- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

President Bush is planning to place still more human beings into that punishing state of incarceration we've been hearing so much about of late, but Amnesty International won't be staging any protests. Nor will Ramsey Clark be filing suit. The shameful fact is that no human-rights group cares enough to speak out on behalf of this newest lot of detainees judicial detainees, that is and the Leahy limbo of neglect and stagnation they now prepare to enter.
We used to call such people judicial nominees, but that was back when the federal judicial confirmation process had a beginning, a middle and an end. Since Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, assumed control of the Judiciary Committee gavel, however, the process has undergone a few fundamental changes. The beginning remains reassuringly the same: Mr. Leahy still allows the president to appoint judges to the federal bench, which is really quite accommodating of him when you think about it. But the middle (the committee hearing) is a dicey thing, and the end (the floor vote) is nowhere in sight. Hence the change in terminology from judicial nominee to Leahy detainee.
It could be that one day we look back upon the Democratic delaying tactics of the last session and see a game of "Mother, May I" next to the mass obstructionism Senate Democrats seem to have in store for the new Congress. Since the president appointed Otto Reich assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and Eugene Scalia solicitor of the Labor Department earlier this month after Mr. Reich was "detained" for some nine months by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without a hearing, and Mr. Scalia was denied a floor vote by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle the rhetoric among Senate Democrats regarding all White House appointees, from ambassadors to humanitarian aid workers to judges, has become downright alarming. As Sen. Joseph Biden put it on NBC's "Meet the Press," even before Mr. Bush made the two recess appointments, several Democratic senators came to him and said, "Communicate to the president that if he does this, we will retaliate with regard to the rest of his nominations."
Sounds like tough-guy, take-no-prisoners talk. But whose side are the Democrats on? By refusing to confirm assorted key players on Mr. Bush's foreign policy team, and by refusing to move forward on dozens of federal judicial nominees urgently needed to fill a precarious 11 percent (and growing) vacancy rate in the federal judiciary, Senate Democrats cannot be said to be fighting for the American people. They are fighting for themselves and their prerogatives not exactly the noblest causes up for grabs at the moment and if they win, the country loses. Meanwhile, scores of Americans, willing and able to serve their country, will only be able to serve time.


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