Now that the Senate Judiciary Committee has wisely approved and sent to the full Senate the nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, things have started to get really interesting. It is an important decision, to be sure, as John Roberts could lead the court for decades. However, the whining and gnashing of teeth on the Left has already begun, as Democrats, who lost a fight they should not have picked, start posturing for both the Senate vote, and the next nominee President Bush will send to the Senate.
In a fit of frustration out of all proportion to the event, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who voted against confirmation, said, "I knew as little about what Judge Roberts really thought after the hearings as I did before the hearings.” Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), still smarting after making a fool of himself during questioning, said the central issue was whether Roberts is committed to civil rights. "Nominees must earn their confirmation by providing us with full knowledge of their values and convictions they'll bring to decisions that may profoundly affect our progress as a nation toward the ideal of equality. Judge Roberts has not done so," he said, after his thumbs-down vote. New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer accused Republicans of "marching in lockstep" on the Roberts’ vote, while Democrats made independent decisions.
Those comments are revealing. All three show us that these Democrats either don’t know or don’t care about what qualifies a person to serve on the Supreme Court, and apparently have forgotten the rule of the game for questioning judicial nominees, which is that you don’t ask, and they should not tell, their position on issues likely to come before the court; they should not explore a nominee's philosophical views. This was set in stone, if not before, then certainly during the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an historically liberal justice. Ask Joe Biden.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said: "If we could look at the person before us based on qualifications, character and integrity, and not require them to show an allegiance to a particular case or a cause, it would serve the country well." Right-o Sen. Graham, but you didn’t go far enough: Qualifications, character and integrity are all that one needs to know, and you cannot require a nominee to discuss philosophy.
That circus of the Judiciary Committee looks all the more foolish when one considers the lessons of history regarding Supreme Court Justices. A conservative nominee may well become a liberal judge, and vice versa. It’s happened before, and more than once. John Roberts might become the next John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Stephen Breyer, all committed liberals. Justice Souter, for example, was nominated by George H.W. Bush. Twenty bucks says George the Elder didn’t expect Mr. Justice Souter to be a liberal.
More foolishness came from Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Committee’s ranking member, who said of the upcoming nomination to fill Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat, "I hope that this time the president will follow through, share with us his intentions, and even seek our advice before he acts; that little thing called the advice-and-consent clause of the Constitution."
Telegram for Mr. Leahy: It’s the President’s call, not yours.
The federal judiciary is the only branch of government that Democrats have under their control. The worst thing can happen, therefore, is for President Bush to nominate another originalist candidate to the Supreme Court to fill swing voting Justice O’Connor’s seat. The last thing the Democrats need is another justice that follows the Constitution. You can bet they’ll fight dirty to prevent the confirmation of an originalist, and the Republicans had better be ready, because the Democrats are good at fighting dirty.
Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he had told President Bush to expect a very contentious hearing on the next nominee's confirmation, because with the balance of the court at stake, Democrat senators will be even more eager to learn views that the candidate will, and should, refuse to divulge. "It's going to produce a lot of angst," Specter said.