Thursday, July 21, 2005

It has long been said — even in the capital’s post-September 11 environment — that the most dangerous place to be in Washington is between Sen. Charles Schumer and a camera. Yet, even by his remarkable standard of chutzpah, Mr. Schumer outdid himself at Wednesday’s press conference. The eminent UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, in his essay, “Yiddish & the Law,” observes that the classic definition of chutzpah is itself taken from the law: Chutzpah is when the man who kills his parents begs for mercy because he’s an orphan.

Mr. Schumer lamented that Judge John Roberts, who was confirmed in 2003 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, “does not have a long and fulsome record — he’s only had two years as a judge.” We agree that his record is anything but “fulsome,” which means “offensive and disgusting,” as the senator would know if he had looked it up. The senator made it clear that he and other Democrats will demand what will almost certainly amount to the largest disclosure of confidential memoranda in the history of the Senate’s judicial-confirmation process. Since Judge Roberts previously served as an associate counsel in the Reagan White House and as deputy solicitor general (1989-93) in the Justice Department of the first Bush administration, the memoranda are nearly limitless.

To paraphrase Saddam Hussein, Senate Democrats will seek to unleash the “mother of all document dumps.” The way Mr. Schumer tells it, the situation — like being an orphan — is a regrettable fact of life. “If [Judge Roberts] was a judge of 15 or 20 years — [it would] be a little different,” Mr. Schumer explained with a straight face. “You’d have a long record. But we don’t.” So let the document dump begin.

Why does Judge Roberts have so little experience as a judge? It’s because Mr. Schumer and his Democratic colleagues tried to spike Judge Roberts’ chances of becoming a judge long before he finally reached the bench. In January 1992, President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Roberts to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Sen. Joe Biden, a Democrat who then was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, refused to grant even a hearing. In May 2001, President Bush nominated Judge Roberts to the same court. Despite receiving what the Democrats considered to be the gold-standard endorsement — a unanimous, well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association — Mr. Schumer and his fellow Democrats refused to give Judge Roberts a hearing over the next 19 months. A Republican-controlled Senate finally confirmed Judge Roberts in May 2003 when he was nominated a third time.

Like the mercy-seeking orphan, Mr. Schumer would not be in the position he finds himself today if Democrats had not killed Judge Roberts’ judicial opportunities in 1992, 2001 and 2002. Just as the murderous orphan deserved no mercy, Mr. Schumer should not expect to go fishing in waters so far over his head.

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