September 13, 2007

Chuck and Pat and Hill and Ted

Hatched by Dafydd

For some time prior to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, I argued with many Gonzales-hating conservatives that it would be a huge mistake to force his resignation -- even as I agreed with them that he was a lousy AG.

My argument (which I think few of them ever understood) was with the second half of their clarion call: "Dump Gonzales," they cried, "and replace him with a real conservative!" The problem is that anyone who is better than Gonzales from our standpoint is therefore anathema to the Democrats, who now run the Senate.

This should be clear; we believe a nominee would be better if he would work more effectively to implement the more conservative policies of President George W. Bush... but implementing those policies is the exact opposite of what is desired by liberal senators such as Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%), Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 95%), and of course Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%). In particular, consider the Democratic contingent of the Judiciary Committee, which must first debate any nominee, then decide whether to send the nomination to the full Senate:

  • Chairman Pat Leahy
  • Ted Kennedy (MA, 100%)
  • Joe Biden (DE, 100%)
  • Herb Kohl (WI, 90%)
  • Dianne Feinstein (CA, 90%)
  • Russell Feingold (WI, 100%)
  • Chuck Schumer
  • Dick Durbin (IL, 100%)
  • Ben Cardin (MD, not yet rated)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (RI, not yet rated)

Note... not a single moderate in that entire bunch. By contrast, the Republican contingent in the Senate J-Com includes Arlen Specter (PA, 43%), Orrin Hatch (UT, 84%), and Lindsey Graham (SC, 83%)... the last two being much more liberal about judges than they are about other issues.

All the Democrats need do is hold firm and vote against a nominee like, say, Soliciter General Ted Olson, and he will be rejected in committee; at that point, it would take an exceptionally clever parliamentary maneuver to bring it up in the full Senate. Even if Republicans managed to do so, the rejection by the J-Com would give ample cover to more moderate Democrats... who, truth be told, are not particularly fond of the very conservative Olson themselves, and will be looking for just such an excuse to reject him without incurring the wrath of voters.

If conservatives believe that the American people will be outraged enough by the committee rejection of a Ted Olson (or equivalent) to rise up and smite the Democrats in 2008, I suggest they have allowed their own justifiable and principled passion make a fool of their political horse sense.

The American people might be angered by an outrageous tactic like a filibuster against a Judge Alito or Judge Roberts... precisely because of the implied admission that the nominee had majority support, requiring a filthy, back-room deal to derail him. But why would Americans be any more angered by a 9-10 party-line vote rejecting Olson in the committee than they would be by a 10-9 vote confirming him? It's simply democracy in action, and real Americans accept that.

Of course, the option of forcing resignation was snatched from conservatives' hands when Gonzales abruptly resigned by himself (probably because he was simply tired of fighting, the cowardly wimp). Now we shall see whether my analysis is accurate.

As a harbinger of what is to come, here is a New York Times editorial, urging the Democrats (in the name of the People) to reject Ted Olson if Bush nominates him:

The Justice Department is a disaster zone. It should be the embodiment of America’s commitment to the rule of law, but it has been contaminated by partisan politics. The nation’s top lawyers may have broken the law, and even may have sent innocent people to jail, to advance the interests of the Republican Party. To replace Alberto Gonzales, President Bush must appoint an attorney general who is above politics, and the Senate should only confirm a nonpolitical lawyer of unquestioned integrity. The names that have surfaced so far as potential nominees do not meet this standard.

The next attorney general will have an enormous amount of damage to undo. There is considerable evidence that United States attorneys have been coerced into using their offices to help Republicans win elections. The orders may have come directly from the White House. Top officials of the Justice Department have admitted that they evaluated lawyers for nonpolitical jobs based on their politics. And Congress is investigating whether Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin civil servant, and Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, were sent to jail to help Republicans win governorships in those states.

Well, against such a litany of charges, who could possibly fail to see the danger? Crimes may have been committed! Congress is investigating! There is considerable evidence!

Then the Times gets personal:

Unfortunately, President Bush does not appear to be considering a nominee who would do these things. The first name on his list is reportedly Theodore Olson, who may be best remembered for representing Mr. Bush in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that stopped the vote recount in Florida after the 2000 election. He was also on the board of the American Spectator magazine, which conducted the “Arkansas Project,” a well-funded campaign to dig up dirt on Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Olson figures, at least indirectly, in the United States attorneys scandal. His law firm represented Jerry Lewis, a Republican congressman, who was investigated by the United States attorney in Los Angeles, Debra Wong Yang. While the investigation was pending, the firm hired Ms. Yang as co-chair of its crisis management group with Mr. Olson. The move raised questions, still unanswered, about whether Ms. Yang was lured away to disrupt the investigation. [Of course, the investigation was not disrupted and continued as normal... as everyone involved knew it would. Some conspiracy.]

It should be obvious that, notwithstanding the paucity of a real case against Olson, the Times and its proxies are anxious to have this fight and confident that Democrats will stand firm; and that's all it will take. If they do, Olson will be rejected in committee and Reid will be very unlikely to be forced into holding a vote of the full Senate on him. Emboldened by this victory, Democrats will continue to stand firm, whining to the sympathetic elite media that "the president keeps nominating people who are 'contaminated by partisan politics,' as even the moderate New York Times says." And I suspect we will end up having no Attorney General at all for the next fifteen months.

President Bush may appoint an acting AG, or he may make a recess appointment. Either way, the man or woman sitting in the big chair at the Justice Department will be weakened by the knowledge that he's a temporary figurehead who could never be confirmed. As the main power of the Attorney General is to run the department, which requires what Communist Antonio Gramsci called "hegemony" -- or perceived fitness to rule, as I define it; the ability to get other people to obey your orders -- such an interim appointee would be crippled and probably less powerful even than Alberto Gonzales himself.

In which case, Gonzales' resignation will have hurt the president severely. "Thank you, mask-man."

I don't always enjoy being right; I would be overjoyed to be proved wrong this time, seeing Ted Olson nominated and battling his way to confirmation. But I doubt it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 13, 2007, at the time of 11:11 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Evilned

Bush puts forward Ted Olson. The whining crybabies block him. Bush puts him in place in a recess appointment that should last until the end of his term. Bush thumbs nose at whining crybabies.

He has done it before.

The above hissed in response by: Evilned [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2007 2:09 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I don't blame Gonzales for resigning, I blame the backstabbing Republicans who drove him from office. With friends like he has in his own party, Bush does not need enemies.

I would not blame Bush for nominating Olson, but the man will not be confirmed. So the question is whether Bush wants an Attorney General who can actually fulfill his duties, or whether he wants to stick it to the Democrats.

Some people have actually suggested Hatch himself.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2007 4:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steve

I agree that Gonzales shouldn't have resigned when the Dems had nothing on him. But he's gone. Now is the time to use partisan politics and make hay out of the political situation regarding Iraq, and the Republicans have an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. One thing about Hatch, he's still a party guy even if he's a squish on judges. So is Specter much of the time (he made sure nominations got to the floor when he was Chairman). Someone with the position of AG needs to run the DoJ, and since it is the President's prerogative to appoint officials (as stated in the Constitution), then any attempt to keep a vote for someone like Olson from getting to the floor can show the Dems as reverting to their obstructionist ways, and blocking the President from doing the job he is assigned to do (running the government) as mandated by Congress and the Constitution. If it gets ridiculous, then Bush can put in Olson as a recess appointment, and can point to the Dems as the ones refusing to do their jobs. If Americans hate anything, it's being shown people who are not doing the jobs they were hired to do; in this case, voting to confirm Presidential nominees.

Anyway, just my two cents.

The above hissed in response by: Steve [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2007 5:45 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

You are, of course, exactly correct on all counts.

I say, nominate Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch, or Lindsey Graham. If they didn't like Gonzolas, let's see one of them do the job properly. I think a proper appeal to their vanity ("We need you to save the nation. You're the only one. We are so impressed by your principaled stands on blah blah blah.")will work. Specter certainly owes Bush a few favors.

And what could the Dems say then? They are good enough to sit on the committee, but not serve as AG?

While I'm not impressed with any of them, they will be better than Gonzo.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2007 8:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: boffo

Look on the bright side. Nothing is more destructive toward Senate approval ratings than giving Senators a chance to talk on TV.

Just another opportunity to remind the swing voters who were fed up with the Republicans that the Democrats are even worse.

The above hissed in response by: boffo [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2007 11:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: MarkD

Nominate him anyway, and force the Dems to go on TV and try to explain why it is unacceptable to have Republicans serve a Republican President. Then give him a recess appointment and go on TV and explain exactly why you were forced to do so.

What are they going to do? Deny you a third term?

The above hissed in response by: MarkD [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2007 9:40 AM

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