The Democrats were circulating their confidential talking points on President Bushs appellate court nominees even before the White House announced who they would be, according to National Review Online. This belies the claim that the Democrats oppose Mr. Bushs nominees because, as the talking points put it, they just “want to keep the courts out of the political fray and above the partisanship and rancor.” After all, if they really wanted to rise above the partisan whatchamacallit, they wouldnt have circulated a one-size-fits-all response in opposition to mystery nominees.
But Senate Democrats have long been tanking up on partisanship and rancor to fuel them through what they promise will be a bloody bout over the judiciary throughout the Bush years. This makes their initial disarray following Mr. Bushs East Room announcement all the more interesting. Having compiled a list of nominees notable for what counts for “diversity” (three white women, five white men, two black men and one Hispanic man) and experience (seven are sitting judges), Mr. Bush seems to have checked the Democrats great blue-slip rebellion, at least for the moment.
As this newspapers Audrey Hudson reported, even Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Judiciary Committees leading Democratic attack senator, said, “I think we ought to move ahead with these judges that the president submitted.” And consider the about-face of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, on the contested interpretation of a senators blue-slip power: “The result will not be a veto power over judges” which is precisely what Mr. Schumer and the other Democrats had been demanding for more than a month. “It will, rather, force the White House to come meet us and act in a moderate way in terms of how they choose judges.” As Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, put it, “Thats the power they always had.”
Score one for George W. Bush? The jury no pun intended is still out. Mr. Bush held back several expected nominees, including the eminently qualified Rep. Chris Cox, California Republican, for the Ninth Circuit. Given the known opposition from Sen. Barbara Boxer and possible opposition from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrats, this omission indicates that blue slips may be having some effect. But that doesnt mean that this first Bush slate which, in a historically unprecedented move, includes two holdover nominees from the Clinton administration hasnt sown confusion into the usually united Democratic ranks.
While Messrs. Kennedy and Schumer are making sort-of nice noises, Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, is still demanding single-senator veto-power and threatening to block U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle of North Carolina, a Bush nominee and former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms first nominated by Mr. Bushs father. “Until we find some constructive process that allows for balance, then I would not support any nominee, including Judge Boyle,” Mr. Edwards told the Associated Press. And while Mr. Schumer may have sounded somewhat conciliatory to The Washington Times, he got fired up again for the AP, declaring, “The Democrats will not be railroaded into rubber-stamping a group of judges.” Sounds as if the Democrats need a new set of talking points.
Mr. Bush is asking for “the return of civility and dignity to the confirmation process.” “Over the years,” he said, introducing his appellate nominees with a ceremony traditionally reserved for Supreme Court nominees, “we have seen how the confirmation process can be turned to other ends. We have seen political battles played out in committee hearings battles that have little to do with the merits of the person sitting before the committee. This is not good for the Senate, for our courts, or for the country. I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past, to provide a fair hearing and a prompt vote to every nominee. This should be the case no matter who lives in this house, and no matter who controls the Senate.” Mr. Bush can say that again and we hope he does.