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July 13, 2005

Conference Calls

Yesterday, I had the chance to sit in on two separate conference calls concerning the upcoming Supreme Court appointment. One fulfilled the prophecy of the other.

The first was by the group Progress for America, working to support the President's nominee. The other was a call sponsored by the DSCC, featuring Howard Dean and Harry Reid, working to oppose the nominee.

Without a nominee yet, PFA has been able to play offense, ridiculing the Democrats' pre-emptive carpet-bombing of someone they haven't even seen yet. They unveiled the Rage Gauge, a catalog of Democratic and leftist hysteria. PFA has also published the rules of the game, as it's now played in Washington, in the hope that forewarned is both forearmed and inoculated.

Harry Reid, well, Harry pretty much read their script and his. His call was sponsored by the DSCC, and featued an introduction by Howard Dean wishfully calling him the majority leader.

I would point out that during his introduction, Dean noted that "there's thousands of people on this call." The invitation I received didn't say anything about not recording it. It explicitly suggested that I forward the email and the response link along to friends, to increase the participation. A screening process that lets a registered Republican participate in a conference call along with "thousands of people" can hardly be the result of an expectation of privacy.

I think the important thing is I recognize this first meeting is not "consultation." It's the beginning of consultation.

And who knows where it might end? The Democrats have a bit of a problem here, because nobody wants to formalize the process outside the committee hearings and floor devate, but it's completely unclear as to what "consultation" means. Rest assured that these are rocket-propelled goal posts on roller-blades.

I've said publicly this is a chance to unite the country. We've been through this waste of time, the nuclear option. He has tried to spend a lot of time on Social Security, and now people are just walking away from it, even Republicans. A little over 20% of the people think that's a good idea. We have intractable war in Iraq.

There's almost not a word of this that's true, and even less of it that's relevant. This is not a chance to unite a country, and not even clear that that's the role of a Supreme Court nomination. The nominations of Ginsburg and Breyer didn't unite the country - they passed because the Republicans didn't fight qualified, albeit very liberal - nominees.

What Social Security and the Iraq War have to do with this is beyond my imagining, except that they tell you something about where the Democratic Party has wandered off to. While conservatives point out that the Court will likely have to decide on cases inolving the conduct of the war, Reid simply uses it to undermine the effort and the Administration.

Does anyone really think that a Supreme Court nomination is going to unite the country? Is Reid really suggesting that the proper nominee will make it easier to work with the Democrats on Social Security and national defense?

We don't want this to be a show of, uh, consultation that really doesn't exist. The fact that reached out and called a lot of Senators saying, "what do you think, uh, give us some names" that's not consultation. We need to know the names of people he's talking about putting on this very, very important job to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

So it's not consultation to come up with a list of names without talking, and it's not consultation to ask for names that the Democrats would consider acceptable. As I said, rocket-propelled goalposts. On rollerblades.

In response to a question about filibusters:

The nuclear option is gone. It's over with. It's history. Even Ben Nelson, probably the most conservative member of our caucus has said, if there is an activist judge, and he feels that's extraordinary, he'll move for filibuster.

It looks more as more as though this deal was a bad one fore the Democrats, and that Reid is trying to rein in his caucus. I'd be more than a little worried about Nelson staying on the reservation, especially since he's up in 2006.

That said, the nuclear option was never about what the Democrats would do, it's about what the Republicans would do. If the Republicans believe that the Democrats have acted in bad faith, or that they're looking up "extraordinary" in foreign dictionaries, it's pretty clear that there are two votes there to revive the nuclear option. Reid can't control that, so he has to try to talk the nuclear option to death by pretending there weren't two sides to the deal.

I am very concerned about Sen. Frist. Today, we had a good meeting in the White House. He comes to the Senate floor, half hour after the meeting ends, and annouces that he does not want "co-nominations." This is something that came directly from the mouth of Jim Dobson, I'm sure. There wasn't anything brought up in that meeting, no one suggests that that's what we're gonna do.

Ding! Another talking point, James Dobson. Now, either Reid is just making this up, or he's tapped Frist's phones. How does he know where Frist got this from?

Look, I'm very unhappy with James Dobson being the poster boy for the judicial nominations fight. I don't think he's good at it, and I don't think he understands the differences among conservative activism, judicial restraint, and originalism. But dragging him here in from right field is just wacky, something to keep the base riled up.

If the President sends us a consensus nominee, the Senate will confirm that nominee easily. If he sends us a divisive nominee, we will use all procedural tools at our disposal to protect the American people. And finally, let me say this. What kind of a message does President Bush want to send to the American people? A judge that's approved on a party-line vote? I don't think that's very good.

"Protect the American people." From what? Local governments kicking us out of our homes? Oh, wait. Never mind.

Actually, the President is getting ready to send up a justice who will, against the will of the rest of the Court, write such rulings that will have governments all over the country putting in orders to Hugo Boss for those smashing black uniforms with the little red-white-and-black logos on them. Right.

But notice that last line. If the nuclear option is dead, then a Justice couldn't get approved on a party-line vote. The only way that could happen is if the Democrats refused to filibuster, but then voted en bloc against the nominee.

Reid has just admitted that the nuclear option is still very much alive.

At this point, the host read a question asking how he could avoid having the nomination become hostage to competing litmus tests.

I'm amazed, all this talk about litmus tests. It's interesting. It's not Democrats who have a litmus test for nominees. Actually, there's been a lot of talk from the right wing about "litmus tests." President Bush has recently had to tell some of the more extreme activists to tone down the rhetoric when they attacked his own Attorney General.

Again, there's a process in place which nominees are evaluated. If the President, I repeat, nominates someone like Sandra Day O'Connor - we know she was a conservative - there shouldn't be a problem with getting him or her confirmed.

We're not here to pick a fight; it's up to the President to avoid a confrontation.

No Democratic litmus test? One word - abortion. Notice that all the Democratic, and left-wing activists, talk about political philosophy, while the Republicans talk about judicial philosophy.

And, um, let's leave the cognitive dissonance, the internal contradictions of that last sentence, to Sen. Reid and his analyst.

Finally, Reid commented on Sen. Frist's claim that Presidential consultation of the sort we saw yesterday was "unprecedented." He all but called Frist a liar, and then provided two historical examples.

Herbert Hoover had an ampening - opening, on the
Supreme Court. He called the very, very powerful Borah, senator from Idaho, down to the White House to talk about him. And in fact, the President gave Sen. Borah a list of people he was thinking about putting on the Supreme Court.

Borah looked it over and he said, "Mr. President, this is a great list except you have it upside-down. And he moved Benjamin Cardozo, who was last, first. And he became one of our great justices."

Except that Borah was a single member, a Republican, and a member of the President's own party, and in the majority at the time. Reid might want to win a few elections before he starts claiming those privileges.

President Clinton. President Clinton wanted very badly to have his friend Bruce Babbitt go on the Supreme Court. He sent that name to Hatch and the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, Hatch said, "no, that's a battle that you will wish you hadn't gotten involved in." As a result of that we had a good Supreme Court justice. I don't know whether that was Breyer or Ginsburg, one of them stepped in there.

Again, the President is consulting with the majority party, not the minority here. He probably already had some idea of what the Democrats thought.

Bruce Babbitt was not known as a judge, he was known as a Senator and cabinet secretary. Objections to what could be interpreted as a political nomination to the Court were prefectly reasonable.

And the justice who got approved, whether it was Breyer or Ginsburg, was very liberal.

Harry, you're going to have to do better than following the other guy's script.

Posted by joshuasharf at July 13, 2005 10:01 AM | TrackBack

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