Monday, March 29, 2004

Nomination Fights: A Bush re-election fully ensures a knock-down, drag-out Supreme Court nomination battle. While these can be fascinating to watch, the fights over the lower court nominees durning Bush's first term have set a new context. The Dems make no bones about holding to a scorched-earth strategy; some have even suggested that these first skirmishes were intended to telegraph to the GOP that the Dems would and could make it a terribly painful war of attrition.

That in mind, I think Dubya got a big assist from 60 Minutes last night. Nominee Charles Pickering submitted to an interview, addressed the accusation of racial insensitivity, and put forth a strong (i.e., not whiny) defense of why he reduced the sentence of a cross-burner. One of the highlights was Chuck Schumer, who seems to have inherited Al D'Amato's tone-deafness with the press. He sounded strident, painting Pickering in harsh terms. True, it isn't the first time Schumer has spoken in such a way. But it's the first time (that I've seen) that offered counterpoint in the form of Charles Evers, former NAACP honcho and brother of civil rights martyr Medger, upbraiding a current NAACP honcho about his lack of knowledge about Pickering's record. Adding to the effect were interviews with two black lawyers, both Democrats, who have pled cases before Pickering, have found him fair, and were offended by the charges leveled against him by Schumer, Pat Leahy, and PFAW.

Was the piece biased? I don't know. I'm pro-Pickering in the sense that he's getting a raw deal. Were I a senator, I'd still be inclined to vote against him. I think ideological differences are fair game when it comes to confirmation votes. In other words, I can vote against your confirmation because we disagree on, say, abortion. But to claim, as Leahy and his crew do, that a nominee's anti-abortion stance is prima facie disqualification is absurd.

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