- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Question of timing

“Now that the president has given us the name of his nominee as the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the most important question is timing,” Manuel Miranda writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“In any Supreme Court confirmation, the timing is first and foremost controlled by the retiring justice, as we saw this month with the announcements of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and (the non-retiring) Chief Justice William Rehnquist. But in the days after Justice O’Connor’s announcement, the timing baton was firmly in the president’s hand and he ran with it, holding everyone in suspense until he went before the prime-time cameras last Tuesday night.

“Timing was a key question even before Justice O’Connor announced her retirement. On April 4, about 200 leaders of libertarian, conservative and nonpartisan religious groups wrote Senate Republicans to prod them into action on ending judicial filibusters before the Supreme Court term ended in June.

“The coalition opened its letter with this clear request: ‘We write to ask you to end the judicial filibusters at the earliest possible moment and well before a Supreme Court vacancy should occur.’ They added: ‘This president must have the freedom to nominate … Supreme Court justices.’

“Why the press? Two reasons. First, the aim was to shake up those Senate Republicans who seemed willing to fight to end judicial filibusters only if Democrats obstructed a Supreme Court nominee. The coalition wanted the filibuster threat ended well before there was a vacancy on the court. It feared that introducing the ‘constitutional option’ — a Senate rule change declaring judicial filibusters out of order — in the heat of a Supreme Court confirmation would taint the confirmation in the way that Bush v. Gore tainted the president’s first term.”

“The second reason was all about timing — in particular, fear of the August recess. This concern was rooted in the past. Both Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s failed nominee in 1987, and Clarence Thomas, George H.W. Bush‘sembattled choice, had been announced on July 1, the same date that Justice O’Connor announced her retirement. Both were left to twist in hot summer breezes without a hearing until September.”

Leak hearings

Congress will conduct a series of hearings on national security and espionage issues raised by the CIA-leak controversy surrounding senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, officials said yesterday.

The Reuters news agency reports that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence plans hearings on potential national-security threats posed by leaks, including leaks to the press, and will aim to toughen legislation barring the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

Press leaks and the covert status of espionage officials have become politically charged issues with the controversy over Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA agent was leaked in 2003 after her diplomat husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, accused the White House of exaggerating intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Johnson’s record

“On Saturday, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson gave the Democratic party’s weekly radio address and excoriated President Bush for not having fired Karl Rove and others in connection with the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame‘sname to the press,” Gary Schmitt writes at the Weekly Standard’s Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“This followed Johnson’s appearance before a panel of House and Senate Democrats on Friday, where he made similar criticisms of the president. A self-described Republican, Johnson argued that the failure of the president to fire Rove and anyone else supposedly involved in the leak had severely damaged national security and would certainly hamper future efforts to recruit informants in the war on terror,” said Mr. Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century.

“Well, it’s good to see that the former CIA employee is now worried about the war on terror. But it’s a bit late. On July 10, 2001 — two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — Johnson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (‘The Declining Terrorist Threat’) in which he argued that Americans were ‘bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism’ and, in truth, had ‘little to fear’ from terrorism. And, in turn, he rebuked his former colleagues in the national security bureaucracy for using the ‘fiction’ of the terrorist threat to pump up their budgets.”

Roberts’ wife

The Senate’s top pro-life lawmaker said yesterday that the free legal work Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr.’s wife does for a pro-life group should not be a factor in his confirmation.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said Jane Roberts’ work for Feminists for Life is irrelevant to the process and to how her husband might decide cases if seated on the high court.

“My wife has opinions on things that may or may not conform with mine, and I think most couples are in that situation,” Mr. Santorum, who is a pro-life Catholic and the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said on NBC’s “Today” show.

“And so I don’t think your wife’s activities should have any impact on what a judge is going to do,” he added. “I certainly would think that he would tell you they don’t, nor should they. It’s the facts of a case and the law of a case.”

Official apology

After being criticized for attending a Marine’s funeral, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll sent a public, written apology to the man’s widow yesterday.

The funeral was held last week for Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich, 32, of Pittsburgh’s Westwood section. Sgt. Goodrich died July 10 in Iraq.

Family members said Mrs. Knoll came to the funeral uninvited, passed out business cards and made a remark about the government being against the war.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat,said Sunday that the state does not have a position on the war, and it supports the men and women who are fighting. Yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Knoll’s office released a letter of apology to Sgt. Goodrich’s wife.

Truly conservative

“NPR’s Nina Totenberg, who last week tagged Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as ‘very, very conservative’ and ‘very, very, very conservative,’ on ‘Inside Washington’ over the weekend described him as merely ‘very conservative,’” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org.

“But she couldn’t resist adding a modifier every time she applied the conservative label, also dubbing him ‘a really conservative guy,’ ‘a hard-line conservative’ and ‘a clear conservative.’ Plus, she emphasized how he’s ‘a conservative Catholic.’”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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