Judging Character

14 08 2007

The Politico reported yesterday that in a survey they conducted “late last month of the 22 Senate Democrats who voted for Roberts’ confirmation found at least seven who said they were either concerned or disappointed with the chief justice’s tenure.” Among the Democratic Senators experiencing buyers remorse was Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota who told The Politico:

“He assured me he was not an ideologue,” Conrad said of Alito. “I have increasing reason to believe that is not the case. I have questions about Roberts, too. He assured me he was a nonideologue. So, I am not prepared to say that one can reach a conclusion after this short period, but I am not encouraged by the trend.”

Really? You mean to tell me that neither Alito nor Roberts declared themselves to be ideologues from the beginning? You mean neither of them said they had an right-wing conservative agenda to advance on the court? That’s mighty sneaky of them to just not declare what they really want to do before being confirmed to a life-time appointment to the most powerful court in the country. After all, its not as if they had any real reason to mislead you. Surely, if either Alito or Roberts considered themselves to be ideologues they would freely admit it. Plus, its not as if President Bush ever mentioned he wanted to appoint Judges to the Supreme Court in the mold of a Scalia or a Thomas.

But in all seriousness a reasonable person would assume that after seeing Alito and Roberts try to gut the Brown v. Board of Ed decision in the Parents Involved Case, or weaken anti-pay discrimination laws in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, or curtail women’s reproductive rights in Gonzales v. Carhart that the Dems would be skeptical of all future judicial nominees that even have a whiff of being hostile or even indifferent to civil rights.

But no. Case in point Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Feinstein has decided to support Leslie Southwick, a controversial judicial nominee to the Fifth Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and who has failed to apply the law fairly to gay and lesbians, workers, consumers, and African-Americans.

Feinstein cited her pleasant interactions with Southwick who she said did not impress her as a racist and praised him for his military service in Iraq. But his character was never an issue for those who opposed Southwick. It was the fact that Judge Southwick has an 89 percent record of voting against workers, consumers and other victims in divided decisions, that he joined a decision to excuse the use of a racial epithet, and joined a blatantly homophobic decision that separated a bisexual parent from her child. After all, its entirely possible for people to respect you and your service to the country and think you are the wrong person for a particular job. Just ask John McCain.

In other words its about the record, not the character of the nominee. Buyers remorse will undoubtely revisit the Democrats once more if they do not put together a concerted effort to thwart Southwick’s nomination. Something I doubt will happen since so many of them seem so uninterested in getting into real fights over judicial nominations.




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