Monday, September 26, 2005

One for two

The long-anticipated fireworks over federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr.’s nomination to be chief justice of the United States have turned out to be a dud. Yesterday’s talk shows and the glossy news weeklies are giving the confirmation “battle” only cursory coverage.

But that hasn’t prevented key Democrats from carefully orchestrating the announcements of their positions on the nomination. This weekend, Judge Roberts picked up one and lost another.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat and a member of the “Gang of 14,” announced on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” yesterday that she would support the nomination. She joins two other Democrats from the group who say they will vote for Judge Roberts. All seven Republican members of the bipartisan group — whose compromise ended Senate filibusters of President Bush‘s judicial nominees — say they will vote to confirm Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat who introduced Judge Roberts at his confirmation hearing, announced he would oppose the nomination.

“So much essential to reaching a considered judgement about this nominee remains unknown,” said Mr. Bayh, who introduced the nominee because Judge Roberts grew up in Indiana. “And that is not enough for a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court, a court from which there is no appeal, a court that is the ultimate arbiter of our most basic rights and freedoms.”

Mr. Bayh becomes the last of the Senate Democrats who are widely considered candidates for the 2008 presidential race to announce his position. Like Mr. Bayh, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and John Kerry of Massachusetts declared that they will oppose the nomination. Sen. Russell D. Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, voted in favor of Judge Roberts last week.

Left-wing lobbyists

Last week, “40 Washington left-wing special-interest lobbyists marched into the U.S. Capitol to meet with the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada,” Manuel Miranda writes at

“Was it to express sincere concern over [Supreme Court nominee] Judge [John G.] Roberts? No. Their demand was that the minority leader get as many ‘nay’ votes on Mr. Roberts as possible. They knew he was unbeatable, but they wanted to send a message to the White House about the next nominee,” Mr. Miranda said.

“Mr. Reid complied. He promptly announced that he would vote against Judge Roberts and then made clear that he would do it again if the president chose someone next time not approved by the big people who hold the strings. Even pro-Roberts liberal Democrats like Pat Leahy of Vermont and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin are just setting themselves up to vote against the next nominee.

“The liberal debate is simple because, to put it bluntly, Democrats lost the 2004 election and then they lost the filibuster in May. Their debate is not over Judge Roberts’ merits. In fact, even the best liberal opposition to Judge Roberts first concedes that he is excellent, and then it reveals its true concern: whether Chief Justice Roberts will rule their way on this or that. …

“Even so, liberals know that Judge Roberts” will be confirmed, Mr. Manuel said. “They know that the fight is now all about the next nominee. They also know that they have only one approach left: to intimidate Mr. Bush and defeat him even before he makes the next selection.”

Neas vs. Feingold

“It’s safe to say that Ralph Neas, head of the liberal lobbying group People for the American Way, is very, very unhappy with Sen. Russell D. Feingold,” Byron York writes at National Review Online (

“Holding court with reporters in the hallway outside the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting room Thursday, Neas at first said he was ‘disappointed’ by the Wisconsin Democrat’s decision to vote in favor of Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts. And then Neas thought more about it. This wasn’t the first time with Feingold, he said; there was another vote, in 2001, when Feingold stood ‘against the Constitution,’ breaking ranks with Democrats to support John Ashcroft’s nomination to be attorney general.

“‘There have been two overwhelmingly important votes in the last four and a half years regarding the Constitution,’ Neas said. ‘One, on Sen. Ashcroft when he was up for attorney general, and today’s vote with respect to John Roberts. On both votes, Sen. Feingold voted against the Constitution and against the interests of the American people, and we’re especially disappointed in him.’”


A New Orleans area politician who a few weeks ago went on national television to tearfully blame the federal government for the death of an elderly woman in a nursing home grudgingly conceded yesterday that his story was untrue.

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, in a return appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” appeared surprised when host Tim Russert asked him to set the record straight. Mr. Broussard, in his earlier appearance, had accused the federal government of near-criminal negligence in the death of the 92-year-old mother of the parish’s emergency services director.

Mr. Broussard’s account of how the woman had drowned four days after the hurricane while awaiting rescue from the federal government has been refuted by the woman’s son, Thomas Rodrigue, who said his last contact with her was on a Monday — the day of the hurricane — and not the following Thursday or Friday, as Mr. Broussard had suggested.

She apparently died that Monday, Aug. 29, with more than 30 others in the nursing home, at a time when responsibility for an evacuation or subsequent rescue clearly belonged to state and local officials.

Mr. Broussard said yesterday that he had been misinformed, but then lashed out at those who had questioned his story. “What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man’s mother’s death?” he said.

Obama’s ‘ratings’

“Is Washington already bored with new Senate star Barack Obama?” Paul Bedard asks in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“In his two Sunday talk-show appearances this month, the programs finished dead last in the all-important Washington market. ‘He’s Sunday poison,’ says a TV exec.

“But Obama’s office says national TV viewing figures show that his appearances helped ‘This Week’ and ‘Face the Nation’ gain a second-place finish to NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ And his September 11 ‘This Week’ appearance turned out to have had the show’s second-best audience, next to a February interview of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“‘The national numbers speak for themselves,’ says Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. ‘This is proof that the so-called skinny kid with the funny name from Chicago’s South Side can go toe to toe with the bodybuilding governor of the Golden State, and that was when Arnold was popular.’”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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