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Principles Trump Politics

Samuel Alito was confirmed by the Senate today, on a vote of 58-42. All but four democratic Senators voted against Alito, including Her Majesty Hillary Clinton (so much for the new, improved 'moderate' Hillary).

Compare this to the 96-3 vote in favor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There, Republicans overwhelmingly voted for Ginsburg, even though she was clearly an agenda-driven radical leftist, recently counsel to the ACLU.

Unlike Democrats, for whom politics is the be-all and end-all of existence, Republicans believe in principles. One of these cherished principles, sanctified by history and tradition, is that the President is entitled to fill Supreme Court vacancies with whomever he sees fit, barring ineptitude or corruption on the part of the nominee. So in 1993 the Republicans bit their tongues and voted for the person President Clinton wanted on the Supreme Court bench. Yeah, the Republicans who supposedly 'hated' Clinton and everything he stood for nonetheless voted for Ginsburg.

The Republicans did not seek to block this very divisive nomination by threatening obstruction or filibuster, they did not gin up the base and spend tens of millions of dollars whining and moaning about Ginsburg, and they most certainly did not act like Grand McCarthyite Inquisitors at the hearings.

The Alito hearings illustrate clearly the gulf in quality between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans believe in the Constitution and adhering to its meaning - Democrats believe the Constitution is some amorphous 'living document' with an ever-elastic meaning that can be stretched as the political winds dictate.

Republicans believe in giving the President's nominee his or her due -the Democrats see it as a chance to fling mud and gain partisan advantage.

It would be tempting, politically, to give the Dems a little payback when (if?) the Democrats elect a president who desires to appoint a Supreme Court justice. The Republicans would be well within their rights to utilize the new precedents set by the Democrats, and oppose tooth claw and nail a nominee for no reason other than the fact that it is politically expedient to do so. After all, the new Democratic precedents are that: being qualified doesn't matter, being sqeaky clean in your personal life doesn't matter, being experienced doesn't matter, and having a great judicial temperament doesn't matter (Alito obviously has the patience of a saint).

The only thing that matters to Democrats is politics, and the Alito hearings showcased this for all of America to see.

Update: This is brilliant, from Deborah Orin:

Republicans loved 2004 loser Kerry's flop of a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito because it had Democrats tearing each other's eyes out — over a fight they couldn't win. ... Worse yet, plenty of Democrats who did vote for the filibuster — like New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer — left little doubt that they were livid at Kerry's stunt, since it turned into a dream come true for Bush political guru Rove. ... But then Kerry, hobnobbing with hotshots in posh Davos, Switzerland, got his marching orders from The New York Times and the left-wing blog Daily Kos (which can be hard to tell apart these days). Presto: Insta-filibuster, like it or not.
Live by the sword, die by the sword John Kerry. Continue to take you orders from Kos, and there will be much, much more suffering for you ahead.

Update II: And now we have John Kerry consoling the vast horde of losers he and Kos control in one of his regular spammings, making the astonishing statement that "we made sure America heard how a right wing ideological coup sandbagged Harriet Miers' nomination and replaced her with Judge Alito."

It was ideological to oppose Miers because many on the right doubted her qualifications? How can it be ideological when Miers views were a mystery, considering she had never written judicial opinions? Is John Kerry some kind of mind reader? Or does he simply reject anything that comes from the White House without even investigating its merit perhaps? Why, that would be playing politics, something I am sure John Kerry rises above at all times. That settles it then - John Kerry is a mind reader.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 31 January 2006 09:16 PM


Ken, you are taking one situation and applying it to another to come up with the most bogus conclusions. Clinton consulted with Republican's first becuase he wanted concensus. Wow, what a concept, consulting with the other party first. HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH REPUBLICANS BEING MORE CIVIL IT HAD TO DO WITH DEMOCRATS BEING MORE CIVIL!!!!!!!

When President Clinton made his two judicial nominations to the Supreme Court, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The following is an excerpt from Hatch’s autobiography:

[I] was not a surprise when the President called to talk about the appointment and what he was thinking of doing.

President Clinton indicated he was leaning toward nominating Bruce Babbitt, his Secretary of the Interior, a name that had been bouncing around in the press. Bruce, a well-known western Democrat, had been the governor of Arizona and a candidate for president in 1988. Although he had been a state attorney general back during the 1970s, he was known far more for his activities as a politician than as a jurist. Clinton asked for my reaction.

I told him that confirmation would not be easy. At least one Democrat would probably vote against Bruce, and there would be a great deal of resistance from the Republican side. I explained to the President that although he might prevail in the end, he should consider whether he wanted a tough, political battle over his first appointment to the Court.

Our conversation moved to other potential candidates. I asked whether he had considered Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit Court of Appeals or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. President Clinton indicated he had heard Breyer’s name but had not thought about Judge Ginsberg.

I indicated I thought they would be confirmed easily. I knew them both and believed that, while liberal, they were highly honest and capable jurists and their confirmation would not embarrass the President. From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democrat administration.

In the end, the President did not select Secretary Babbitt. Instead, he nominated Judge Ginsburg and Judge Breyer a year later, when Harry Blackmun retired from the Court. Both were confirmed with relative ease.

From Orin Hatch's own memiors.

Posted by: thomas at February 1, 2006 09:22 AM

This rather underpins the point I was making.

Hatch was opposed to Babbitt because he had made quite a few enemies among western state Republican senators for his behavior at Interior. Babbitt also subscribed to a lot of rather goofy environmental ideas.

The objections to Babbitt were not at all a reaction against his judicial philosophy - Babbitt, like Harriet Miers, had no judicial record to look at, and so it was not possible for Republicans to object on ideological grounds.

If you think the Republicans refused to appoint a Clinton nominee based on ideology, why in God's name did they vote overwhelmingly for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, someone clearly more radical than Babbitt?

My case stands.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 1, 2006 11:40 AM

"highly honest and capable" why would people go against the presidents choice if they fit that criteria? Because they are not putting them on the bench for their political beliefs left or right, but because they feel the jurist will be honest and knowledeable. Democrates don't oppose Alito because was a dishonest person or becasue he didn't have the kowledge of the law necessary. they opposed him for his politics.
Remember all those news stories in 1993 about how the nomination of former ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace conservative Justice Byron White on the United States Supreme Court would "tilt the balance of the court to the left?"
Of course you don't. Because there weren't any. Now it is an issue, strange.

Posted by: christian at February 1, 2006 11:50 AM

Read what i copied. Orin Hatch recommended Ginsburg. She was HIS idea. Your case does not stand. Regarding the unsuccessful filibuster. Some Democrats made a stand becuase when Roe v. Wade falls a lot of people are going to be scratching thier heads wondering how the Democrats let that happen and there is going to be hell to pay. For Republicans too.
The court never tilted to the left, perhaps that is why, not so strange.

Posted by: thomas at February 1, 2006 12:12 PM

The only really relevant point is that America elected a Republican majority in Congress (extended from the last time, even) and a Republican President. Thus, big whoop if the Democrats vote no, as long as they don't hold a nomination hostage with a filibuster or other lame quirk of parliamentary procedure.

Americans voted for a more conservative Supreme Court. Unfortunately, unless one of the liberal members retires (or dies), they won't get their wish for a while longer. Roberts and Alito simply do not shift the Court to the right significantly.

Posted by: Will Franklin at February 1, 2006 12:26 PM

We keep hearing from the Democrats the words "moderate" and "mainstream" when they discuss who they want as President Bush's nominee.

But that is not the way that we are governed. We have a two party system in power and it just happens that one party controls both houses of Congress and the Executive Branch. The American people have spoken continually since 1994 and despite President Clinton's election and re-election in 1996, over the past 26 years, Republicans have held the executive branch for 18 of them and controlled Congress for the last 12 years.

So then the question becomes, if voting really does matter--which the DEMOCRATS kept yelling during the campaign to turn out the vote in 2004--why are we worried about the Surpreme Court becoming more conservative? Clearly the country is more Conservative now than it was in 1992 for instance. It is funny, but the Liberal voting block of the Supreme Court clearly does not reflect the values of MOST AMERICANS, especially Breyer and Ginsburg.

We have a Constitution that makes the Supreme Court's ideology difficult to shift, but it was always expected that it would over time. The Senate is more difficult to shift the balance of power of than the House for similar reasons. And our Founding Fathers did not require a Super Majority to confirm a SCOTUS nominee, simply a majority.

Democrats had their chance to preserve the ideology of the Supreme Court in November of 2004. They certainly would not have replaced Rhenquist or O'Connor with a "MODERATE"--unless Ginsburg or Breyer count as "MODERATES". And herein lies the fundamental problem with the Democratic Party:

IF THEY RESPECTED THE CONSTITUTION AND THE RULE OF LAW, they would have dropped the challenge to the 2000 election far sooner and they would not try to Filibuster a nominee in a way that defies 200+ years of tradition and the Constitution itself. But the honest truth is that the Constitution and elections and history and the rule of law are meaningless when it comes to the power and agenda of the left. And that is precisely why the shift of the Court back to Constitutional Constructionist roots is so critical in aligning the direction of the country.

Posted by: Justin B at February 1, 2006 12:44 PM

Geez Thomas it underscores my case even more if anything. Clinton asks Hatch for a Supreme Court recommendation - not because Clinton is civil or bipartisan, but because Guinier and Kimba Wood and other nominees blew up in his face, and Clinton can't afford to lose another nominee fight - and Orin Hatch offers someone who is qualified, though very ideological.

Hatch was not concerned with Ginsburg's philosophy obviously, if he recommended her.

My case is reinforced.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 1, 2006 12:47 PM

"My case is reinforced" Well, if you say so Ken. I don't see how what you wrote makes any sense what so ever, "Hatch was not concerned with Ginsburg's philosophy obviously, if he recommended her." (huh?), but if that helps to reinforce your case, more power to you.

Posted by: thomas at February 1, 2006 02:43 PM

Let me spell it out for you.

Hatch is a rock-ribbed conservative, there is no way he would recommend someone like Ginsburg because he agrees with her ideology. He would only recommend such a person because he thinks that, her philosophy aside, she is nonetheless well-qualified to be on the bench, knows the law, and has a good judicial temperament.

This is exactly what I have been saying - Republicans can put politics and ideology aside, and Democrats can't.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 1, 2006 04:07 PM

Republicans can put politics and ideology aside, and Democrats can't. Sure when they have the house and the senate they can recommend a moderate who will pass easily. Baloney. Are you trying to tell me the paula jones investigation that found out that clinton was lieing about an affair so his wife wouldn't find out was putting ideology aside? I wish you could hear how imbicilic that sounds to my ears. When Clinton was tring to kill osama, he was Wagging the dog to get attention off of him. My god I hope you don't really believe that nonsence you just wrote. You really think John Cornin saying that it is understandable two judges had been targeted with violence becaseu the court has swung so far to the left, even when the 2 attacks had nothing to do with ideology is not playing politics. All bow down to the god like republican party. They do no wrong, jack Abramoff is a democrat plant to discredit the angelic qualities of the GOP. Hail Bush.

Posted by: thomas at February 1, 2006 04:23 PM


That is hindsight saying it never tilted, yet your missing the point, republicans didn't make a big deal about Ginsbergs leanings like Dems have done about Alito. the republicans wanted a good justice, a fair justice, a qualified justice, not a conservative one. As is evident by the lack of accusations of the court tilting back in 1993. Yet this standard is absent when the shoe is on the other foot, or do dems have a magic ball and know the court will tilt. More over, they realized that Clinton, by the power of the people, was given the responsibility and privilege to choose a jurist.

Posted by: christian at February 1, 2006 08:34 PM

Yes exactly, Christian said it better than I did.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 1, 2006 09:29 PM

Ken, Justin, Christian,Will... If you really take a look at Thomas's remarks??? It is very clear that he like so many left wingers are quite angry! I am amazed that Thomas really believes the left is in the main stream with most Americans!... YIKES!
Honestly, I am not sure what the dems. want other than Abortion and impeachment of GWB... The Dems. are consumed and are fixated with those two things! Justice Alito was a punchimg bag and an outlet for the lib. Dems. anger, hatred and contempt of the Republican Majority!...If not? They sure are fooling me!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 2, 2006 05:28 AM