Democrats are floating candidates who they consider acceptable Supreme Court nominees primarily to ensure that they can complain later about not “really” being consulted by President Bush when none are selected, according to conservatives.
They say the three Hispanic judges who Democratic leaders offered Mr. Bush in a private meeting earlier this week to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor are all non-starters.
“It’s a cynical tactic intended to set themselves up so that when the president nominates someone they haven’t mentioned, they can jump up and down and scream about how they weren’t really consulted,” said Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, which is lobbying to put conservative nominees on the bench.
Not so, say Democrats.
“It was an honest effort on the part of Democrats to suggest names that might be acceptable to both sides,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid. “Unfortunately, those names got leaked, but they weren’t supposed to.”
The leaked names that had been recommended by Mr. Reid of Nevada and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were federal appeals court Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Edward C. Prado and federal district court Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa.
Conservatives view the judges as “either too old or simply not conservative,” said Mr. Miranda, a former Judiciary Committee lawyer and aide to Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. “He’s got much more qualified nominees who are conservative.”
Judge Sotomayor, for instance, has been criticized by conservatives in the past and was considered a potential Supreme Court nominee if either former Vice President Al Gore or Sen. John Kerry had become president.
In 1998, she was awarded the Court Jester Award by the Family Research Council for extending the application of the Americans With Disabilities Act to a woman who failed the New York bar exam several times because, she said, she couldn’t read very well.
“Floating the name of Sonia Sotomayor is kind of comical,” said Reid Cox, general counsel to the conservative Center for Individual Freedom. “She would probably be viewed as a bipartisan, consensus nominee, but that’s not what Bush has promised to submit. President Bush said he would nominate someone in the mold of [Clarence] Thomas or [Antonin] Scalia.”
Thomas L. Jipping, a senior aide to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, wrote a 2000 column while working for the conservative Free Congress Foundation that criticized Judge Sotomayor.
“Facts and common sense were not, however, similarly important to Clinton-Gore Judge Sonia Sotomayor, also said to be on Gore’s Hispanic short list,” Mr. Jipping wrote. “She dissented with the typical activist view that reality is whatever she says it is.”
Judge Prado also isn’t viewed as acceptable by conservatives, but he’s become the focus of a major Democratic campaign to be nominated.
“DraftPrado.org is an independent grassroots campaign,” according to its Web site. Its creators, however are anything but independent.
Executive director Arkadi Gerney and chief technical adviser Tim Cullen were co-founders of Concerts for Kerry, a group that tried generating interest in last year’s Kerry campaign among young voters.
Marc Laitin, the group’s campaign manager, was press contact last year for a group called Run Against Bush, which described itself as “a movement to defeat Bush in 2004.”
“The bad news for the liberals is that they didn’t win the presidential election, and they seem to be demanding not only a co-nomination but veto power before the president even makes the nomination,” said Kay R. Daly, president of the conservative Coalition for a Fair Judiciary.
“The truth of the matter is that no matter who the president nominates, Harry Reid and his merry band of obstructionists will do everything in their power to delay the nomination, smear the nominee, make outrageous demands and whine every step of the way.”