us, and another for them" is why I have zero respect for most Democrats.