Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I knew two things as soon as I looked at the Post-Dispatch the morning after John Roberts was nominated.
First, I knew that Bush had found a stealth extremist for the Court. All that prose about Roberts's fine manners and his good heart told me that he wasn't going to be criticized as an extremist. Yet the delight with which the far right welcomed him told me that he was one. Not that I was ever in doubt as to the sort of nominee we'd get. Bush's evangelical base has been clamoring for the "right kind" of judge, and he will not deny them.
The second thing I realized was that a filibuster was not in the picture. Not unless the Dems manage to dig up some fairly filthy dirt. One of the fourteen senators who crafted the filibuster compromise--was it McCain?--said that Roberts would not qualify under the "extraordinary circumstances" clause that would allow a Supreme Court nomination filibuster. And none of the Democrats was openly disagreeing with him about that.
Perhaps if we had feistier Democratic senators than we do, much feistier, our party could successfully educate the public about the aims of the Federalist Society (see Sunday's blog). But we have Biden, Clinton and Kerry. Barbara Boxer can't do it alone. She tried after the electoral fraud surfaced and found out how lonely the rest of her party can leave her.
At least the Dems are hanging in there by insisting on seeing the records of Roberts's public service. And they ought to use Republican intransigence about producing them to wonder very loudly what the G.O.P. is hiding. And who knows, maybe they can uncover that fairly filthy dirt. There's time. At this point in the confirmation proceedings, Scalia looked like a shoo-in and no one imagined a challenge to Bork.
But if we're not that fortunate, the best the Democrats can do is warn the public what kind of judge they're about to get and say I told you so in the years to come. Above all, they must stick together and just vote no. It would be disastrous if ten or fifteen of them strayed off the reservation for the sake of some under the table quid pro quo. That kind of behavior would damage the party's credibility and make it that much harder to challenge Rehnquist's replacement.


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