Sleazy Senate socialists

By Thomas Jipping

Oh, to live in that funny leftist world, where history begins afresh with each new day. Final election returns are not even in, and leftist groups, their friends in the media, and Senate Democrats are already cutting, pasting and revising the judicial confirmation records so next year they can use every tactic they once condemned to oppose nominees.

When the 107th Congress finally adjourns next week, the Democrat Senate will limp across the confirmation finish line after padding the numbers a bit. They’ve confirmed only 80 so far and, with yesterday’s Judiciary Committee approval of two more, have another 20 ready to go. Even that new total, though, will be well below the Democrat Senate’s performance during President Clinton’s first two years.

In January, for the first time in 16 years, Republicans will control both judicial nomination and confirmation. No real obstacle remains to appointing judges who will let the people run the country and define the culture. Those who instead want activist judges to run things are regrouping and re-spinning for the battles ahead.

People for the American Way, for example, has spun some real yarns about Democrats’ confirmation performance. They claim, for example, that “the Senate under Democratic control has been reducing the number of unfilled vacancies, a clear contrast to the Republican Senate’s deliberate policy of perpetuating them.” Vacancies have averaged 95 for the past two years of Democrat control, but averaged 70 when Republicans ran the Senate under President Clinton.

PAW is also pushing the very obstruction it once denounced. Appearing before a House subcommittee last month, PAW President Ralph Neas claimed that 45 percent of President Clinton’s appeals court nominees “failed to receive a vote in the Congress during which they were nominated. Many did not even get a hearing.” He made it sound like, if that actually happened, it’s a bad thing. Problem is, he never identified those nominees, even after I wrote him asking for a list. Turns out most of them were later confirmed and today are, in fact, federal judges.

The truth is that 86 percent of President Clinton’s appeals court nominees in his first two years were confirmed in his first two years, compared to (as of today) just 44 percent for President Bush. One-third of his appeals court nominees have not had a hearing, most of them waiting for more than a year. Ralph never mentioned that. That was then, this is now. Ralph is now telling Senate Democrats to consider filibustering Bush nominees next year.

History has apparently also started anew for the so-called news media. Back on March 9, 2000, after the Senate voted to end the filibuster of two Clinton appeals-court nominees, the New York Times editorialized: “The Senate is scheduled to hold confirmation votes today that will finally end the egregious stalling by Republicans that has blocked consideration” of these nominees. On Nov. 10, 2002, after Republicans had captured Senate control, the same New York Times editorialized that “when a judicial nominee is unacceptable, they should not be afraid to mount a filibuster, which Republicans would need 60 votes to overcome.”

It’s also a new day among Senate Democrats. Back on June 18, 1998, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., soon-to-be ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said: “I have stated over and over again … that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported.” Sen. Leahy at least attempted to be principled rather than political. He said he opposed “any” filibuster on a judge, “whether it is somebody I opposed or supported.”

Funny, then, that on Nov. 11, 2002, this same Sen. Leahy said on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program: “If there’s a really bad nominee, I think a filibuster is merited.” I got the transcript and double-checked. That’s what he said.

Back in the 1980s, Sen. Leahy voted to sustain filibusters against Republican nominees such as Sidney Fitzwater to the U.S. District Court and J. Harvie Wilkinson to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Then on July 22, 1999, Sen. Leahy issued a statement claiming: “I cannot recall a judicial nomination being filibustered ever.”

I realize we live in an age where everything seems to depend on the definition-du-jour. But doesn’t it undermine the credibility of an organization, newspaper or public official to change positions, turn on a dime, bob and weave, and reverse course like this? If you have to ask the real Ralph Neas, the real New York Times, or the real Sen. Leahy to please stand up, can you put any stock in what they say anymore?