Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Why is Hewitt flacking for Specter?

Since Jim Geraghty has gone on a well-earned vacation, I'll take a crack at Commodore Hugh's latest pro-Specterizing.

>I sense the debate is over and that Senator Specter will be the chair.<

Here's a link Double-H must have missed:

"Conservative opposition to Senator Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) becoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee has mushroomed, to the dismay of Senate leaders who hoped it would fade, The Hill has learned.

"Some GOP strategists speculated last week that the controversy over Specter’s remarks, which he hastily backed off of, might die down over the weekend. But conservative leaders such as James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, criticized Specter, as did House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL).

"Frist, Santorum and other Republicans reported that their telephones, fax machines and e-mail in-boxes were jammed by protests from conservative activists who demanded that Specter not be allowed to succeed term-limited Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT). 'This is huge with the base. It’s mushrooming, and it’s not going away,' a GOP Senate aide said."

Most ominously for Snarlin' Arlen, both Majority Leader Bill Frist and fellow Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum (who, to the extent he's in re-election trouble in '06 is because of his support of Specter in the primary against Pat Toomey) aren't saying a word, leaving him twisting slowly in the wind.

Whether this storm can be sustained for two months until the vote for Judiciary Committee Chair is actually held is an open question, but it certainly isn't over yet.

>Charles Hurt's Washington Times' piece this morning is a warning to conservatives that the Specter debate is playing right into Democratic hands.<>Comments of Democrats.

>*from Barry Piatt, spokesman for Senator Byron Dorgan, (D-ND): Republicans "don't have a mandate."<

Does Hugh agree with this?

>This was a very close election, and many of the Senate seats they picked up were won very narrowly...<

Four seats are four seats. And, for the record:

Martinez, FL: +1.1
Isakson, GA: +18.0
Vitter, LA: +4.0 (over his combined Dem opposition, averted a runoff)
Burr, NC: +4.6
DeMint, SC: +9.7
Thune, SD: +1.2

That's an average victory margin of 6.4%. Hardly "narrow." And all are from "red" states, meaning the new incumbents aren't likely to be seriously challenged any time soon.

>There have been a few extreme right-wing judges who have been rejected....Ninety percent have been confirmed. What more do they want?"<

I.e. at the district court level; hardly any appellate nominees have been given an up or down vote. And none of them were/are "extreme," as the term used to be understood.

What more do we want? We want them all to get up-or-down floor votes. Of course, if they did, they'd all be confirmed, which is why the Dems have filibustered them.

With Specter as Judiciary Gatekeeper, most likely few, if any, would ever make it to the floor, though he'd doubtless do what he could to keep his fingerprints off of the "bodies."

>*from Senator Richard Durbin, (D-IL): "With diminished numbers on the Democratic side, we need to carefully pick our battles, and we have to look for common ground with the administration when we can find it....<

Doesn't that strike anybody else besides me as being a blatantly contradictory statement? Or is this what passes for an "olive branch" from these people?

>But no one should think my Democratic colleagues and I are going to back off when we believe that the President is advocating something that might not be in the best interest of the country."<

So much for seeking "common ground with the Administration." What he really means is, "the Administration is going to have to cave in to our demands."

>*from Jude McMartin, spokesman for Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM): "Senator Bingaman feels strongly that any nominee ought to be within the mainstream....He makes no decisions before the hearing.<

Another blatant contradiction.

>He's got no litmus test other than that the nominee ought to be within the mainstream."<

In other words, he has a litmus test. And we know what he means by "within the mainstream," which is flatly antonymical with reality.

What Double-H has utterly failed to do is explain how any of the above attitudes will change if conservatives acquiesce to what amounts to a Dem catspaw taking the Judiciary gavel and bonking the President's nominees on the head with it. Indeed, that would enable the Dems to remove their own fingerprints from the aforementioned "bodies" as well.

>Then read "Democrats Vow to Hold Bush Accountable," from this morning's Washington Post. Not surprisingly, the Democrats seem to be heading further left, refusing to acknowledge their collective repudiation. The dominant forces in the party --and those leaders angling already for 2008-- will not suddenly shift to sweet reason and return to Senate tradition. There will be an all-out battle over every Supreme Court nominee, and there will be a filibuster of any nominee that conservatives find acceptable, including my three favorites listed below.<

So Republicans should base their leadership choices based upon what the Democrats are going to say and do? Would Hugh think this was such a clever strategy if the President were to apply it to his conduct of the GWOT? Sounds downright Kerryesque to me.

>In short, anyone who thinks we can spare a vote or two is nuts. Anyone who doesn't see the potential loss of up to five or even six votes in the humbling of Arlen Specter is not evaluating the situation with the detachment that is absolutely necessary. And anyone who thinks that forcing the White House, or Senator Frist or Senator Santorum into public declarations of "oaths demanded and oaths taken" is a good idea really hasn't thought through how Senator Specter's support for future nominees will be diminished in the press by reference back to this battle underway today.<

This presupposes that these "up to five or even six votes" are directly and irrevocably tied to a Specter chairmanship, something Hugh hasn't remotely demonstrated. Hell, even Lincoln Chafee just declared that he's staying put. If he's not leaving, it's safe to say Snowe and Collins are safe.

But Double-H, once again, misses the point: Specter himself is ideologically and tempermentally disposed towards opposing Bush's nominees. If the idea is to get them out of committee and confirmed, how will handing Specter the Judiciary gavel be of any help?

>Can we agree that the MSM will be as hostile to fact and logic as it was in the campaign just ended? Can we also agree that the venom directed at President Bush will also be directed at his Supreme Court nominees? Then can anyone really think we can afford to continue this "arm the opponents with talking points" exercise?<

Can we agree that Big Media doesn't need us to generate their own talking points? Did Hugh sleep through the recently concluded election campaign? Does he really think that endorsing a Chairman Specter is going to change left-wing animus one jot or tittle?

>If as expected Senator Specter becomes chair and leads vigorous efforts to get, say, Judge Luttig confirmed as the new Chief Justice, I can already hear Ralph Neas on Meet The Press arguing that Senator Specter was "neutered in November."<

Notice Hugh says "if," not "when." Even he cannot muster the confidence to declare straight-out that Specter wouldn't be an obstacle. So he's in essence asking us to believe that RINO fealty, which is always fickle at best, is somehow going to be reinforced into "tempered steel" if conservatives allow the chairmanship of a man who has stabbed them in the back on numerous occasions, including just last week.

I happen to think that judicial selections are more important than to cast them on so dubious a "wing and a prayer."

>[D]enying Specter the chairmanship would increase the difficulty of successful confirmation battles<

On the contrary, it would guarantee that the President's appointments wouldn't get cut down by "friendly fire" before even making it to the field of battle.

>and the argument that upending traditions of comity within the Senate do enormous damage to politics generally../..We are already deep into an age of bitter politics, where every maneuver is justified by the ends being pursued. The decision in the last couple of years --led by Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy-- to radicalize judicial nominations even beyond the terrible precedents of the Bork and Thomas nomination battles was one of the most irresponsible ever taken, and now the prospect of filibusters and smear campaigns seems inevitable. <

Sounds contradictory - even Kerryesque - doesn't it? Republicans should refrain from "upending traditions of comity with the Senate" even though that's now how the game has been defined by the Democrats.

But the only way for Republicans to fight back is to play the same game, the same way, only even more ruthlessly than the Democrats, using their superior numbers to their partisan advantage - as Hugh himself goes on to concede:

>The only chance of repairing this process is for a united and determined GOP caucus to demand a return to past, pre-Bork practices, and failing to obtain that demand, to launch and win a great debate leading to new rules on judicial nominations. That debate would be ferocious and would lead to an up-or-down vote on a package of rule changes on the floor.<

But then Double-H once again undermines his own argument:

>This so-called "nuclear option" was not attempted in the last few years because GOP leadership doubted that it had the votes. With a caucus of 55 and some sober Democrats across the aisle, the threat of that option might be enough to calm the Democrats and undo the knots which they have tied. The Specter debate is giving exactly the wrong signal, and forcing the very confrontation that might have been avoided.<

Completely bass-ackwards. The Specter debate sends exactly the right signal by declaring that the GOP will be determined and united behind the President of the United States.

This "debate" isn't about Arlen Specter, it is about George W. Bush - the man who was just re-elected by a popular vote majority in no small part to make conservative appointments to the federal bench. With all due respect to Mr. Hewitt, no pachyderm should get the Judiciary Committee gavel unless he is unequivocably committed to that same goal. And Snarlin' Arlen does not have that commitment.

If we're serious about pulling the judiciary back into the American mainstream, a "confrontation" is inevitable. Far better to have everybody, including committee chairmen, pulling their oars in the same direction instead of freelancing for their own aggrandizement against the expressed will of the American electorate.

Hugh spent all year flacking for the President's re-election. By now effectively undermining him by flacking for the iconoclastic legacy of Arlen Specter, and justifying it by wild flights of speculative alarmism that amount to begging weakness, he's showing George Bush a similar "fair weather" loyalty.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru does an eloquent job of trying to talk some sense to the suddenly iconoclastic Specterite. I hope Hugh doesn't let his pride get in the way of listening to sweet reason.