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May 18, 2005

Comments

JD

I have been thinking about this a little more today, and a couple of thoughts keep popping into my head.

First off, I tend to ultimately want games to be played by the rules. In this scenario, I do not get the impression that either side is doing so. Despite what many claim, I sincerely believe that the Dems filibuster is an escalation of the prior obstructionism displayed by both parties. I also had/have deep misgivings about circumventing the process for the rules change that was on the verge of happening. I guess, to be intellectually consistent, the "deal" managed to keep that from happening, so I cannot despise it too much.

Along a tangential line, I find it truly sad that the appointment of judges has become this political theatre. I do not want this to sound like a "we won, deal with it" statement, but the simple fact is that President Bush did win, and one of the perks of winning for any party, is that they get to appoint judges, and presumably they appoint judges whose ideology is more closely aligned with their own. It is not packing the courts, or any other such malarkey. It is one of the spoils of victory.

Ultimately, whether or not a Democrat or a Republican sits in the White House, or controls the Senate, I wish we could get back to a time when a judges qualifications were the main consideration for the position. Each side now has its own litmus tests for who should be selected, who should be fought against. I know it is just politics, and makes for great theatre, but I really think that the President should send whoever they damn well please to the Senate, and they should vote up or down. If President Bush wanted to nominate me to the federal bench, he should do so. I would expect that I would be pilloried in Committee, but I do believe I have the requisite qualifications.

All of the bickering going on now seems to be in regards to anything but qualifications for the bench. The focus is only on outcome for the litmus test applied by each side. And that, my friends, is sad, and I would argue that is not what the Framers had in mind when they included advise and consent.

JD

A couple more rambling incoherent thoughts :

1) Danm, do I ever miss Don Williams. I haven't heard a truly good Zionist/neocon/Rovian/insert some financial institution conspiracy theory in a while.

2) What freaking good is a "Memo of Understanding". Outisde of public opinion, that document is worth about as much as the paper it is written on. It does not have the weight of legislation, the Courts, or even the parties. It is a completely unenforceable pseudo-contract. See point #3 for a good example of this ...

3) In the cloture vote on Priscilla Owen today, it is my understanding that Sen. Inouye of Hawaii did not vote. As he was a signatory to the Memo of Understanding, would it now be permissible to declare him to be in breech of his agreement, and thus nullifying it altogether?

pyrrho

JD,

I pretty much agree on the judicial nominees except that 95% of them did get through, and it's not the "spoils". I figure that was just an way of putting it, but it puts it well.

People in elected office have a lot of powers, they are supposed to excersize them properly. It's like police having guns and getting to shoot them at people... you can't just shoot anyone.

The President's responsibility does include having an objective, non-partisan judiciary. They can lean right, of course, if they will maintain judicial spirit and be an autonomous branch of government.

Still, the President has a lot of discretion in that.

But the Republican's do not represent 95% of the people, and it's not unreasonable for a 45% minority to put their foot down on a scant 5%, I don't think.

JD

pyrrho,

I hate to nitpick numbers, as I think that debates over issues often get sidetracked, losing track of the big picture. But, it is my understanding that the 95% figure is a total for all judges. When one looks at the appeals court level, the numbers are significantly smaller.

pyrrho

JD,

give me a set of numbers if you like, I am willing to use them depending on what they represent. I have no problem using the whole number because of course the higher the court the more careful the Senators should be.

But I will eagerly read break downs and use other numbers as appropriate.

Chum

From Media Matters here is a comparison of Bush's first term appelate approvals compared to a Clinton term:

"Nuclear option" advocates have also claimed that the confirmation rate for Clinton's appellate nominees was much higher than for Bush's nominees. But the confirmation rate in Clinton's second term and Bush's first term are nearly identical -- 35 of Clinton's 51 nominees were confirmed, compared to 35 of Bush's 52 nominees.

Another talking point is that "100 percent" of Clinton's appellate nominees were approved once they reached the Senate floor. But that statistic is highly misleading because the Republican-led Judiciary Committee blocked the 16 second-term Clinton appellate nominees by keeping them off the floor and, in all but one case, denying them even committee hearings.

There seems to be some consistency in the approval process. If they weren't lifetime appointments I wouldn't give a rat's ass if they all got rubber stamped regardless of who is in power. A concern I have that nobody talks about is at what point do controversial appointments become "damaged goods"? Can someone remain impartial after protracted attacks be the Left or the Right? Wouldn't it push them even farther to the fringes and may even want to seek revenge once on the bench?

Why do we have to have a win/lose political system? There are 535 people legislating for nearly 300 million people. With simple majorities it would be 270 people (including the President)deciding much of our fates. This should force super-majorities in both houses to get things done. That is the only way true coopertion occurred.

I've read that the "Minority" Democratic Senate actually represent more people than the majority Republican rulers. This is caused by the 2 senator rule regardless of population. In 2000 Bush lost the popular vote yet the Electoral College (and the Supreme Court I might add) declared him the winner. Does this support any sort of "winner takes the spoils" outcome? This isn't war for God's sake, although the partisans on both side want to make it one.

My dream is of a true leader than can energize the masses and become the "people's choice" president outside of either party. Someone who has a bully pulpit from grassroots support and not because some count (or bean counters) let them demand it. Someone who seeks consensus with the only "losers" being those with a rigid agenda.

JD

I think that with a historical perspective on this, one might see that comparing first term and second term appointment confirmation rates is not necessarily comparing apples to apples. I am not advocating that it is right, but it is my undertstanding that the confirmation rates are highest in the first half of the first term, siginificantly lower in the second half of the first term, then higher again in the first half of the second term (but lower than before), and are the lowest in the second half of the second term, due to the essentially lame duck status of the President at that time.

pyrrho

I'm not sure we choose the justices the right way anyway.

Not sure what a better method might be.

I definitely am with Chum on the idea that supermajorities should be required a lot more, this is a democracy, not a majoritocracy, everyone is supposed to be represented ALL the time, not only if you elect a member of the right party!

I'd love to see the end of political parties, in fact.

JD

I have no problem with supermajorities being required. However, our system is set up the way it is. There is nothing, not one thing, that indicates that the number of voters for the parties has any bearing on who the majority party is. It is a good talking point, like Gore winning the popular vote, but it is nothing other than a talking point. If that is how you wish the system to run, then change the rules.

pyrrho

JD,

in my case, agreed. I'm not saying those are the rules.

However, your point isn't so straight forward... right now the rules allow filibuster, and the Nuclear Option is a way to change the rule without actually changing the rules.

Why? Getting the presiding officer to rule something unconstitutional only takes a 50% vote, changing the rules takes a 2/3 vote and thats even more than it takes for cloture.

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