With so much happening these past couple weeks, it’s frustrating to have so little blog time, but I really have to finish up my paper. But just a couple more things:
By David S. Broder
Wednesday, November 2, 2005; A21
Under other circumstances, President Bush’s choice of Judge Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court would have been seen as a bold move by a strong president with a clear policy objective. By choosing a man of superior intellectual heft and an indelible record of conservative views on major social issues, Bush would have been challenging his critics on the Democratic side to test their arguments in an arena where everything favored him: a Republican Senate.
But after the fiasco of the Harriet Miers nomination and the other reversals of recent days and weeks, the Alito nomination inevitably looks like a defensive move, a lunge for the lifeboat by an embattled president to secure what is left of his political base. Instead of a consistent and principled approach to major decision making, Bush’s efforts look like off-balance grabs for whatever policy rationales he can find. The president’s opponents are emboldened by this performance, and his fellow partisans must increasingly wonder if they can afford to march to his command.
None of this is to suggest that Judge Alito will be — or should be — blocked from elevation to the seat of Sandra Day O’Connor. His record entitles him to the serious consideration and questioning he will undoubtedly receive from the Judiciary Committee. But after Bush acquiesced in the conservative movement’s uproar denying Miers her chance for an up-or-down Senate vote, or even a hearing in that committee, there is no plausible way the White House can insist that every major judicial nominee deserves such a vote.
That was the rationale behind the threatened “nuclear option” in the Senate, the mid-session rule change that would have banned judicial filibusters. If the mass of Democrats and a few Republicans who may be dismayed by Alito’s stands on abortion and other issues can muster the 41 votes needed to sustain a filibuster under current rules, they now have precedent for using their power.
The conservative screamers who shot down Miers can argue that they were fighting only for a “qualified” nominee, though it is plain that many of them wanted more — a guarantee that Miers would do their bidding and overrule Roe v. Wade. But whatever the rationale, the fact is that they short-circuited the confirmation process by raising hell with Bush. Certainly there can be no greater sin in a sizable bloc of sitting senators using long-standing Senate rules to stymie a nomination than a cabal of outsiders — a lynching squad of right-wing journalists, self-sanctified religious and moral organizations, and other frustrated power-brokers — rolling over the president they all ostensibly support.
But the message that has been sent is that this president is surprisingly easy to roll…