National Review

At End of Supreme Court Term, Right Wing Points to November

According to Politico, the Right is warming to John McCain’s far-right stance on judicial appointments, and with the 5-4 decisions that closed out the Supreme Court’s term, we can see the outline of McCain’s and the Right’s campaign to get the base to turn out in November on the issue of judges.

Last month’s Supreme Court decision on habeas corpus was likened by the Right a “white flag of surrender” that would cause “more Americans to be killed”; Fred Thompson, a judicial advisor to John McCain, wrote that the “remedy” was for “concerned citizens to turn out on Election Day to elect a new president.”

The more recent decision overturning D.C.’s gun ban inspired Ted Nugent to write in Human Events that “the 5-4 ruling is another painful example” of “a divisive culture war raging on, and four supreme justices frighteningly disconnected from the heart and soul of America.” Michael Reagan warned that the majority “will vanish if the liberals manage to elect Barack Obama and give his party sufficient control of Congress to guarantee that future Court vacancies will be filled with activist liberal justices who will turn the Constitution upside down.”

The Family Research Council called the Second Amendment case “a reminder for voters of just how important the elections are this fall.”

The next President is likely to name 2-3 Supreme Court justices, who will be examining the constitutionality of a variety of laws for the next few decades. Life, marriage, and religious freedom are all issues that are likely to land in front of the Supreme Court. … For fiscal, social, and national defense conservatives, judges are one issue that brings all conservatives together.

According to the Weekly Standard, a case restricting capital punishment to murderers and not rapists of children demonstrated “that the fight to turn the Court from a capricious and imperious vanguard of liberalism into an impassive umpire is far from over.” The Standard’s Matthew Continetti advised McCain to “take this opportunity to explain how his judicial philosophy differs from Obama's, and why it matters.” A National Review editorial similarly responded, “Too many of our justices are evolving away from democracy. Let’s not elect a president who will encourage them — and appoint more of them.”

Traditional Values Coalition’s Lou Sheldon wrote that the death penalty case and the habeas corpus decision “are perfect examples showing why it’s important that Americans choose the right person to assume the Presidency in January 2009.”

The person who becomes President and Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces will likely have to replace Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter – all liberals who use their power to impose their leftist ideology upon all Americans. …

If we fail to put a man into the Oval Office who understands judicial restraint and the rule of law, our legal system will be set back 30 years. This is especially true if a liberal President appoints young liberals to the Court and fills up the federal judiciary with more radical leftist judges.

Finally, there’s the 5-4 decision overturning the “Millionaire’s Amendment,” a part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that lifted contribution limits for politicians facing self-funded opponents. Despite McCain’s role in originally passing the law, McCain supporter Hans von Spakovsky wrote that the narrow ruling “graphically illustrates just how important the next president's appointments to the Supreme Court will be to preserving our First Amendment rights in the political arena.”

“[G]iven the number of Supreme Court appointments a Democratic president will be able to make, an Obama victory will move America more radically leftward than ever in its history,” Dennis Prager summarized.

All these cases will continue to be cited by the Right in pushing its unmotivated constituency to the polls, as “are reminders that elections are not just about putting candidates in office for a few years,” as Thomas Sowell put it to those “who are thinking of venting their frustrations by voting for some third-party candidate that they know has no chance of being elected. There will be a president chosen this November, and he will appoint Supreme Court justices during his term, regardless of whether you stay home or go to the polls.”

Right Wing: Habeas Decision 'White Flag of Surrender'

Dissenting from last week’s Supreme Court decision recognizing habeas corpus rights for prisoners at Guantanamo, Justice Scalia all but called the judiciary, not to mention his colleagues on the High Court, a Fifth Column in the War on Terror: “[This decision] will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” he wrote. Not surprisingly, the Right Wing followed his lead.

Fred Thompson, the recent presidential candidate, said death would be a “tragically obvious” result:

I also find it just a tad ironic that in a case involving habeas corpus, which literally means that one must produce a body (or person) before a court to explain the basis on which that person is being detained, the decision of this court may mean more fallen bodies in the defense of a Constitution some of these justices ignored.

Gary Bauer decried “The radical Left and its liberal allies in Big Media” for supporting “an action beneficial to America’s wartime enemies”: “Whose side are they on?” The Weekly Standard editors similarly wrote, “In their visceral, myopic hatred of President Bush, liberals will see the ruling as a blow to the president and not the broad, foolish, and dangerous judicial power grab it is.”

The National Review denounced “the imperial court,” while the American Spectator’s John Tabin singled out the author of the majority opinion as “Lord Kennedy.” To the Wall Street Journal, he is “President Kennedy”; the editors warned of “another attack on U.S. soil – perhaps one enabled by a terrorist released under the Kennedy rules.”

Larry Thornberry attacked “the al-Qaeda wing of the U.S. Supreme Court.” Joseph Farah described the decision as “wav[ing] the white flag of surrender before al-Qaida and its Islamo-fascist allies throughout the world.”

Writing in FrontPage Magazine, Henry Mark Holzer—who warns that the U.S. will regret the decision “if the Nation lives”—brings it around to the presidential election:

For this constitutional and national security debacle, ultimately we have to thank not only the 5-justice majority but also justice-nominating and justice-confirming Republicans in the White House and Senate.

The Boumediene decision is thus a grave cautionary lesson about what is at stake in this presidential election: nothing less than the future of the Supreme Court for another generation, and with it the security of the United States of America.

Thompson, a prominent supporter of John McCain, similarly alluded to the issue of judges in the election: “What remedy do people have now if they don’t like the court’s decision? None. If that thought is not enough to cause concerned citizens to turn out on Election Day to elect a new president, then I don’t know what will be.”

As for McCain himself, he called this habeas corpus ruling “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

Romney Supporters Resent Huckabee's Focus on Faith

You know something strange is happening within the Republican Party when the supporters of one GOP presidential hopeful start complaining that another is using religion to polarize the electorate. A few weeks ago, we noted how the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez, a vocal Mitt Romney backer, was accusing Mike Huckabee of using the issue of faith in order "to change the subject away from policy and record issues" - as if that has not been the Religious Right's primary tactic for the last two decades. Now it looks as if this talking point has been picked up by others inside the Romney campaign as well:
Mark DeMoss – a fellow Southern Baptist leader and outspoken supporter of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – argues that the most important qualification when electing someone to public office is proven ability to manage the country rather than the religion litmus test. “I believe faith plus character plus experience plus competence is a recipe for the ideal presidential candidate,” wrote DeMoss in an opinion piece posted on the Web site Beliefnet.com. “But faith alone should neither disqualify one from getting my vote, nor guarantee that they will.” The Christian public relations guru added that a candidate’s “character cannot be overstated” but that his or her “faith can be” and in “this election probably has been.”
Likewise, James Bopp, who is also a Romney supporter, took to the pages of the National Review yesterday to make much the same point:
By emphasizing his qualification for office as a “Christian leader,” the Huckabee campaign, however, has implicitly, and some of his supporters have explicitly, promoted a religious test for office. This threatens to tear this religious coalition apart. And if evangelical Christians legitimize a religious test for public office, they will pay the heaviest price. The liberal elites have long sought to drive people of faith from the public square. They view Mormons as a curiosity, like Christians on steroids, but they loath and fear evangelicals. If a religious test is legitimate for public office, then the Democrats will drive evangelicals out of our democracy.
In other words, Bopp and DeMoss realize that the issue of faith is important and helpful politically only so long as the Republican Party can lay exclusive claim to it and use it as a cudgel against Democrats. But now that Huckabee is doing to Romney what Bopp, DeMoss, and the rest of the Religious Right have been doing to their opponents for the last twenty years, there is a lot of hand-wringing about the inappropriateness of having this type of "religious test" for political candidates and fears that he's ruining the Religious Right's favorite tactic. If the Romney campaign really is opposed to this practice of not-so-subtly denigrating a political opponent's faith and values, does that mean that he will eschew it should he become the GOP's candidate? If so, he might want to disband his "Faith and Values Steering Committee" - which is filled with people like Mark DeMoss and James Bopp.

Anti-Abortion Movement Split Spills onto Presidential Race

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the reappearance of a somewhat rusty tactic in the anti-abortion movement’s tool belt: attempts to pass a “Human Life Amendment” to several state constitutions, which would purportedly grant full “personhood” rights beginning at conception. Such an end-run would circumvent a protracted political debate—which they could lose, as they did when South Dakota voters rejected an abortion ban last year—and likely end up in federal court, where activists hope new right-wing Supreme Court justices will take the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the major national religious-right groups have preferred a more incremental strategy of advancing less-sweeping restrictions and promoting Republican politicians who promise to appoint anti-abortion judges, leaving absolutist activists out in the cold, as the Times notes:

For the most part, the campaigns are run by local activists, with little support or funding from big national antiabortion groups. Similar efforts have failed in the past: Proponents in Michigan could not collect enough signatures to put a personhood measure on the ballot in 2006. The Georgia proposal stalled in the Legislature this year.

Indeed, Clarke Forsythe and Denise Burke of Americans United for Life—a legal group active since the 1970s—published an article in National Review today calling the HLA “a losing move for the pro-life movement.” While AUL is hardly an influential group in this decade, its anti-HLA commentary recalls the anti-abortion movement’s in-fighting in the 1980s and 1990s over militant clinic protests (and the occasional murder of doctors). Although AUL was happy to represent militant activist Joseph Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League in court, at the same time it pooh-poohed the frenzied “Summer of Mercy” protest in Wichita in 1991. “[I]t is better to show the public that [the abortion provider’s] practices are unlawful than to engage in tactics that attract attention to the unlawfulness of pro-lifers,” cautioned AUL’s president.

Romney Pandering Himself Right Into a Corner

Mitt Romney continues to pick up endorsements and support from various right-wing leaders – the most recent being Paul Weyrich – and is working hard to establish himself as the candidate of choice for those who just cannot stomach the idea of supporting Rudy Giuliani.   In fact, that seems to be the primary reason Weyrich is even backing Romney: “I’m not for Giuliani. I want to try to stop him from getting the nomination.”  

But while he is slowly winning over the leaders of the right-wing establishment, the rank and file voters are still leery of, if not openly hostile to, his Mormon faith.  As Salon reported yesterday:

The Romney campaign, which has aggressively courted religious voters, is well aware of the problem. Romney has found himself, by dint of his personal faith, in the middle of a long-running competition between two rival evangelical faiths, each claiming the true word of God in the fight for converts. "It's Pepsi vs. Coke," said one Romney campaign aide, describing the differences between evangelical Protestants and Mormons. "But sometimes Pepsi and Coke have to team up to stop Starbucks from taking over the market." Starbucks, of course, represents secular America, which favors gay marriage, legal abortion and the minimization of religion in public life.

Romney, like Giuliani, appears to hope that he can win over these voters by pledging to nominate right-wing ideologues to the Supreme Court, which is just what he promised when speaking yesterday before the Nova Southeastern University Law School’s chapter of the Federalist Society: 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking in Davie, said his commitment to appointing conservative judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would help him correct the nation's direction.

To reinforce this pledge, the Romney campaign even trotted out two members of his Advisory Committee on the Constitution and the Courts to make the case for him in the pages of The National Review:

As the addition of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to the Supreme Court has demonstrated, judicial appointments can be among a president’s most lasting legacies. The judges a president appoints will typically serve well beyond his term of office, interpreting our laws and Constitution for decades to follow. The next president may have the opportunity to appoint at least one justice to the Supreme Court and, like any new administration, will surely face a large number of courts-of-appeal and district-court vacancies.

For that reason, it is critically important to consider what type of individual a presidential candidate would nominate to the bench. We are confident that if elected as president, Governor Romney would appoint individuals to the federal courts who respect the appropriate role of the judiciary in our democratic system.

But as rival Fred Thompson is pointing out, like many of Romney’s pledges, his record on this point doesn’t match his current rhetoric:

Of the 36 lawyers Romney nominated, 23 were registered Democrats or independents who donated to Democratic candidates or voted in Democratic primaries, according to a Boston Globe analysis that was circulated by rival Fred Thompson. Two appointees supported expanding gay rights.

As we noted earlier, such inconsistencies do not appear to be of much concern to many on the Right, because such flip-flopping only makes Romney more beholden to them – or, as Weyrich put it:

I think [Romney] is somebody who is rushing toward the movement trying to present himself as a conservative and in some ways it's more useful to have somebody like that.

Perkins Backing Thompson?

The National Review's "The Campaign Spot" passes word on from the Fred Thompson campaign that FRC's Tony Perkins hosted a fund-raiser for him back in July: "Perkins hosted a fundraiser for us in Louisiana, and [Gary] Bauer and [Ricahrd] Land have been helpful to Fred. Jeri speaks with all of them to some degree, and they all speak to Fred.”

Memo to <em>Time</em>: The Far Right Knows the Supreme Court Matters

Talk about bad timing! Time magazine's cover story telling Americans the Supreme Court isn't relevant to their lives appeared the very same week that every major Republican presidential candidate will appear before the right-wing leaders at the so-called "Values Voter Summit" and pledge more Supreme Court justices in the Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas mold.

The premise of the article is dead wrong, as People For the American Way Foundation's Legal Director Judith E. Schaeffer made clear in her response. The Court's decisions have a huge impact on Americans' rights and liberties - and their ability to count on the courts to uphold the protections guaranteed by our Constitution. That's especially true when the President asserts his ability to ignore those protections and has too often bullied Congress into going along.

Not only is the Roberts Court creating new legal hurdles that will keep people hurt by corporate or government wrongdoing from seeking justice in the federal courts, it is tripping down the ideological path cleared by the Federalist Society to reverse many of the legal and social justice gains of the past few decades and erode Americans' legal rights and protections.

The radical right is thrilled that Bush's nominees - Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito - have joined the Court's far-right voting bloc anchored by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And they're keenly focused on the impact that the next president will have as additional vacancies likely occur. They see 2008 as their chance to cement a reactionary Court in place for a generation.

That's why the GOP presidential candidates are going out of their way to prove their right-wing credentials regarding the Court.

Pace for Virgnia Senate?

The National Review calls on "Virginia conservatives" to recruit Gen. Peter Pace to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican John Warner.

Thompson on SCOTUS

Fred Thompson discusses the Supreme Court with the National Review: "It’s important that the president not only know and understand and learn about the people he’s going to have to choose but he understands the underlying issues and hopefully knows how to read a case and knows who’s following precedent and who’s not and who’s doing it from the seat of their pants based on their own views of social equity, versus the Constitution and the law. I like Roberts and Alito and Scalia and Thomas."

A Costly Near-Miss for Thompson

After months of “testing the water,” Fred Thompson finally made it official last night that he is indeed seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Seeking to make a splash in the race, Thompson skipped the scheduled GOP debate in New Hampshire, choosing instead to appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” to make the announcement  -  a move that seems to have irked his fellow Republican hopefuls.

While Thompson’s entry into the race and the manner in which he made it were expected, what would have really shaken up the Republican primary was if he could have walked onto the scene with the backing of the extremely influential Arlington Group, which very nearly happened, according to various sources.  

On the September 5 edition of “Special Report with Brit Hume,” Fox News Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron reported:

[Thompson] has four months now to court conservatives that others have spent the whole year wooing. One example, the highly-influential Arlington Group, which is made up of various conservative and religious organizations and leaders, including Gary Bauer, a former presidential candidate and former head of the Family Research Council.

Sources say the Arlington Group had planned to throw its support behind Thompson tomorrow when he announces. That is now on hold because last week on the "National Review Online," Thompson aides said he would oppose a constitutional amendment that religious conservatives support banning gay marriage.

The National Review’s “The Campaign Spot” reports the same:

A reliable source has told me of huge, potentially bad news for the Thompson campaign — there is a very influential group of social and religious conservatives called the Arlington Group. Thompson addressed them earlier this year and, I was told, wowed them. It looked like he was going to collect a slew of impressive endorsements.

I've just been told that that group may be ready to say that they're not impressed with Thompson in recent months.

The Arlington Group is a coalition of dozens of powerful and influential right-wing organizations, which includes the likes of the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, American Values, the Free Congress Foundation, Vision America, and others.  

The Boston Globe reported earlier this year that Republican candidates were eagerly courting the Arlington Group precisely because of the tremendous influence its members possess:

Leaders of the group have interviewed Huckabee, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, US Representative Duncan Hunter of California, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who hasn't entered the race but may later this year. It's not clear which other candidates have been or will be interviewed. The group has not yet questioned Romney, Senator John McCain of Arizona, or former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to those campaigns.

Because the Arlington Group is made up of many nonprofit organizations and ministries -- which, by law, cannot officially advocate for political candidates -- the coalition is not expected to explicitly endorse anyone. Instead, according to members of the group and two Republicans close to it, the conservative leaders hope to coalesce around one candidate that prominent members such as James Dobson, who heads Colorado-based Focus on the Family, could endorse individually. Dobson, for example, is free to say as a private citizen that he supports a certain candidate, a personal endorsement sure to influence many of his followers.

The group or its leaders might not even reach a consensus -- a similar effort in the 2000 race ended without agreement, and many conservatives have expressed frustration at the lack of a clear choice in the 2008 contest. But if they do, the political potential for that candidate would be significant. The Arlington Group encompasses roughly 70 grass-roots organizations around the country said to reach tens of millions of people collectively.

"It is our desire that all of us, in a united effort, could marshal our resources to the same end," said one member of the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because members agreed not to disclose the discussions publicly.

In a Republican primary in which the current candidates are actively courting support from the right-wing political leaders and organizations, receiving the stamp of approval from the Arlington Group would have been a significant development in Thompson’s campaign and delivered a tremendous boost for his chances of winning the nomination.  

But it appears as if, at least for the time being, Thompson has lost that opportunity primarily because of his waffling on the question of whether he would “actively push a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage” were he to be elected president.  

MassResistance Challenges The National Review

About a month ago, during the debate over immigration reform, the editorial board at the National Review issued a series of challenges to the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal to debate the merits of the immigration bill.  The WSJ never accepted the challenge and the bill eventually died in the Senate and both NRO and the WSJ moved on.

But it looks as if the right-wing anti-gay activists at MassResistance have taken a page out of the NRO playbook and are now using it against them, challenging the magazine for its fawning coverage of Mitt Romney:

Twenty-two conservative activist leaders will publicly release a letter this week challenging the conservative magazine National Review's "puff work" for presidential candidate Mitt Romney and implying that the magazine is quietly abandoning the social conservative grassroots and constitutionalism. The editors refuse even to acknowledge receipt of the letter, which cites information about which they've misled their readers …

"A magazine that conservatives grew up with has legitimized a charlatan who trashed a constitution. As an opponent of judicial tyranny, Romney is a fraud," Haskins said. "Notwithstanding the post-constitutional nihilism of [NR pro-Romney blogger David] French, no legal training is needed to read English. Constitutions are not for lawyers to lock away from prying eyes, but for laymen as defense against the Frenches, Hewitts and Romneys of the world."

NR also conspicuously failed to report a detailed, provocative letter forty-four conservative leaders sent Romney disproving his claim that he "enforced the law" by imposing homosexual "marriage" when the Legislature refused to legalize it. Law professors and constitutional attorneys have affirmed the conclusions of the letter, which urged Romney to reverse his illegal orders. Signers included Paul Weyrich, an architect of the Reagan revolution; Robert Knight, a draftsman of the Defense of Marriage Act; Sandy Rios of the Culture Campaign (former president of Concerned Women for America); Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News; Phil Likoudis, editor of The Wanderer; and attorney Gary Kreep (United States Justice Foundation).

In contrast to NR spiking coverage of both letters, Kathryn Jean Lopez, their dedicated Romney cheerleader, trumpeted as newsworthy a pro-Romney letter from eight "conservatives" of widely varying reputations and conflicts of interest, including some who privately admit Romney failed to defend the constitution.

When NRO was challenging the WSJ, they mocked them as “the type of people who ordinarily you’d expect to welcome a challenge and a good old-fashioned intellectual rumble” and wondered sarcastically why they were hearing “only silence.” 

Well, MassResistance is now challenging NRO to explain its "puff work" coverage of the Romney campaign and will be releasing the letter it sent to the magazine later this week.  We’ll be keeping an eye on NRO to see when, or even if, they bother to respond.  

The Media’s Mormon Problem? 

In his latest column, the National Review's Rich Lowry accuses the media of not falling over themselves to write glowing articles about Gov. Mitt Romney:  

For once, the media aren’t so thrilled by a “first.” Usually being the first African-American, woman, Latino, or anything else to run for a major office gives a campaign a frisson of excitement in the press. Such pioneering campaigns are said to hold important lessons about the tolerance of the American public.

But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney represents the first “first” that has elicited a lukewarm reaction from the media. Journalists constantly run stories about whether Romney can become the first Mormon president — with an undercurrent suggesting that they’d be just fine if he can’t.

A trope in Romney-as-Mormon stories is that evangelical Christians won’t be able to vote for a Mormon. There is a whiff of wishfulness to this, as if reporters hope evangelicals prove as bigoted as reporters have always suspected they were. There is certainly resistance to a Mormon candidate among some evangelicals, but the harshest anti-Mormon condemnations have come from the left.

So, according to Lowry, it is the media that is creating a “trope” about right-wing voters being unwilling to support. Well, if the media has gotten the idea that a certain segment of the GOP’s right-wing base would be uncomfortable supporting Romney because of his religion, it must have come from somewhere.  But where? 

Maybe from the various right-wing voters and leaders saying it:

New York Sun:

A prominent and powerful evangelical Christian leader, James Dobson, said yesterday that the Mormon faith practiced by Governor Romney of Massachusetts could pose a serious obstacle if Mr. Romney makes a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

"I don't believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess," Mr. Dobson said on a syndicated radio program hosted by a conservative commentator, Laura Ingraham.

Time Magazine:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's public-policy arm: "But he's gotta close the deal. Only Romney can make voters comfortable with his Mormonism. Others cannot do it for him."

The Virginian-Pilot

Selecting presidential candidate Mitt Romney as its May commencement speaker has riled some of Regent University's students and alumni who say his Mormon faith clashes with the school's bedrock evangelical Christianity.

"What we're against is the fact that Mormonism is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Christian values and what we believe," said Doug Dowdey, a Virginia Beach pastor who said he graduated from Regent's divinity school last year.

World Magazine:

How many voters does insurance broker Frank Senger of Newport Beach, Calif., represent?

"No way will I be voting for Mitt Romney," he insists. A Republican and a lifelong Baptist, he abhors the thought of voting for a Mormon for president and says "there's more to it than just some prejudice. It bothers me a whole lot that someone that bright could fall for the stories about where Mormonism came from, and all that blather about the golden tablets. If he'll fall for that, do I want him in the same room and at the same table with Kim Jong-il of North Korea or Ahmadinejad from Iran?"

WorldNetDaily:

While some evangelical Christians are defending the presidential candidacy of Mormon Mitt Romney from an attack by Al Sharpton, another prominent pastor is going further in his condemnation – saying a vote for the former Massachusetts governor is a vote for Satan.

That's the word from Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based Live Prayer TV program as well as LivePrayer.com.

"If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!" he writes in his daily devotional to be sent out to 2.4 million e-mail subscribers tomorrow.

New York Times

Larry Gordon, senior pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, said his initial instinct was to rule out Mr. Romney because of his faith. But after his son, who is also a pastor at the church, came away impressed by Mr. Romney after an event, he began to examine him more closely.

“If nobody better comes along, I’m going to vote for him,” Mr. Gordon said. “But I’m hoping somebody better comes along.”

Whelan’s Demagoguery

Writing on the National Review’s “Bench Memos” blog, Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center set out to rebut various statements made by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy at a recent confirmation hearing.

Well, two can play that game.

Whelan’s first point:  

1. Leahy states that all five of the district-judge nominees at the hearing “were among those returned to the President without Senate action at the end of last Congress when Republican Senators objected to proceeding with certain of the President’s judicial nominees in September and December last year.”  This statement is clearly designed to give the trusting listener the impression that Republican senators were responsible for the fact that these nominees weren’t confirmed last year.  But no Republican senators objected to any of these nominees.  It was Democrats who decided to hold these nominees as hostages.

What Whelan doesn’t bother to mention is that the “Democrats who decided to hold these nominees as hostages” did so in retaliation for Sen. Sam Brownback’s petty hold on the nomination of Janet Neff solely because she attended a lesbian commitment ceremony back in 2002.  As the New York Times explained:

Judge Neff’s nomination was included in a package of more than a dozen nominees whose confirmation had been agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Brownback’s objections held up the whole roster of nominees.

Which plays into Whelan’s second point:

2. Leahy states:  “With the five confirmations last week we have confirmed more of President Bush’s nominations in the 18 months I have served as Judiciary Committee Chairman than in the more than two years when Senator Hatch chaired the Committee with a Republican Senate majority or during the last Congress with a Republican Senate majority.”  This comparison obscures the critical fact that Democrats, including Leahy, resorted to unprecedented measures of obstruction against judicial nominations in the last two Congresses.  In other words, Leahy and his fellow Democrats, not the preceding Republican chairmen, are largely responsible for (and I’m sure claim credit with their supporters for) the low number of confirmations over the past four years.

In the 108th and 109th Congresses, the Republican-controlled Senate managed to confirm 104 and 52 of Bush’s nominees, respectively. In the 104th and 105th Congresses, when Republicans controlled the Senate under President Clinton, they managed to confirm 75 and 101 nominees, respectively.  

As noted above, Brownback’s hold on Neff ended up holding up “more than a dozen nominees whose confirmation had been agreed upon.”  The 156 nominees the Republicans confirmed during the 108th and 109th would have included more than a dozen more if Brownback hadn’t placed a hold on Neff, and that would have given President Bush approximately 170 confirmations during that time – pretty darn close to the 176 President Clinton got during the same time in his presidency.  

So Whelan shouldn’t be blaming Democrats about the “the low number of confirmations over the past four years” since it would have been nearly the same as it had been under Clinton had Brownback allowed the dozen-plus nominees to go forward as had been agreed. 

As for Whelan’s third point, it pretty much speaks for itself:  

3. Leahy complains that President Bush “has nominated only 18 African-American judges to the federal bench, compared to 53 African-American judges appointed by President Clinton in his first six years in office.”  From the numbers I have handy, it would appear that President Bush’s 18 black nominees account for slightly more than 5% of his total judicial nominees.  Blacks account for about 4% of lawyers.  Moreover, only about one in ten blacks voted for President Bush (and I’d be surprised if the figures were substantially higher among black lawyers).  So it’s reasonable to conclude that among those lawyers who share the Administration’s judicial philosophy, the percentage of blacks is much lower than 4%—perhaps around 1%.  In short, for those who focus on such measurements (I don’t), blacks are certainly not “underrepresented” among the President’s judicial nominees.

Further, the treatment that Democrats accorded conservative black nominees like Janice Rogers Brown and Jerome Holmes would be enough to deter other qualified blacks from even thinking about becoming judges. 

In other words, there are so few African American lawyers that share the president’s judicial philosophy that it is a miracle that he’s even been able to find any to nominate. And since a couple of those that he did nominate generated opposition, it is really all the Democrats’ fault anyway.  

The Law and Order Border Crowd Backs Criminal Agents

For weeks, the anti-immigration wing of the GOP’s base has been up in arms over the 10+ year sentences handed down to two border patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, for shooting an unarmed man as he attempted to flee in 2005.

WorldNetDaily has published dozens of articles about the issue, many written by Jerome Corsi, and FrontPage named Ramos and Compean its “People of the Year.”  The Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly attacked President Bush for refusing to grant the agents a pardon, as did Grassfire.org, which called the President a “fraud” and accused him of creating “an unbreachable chasm between his administration and millions of Americans who are concerned about our nation’s border security.”  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher even went so far as to invite Ramos’s wife as his guest to the recent State of the Union address in order to send "a powerful message" to the President.  

And it does not look like they have any plans to give up soon, as CNSNews reports that “Several members of the House are drafting legislation to cut off funding specifically for the incarceration of border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, sentenced to 11 and 12 years respectively.” 

The Right is livid because the man who was shot, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, was later discovered to have been attempting to smuggle nearly 750 pounds of marijuana into the country and was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.  As Friends of the Border Patrol stated:

 

This ruling … is the most disgraceful act that I have ever heard of in the history of our great nation and both she and the prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves for taking the word of a drug smuggler, caught in the act, while ignoring the facts.

 

But not everyone on the Right is so willing to blindly defend Ramos and Compean.  In the last week, two separate right-wing publications hammered their erstwhile allies on the issue, accusing them of completely ignoring the agents’ obvious guilt.

First, the Wall Street Journal explained:

Agents Ramos and Compean were guarding the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 17, 2005, when they encountered a van driven by Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. When the driver saw the agents he sped off, eventually abandoning the vehicle and fleeing toward the border on foot. At one point, Aldrete-Davila stopped running and raised his empty hands to surrender. But when the first border agent to approach him stumbled, Aldrete-Davila took off again toward the Rio Grande.

At this point, Agents Ramos and Compean opened fire, shooting at the back of a suspect who they knew was unarmed. They fired 14 rounds in all--Agent Compean even paused to reload--finally hitting Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. The suspect was wounded but still managed to make it across the border and escape.

It later was determined that Aldrete-Davila was in the country illegally and smuggling drugs. Nearly 750 pounds of marijuana were found in the van. But Ramos and Compean didn't know the suspect's immigration status when they shot him. Nor did they know the contents of the vehicle he was driving. What the agents did know is that they had broken any number of border patrol policies.

So Compean and another agent returned to the scene to gather shell casings and discard them in a drainage ditch. Compean and Ramos, who'd been disciplined for past conduct unbecoming a federal officer, then filed a false report. The only reason their cover-up didn't succeed is because an honest border agent who learned of the shooting eventually reported it.

After a trial lasting nearly three weeks, a federal jury in El Paso convicted both agents on charges including assault with a deadly weapon and obstruction of justice. As Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, put it: "The simple truth of this case is that former Agents Compean and Ramos shot 15 times at an unarmed man who was running away from them and posed no threat. They lied about what happened, covered up the shooting, conspired to destroy the evidence and then proceeded to write up and file a false report."

Writing in the National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy, added more details:

The preponderance of the evidence established that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed. Besides Compean and Ramos, there were several other agents on the scene. None of them believed Aldrete-Davila posed a threat to their safety; none, other than the two defendants drew their weapons; and Compean and Ramos neither took cover nor alerted their fellow agents to do so.

More to the point, Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender … Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.

Compean and Ramos are bad guys. Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

So, Aldrete-Davila initially attempted to flee the Border Patrol agents and then attempted to surrender, at which point Compean tried to strike him with a shotgun, causing Aldrete-Davila to flee again, to which Compean and Ramos responded by opening fire and wounding him.  They then set about covering up the incident, destroying evidence, and filing false reports about what had occurred.

And for that, many on the Right are treating them as heroes.   

Bush Speech Fractures Right, Prompts Race for Letters to the Editor

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins isn’t the only right-wing leader unhappy with President Bush’s State of the Union speech.

“We're disappointed that he didn't mention cultural issues at all,” said National Review editor Rich Lowry. The Institute for Policy Innovation, a strong supporter of Bush’s plan two years ago to privatize Social Security, now asserts that he “lacked leadership in that he failed to propose any [specific] solutions.” Bush “left a lot of conservatives shaking their heads” with the speech, according to Bill Lauderback of the American Conservative Union. A spokesperson for Gary Bauer’s American Values lamented that the president “lost a golden opportunity to set the stage” by emphasizing right-wing issues.

York Misstates the Facts

Writing in The National Review, Byron York has penned an article entitled “The Loser Who Won’t Concede” in which he dismisses the massive undervote of more than 18,000 ballots in Florida’s 13th Congressional District during the November election [CNN ran a segment about it yesterday.] 

The People For the American Way Foundation has been very active in seeking a remedy for this disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, and thus knows a bit more about it than York seems to. For instance, York claims:

[T]here was no evidence anything had gone wrong with the machines. As the wrangling went on, a group of three political scientists — James Honaker and Jeffrey Lewis of UCLA and Michael Herron of Dartmouth — began to look into the matter. They found no evidence of machine malfunction, either, and instead argued that the problem was most likely a confusing ballot design in Sarasota County’s machines.

This is actually not the case. In the report that Herron et al. published, they explicitly state that "we cannot directly address engineering issues here" and "we cannot definitively rule out the possibility that there was some voting machine malfunction in the sense that Sarasota County's touchscreen machines failed to record and tabulate actual screen touches ... because this paper presents a statistical analysis of vote patterns and not a physical examination of voting machines, we cannot completely rule out voting machine malfunction as a source of the Sarasota undervote." 

Herron et al. stated that they believed that the ballot format design was to blame, but York's writing is irresponsible in suggesting that they "found no evidence" of machine malfunction.  For one thing, Herron is not a computer scientist and didn’t examine the machines for error since he was engaged in a purely statistical analysis of the undervotes.  Indeed, when he testified recently as an expert for the voting machine vendor (Election Systems and Software) at an evidentiary hearing in the Florida lawsuits brought by voters and one of the candidates to contest the election, he specifically acknowledged that he had no expertise in the computer software programming for the voting machines used in Sarasota County.

Despite York’s assertion that there was “no evidence of machine malfunction,” PFAWF found many potentially disenfranchised voters who claim otherwise.  

With the 110th Congress now in session and the “winner” of the 13th Congressional District race being provisionally sworn-in, it is imperative that a full investigation be conducted in order to ensure that voters of Florida’s 13th Congressional District are represented by the candidate they intended to elect.  

The Right’s Gloomy 2007 Forecast

The National Review asked a few right-wing political figures to try and come up with some things that the Right “can be optimistic about going into 2007.”  Not surprisingly, the responses are not particularly uplifting. 

Aside from taking some glee in the fact that “the American people will now hold [the Democrats] partly responsible for Iraq policy” and getting to watch “the spectacle of liberal congressional Democrats struggling to reconcile what they want to do (impeach George Bush, raise taxes, get out of Iraq, fling wide the gates to all immigrants) with what the public wants them to do,” those queried didn't really have anything positive to offer.  

Rep. Jeb Henlsarling takes some solace in the fact that the GOP might now get a chance to the things they failed to do for the last six years, such as “embrace the core conservative principles of a balanced budget, limited, accountable government, and traditional values” while Phyllis Schlafly looks forward to re-claiming the party “by outnumbering and outsmarting the false prophets of RINO politics, nation-building utopians, and globalism economics.”   

Perhaps the most pessimistic response came from defeated Senator Rick Santorum who appeared to be so despondent that he could barely muster a few vague platitudes about making “judicial activism” a bigger issue – and even that was overshadowed by his own apparent sense of hopelessness:

Conservatism, of course, will never be the political disposition of a majority of Americans. Conservative objectives, however, will from time to time find the support of such a majority; the success of the conservative movement depends in large part on leaders taking advantage of such moments.

So that is what conservatives have to look forward to in 2007:  Hoping the Democrats struggle while waiting for opportunities where they can take advantage of those rare occasions when the American people might fleetingly support some isolated part of their right-wing agenda.  

National Review: Romney Offers Kinder, Gentler Anti-Gay Marriage

So claims editor Lopez.

Spinning Themselves In Circles

Fully half of the twenty GOP incumbents who lost their seats in the House on Tuesday received either a 100% ranking from the joint Family Research Council Action/Focus on the Family Action voter guide or the endorsement of Gary Bauer’s Campaign for Working Families – and five of the losers received both.

At the same time, five of the six GOP senators who lost their re-election bids received both a 100% ranking form FRC/FOF and a CWF endorsement (the exception being Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee.)

But fresh off the thumpin’ the Republicans took in last week’s election, right-wing leaders such as James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Gary Bauer are frantically trying to spin the results to claim that the loss can be attributed to the fact that the GOP abandoned its base and inevitably suffered the consequences.

As Focus on the Family’s James Dobson complained

They consistently ignored the constituency that put them in power until it was late in the game and then frantically tried to catch up at the last minute. In 2004, conservative voters handed them a 10-seat majority in the Senate and a 29-seat edge in the House. And what did they do with their power? Very little that Values Voters care about.

Writing in the National Review, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins made a similar point

In the end, voters had grown tired of a party whose lapses in judgment were overshadowed only by its lapse of belief in core values. When conservatives realized that Republicans had abandoned their ideology, they ultimately abandoned the GOP.

The idea seems to be to convince themselves and the rest of the country that Republicans lost 28 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate because they were insufficiently committed to the Right’s agenda.

Unfortunately for Bauer, Dobson and Perkins, their own voter guide (PDF) and list of endorsements suggests otherwise.

Right Wing Attacks Parkinson's-Afflicted Michael J. Fox for Pro-Stem Cell Research Ads

Rush Limbaugh says he’s off his meds or acting in the video; National Review and Princeton’s Robert George call it “slander”; Maryland’s Family Protection Lobby says candidates are “exploiting” Fox.
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National Review Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Tuesday 12/21/2010, 10:36am
Haley Barbour Civil Rights: In Weekly Standard profile, Barbour lauds racist, pro-segregation Council of Conservative Citizens, doesn’t remember Jim Crow era as “that bad” (TPM, The Hill; 12/20). Mississippi: Tries to shape his legacy as governor (Clarion Ledger, 12/19). CPAC: Set to address Conservative Political Action Committee conference in February (ACU, 12/16). Mike Huckabee Fox News: As a guest, Rep. Anthony Weiner asks Huckabee, “How Much Do You Make Over There At Fox?” (Mediaite, 12/18). Health Care: Backs 9/11 First Responders care bill blocked... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/23/2010, 2:08pm
Last week the American Principles Project announced that it would boycott the next CAPC convention if organizers allowed the gay conservative group GOProud to participate. Now, the APP has gotten other Religious Right groups to sign on to a letter to announcing their intent to likewise withdraw from the event: A coalition of conservative groups led by the American Principles Project today sent a letter to David Keene, Chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and his fellow board members announcing their withdrawal from participation in the 2011 CPAC. The... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Thursday 10/21/2010, 4:36pm
Republican Rand Paul’s campaign just released robocalls and radio ads narrated by Mike Huckabee, who criticizes Jack Conway’s “Aqua Buddha” ad. Huckabee says that “the only thing worse than a politician attempting to parade his faith for the purpose of getting a vote, is a person who would falsely attack his opponent’s faith, and then lie about it.” The details of Conway’s ad have been confirmed as accurate, and Paul continues to avoid questioning about the “Aqua Buddha” story. But more importantly, we have to ask: is Mike... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 10/08/2010, 5:30pm
It looks like Janet Porter is finally getting back to work, as she's started recording daily commentaries for AFA radio. Bill Donohue is mad that people can make fun of Catholics but not gays. But what isn't Donohue mad about? If you are going to spend money on attack ads, be sure you are attacking the right person. Mitt Romney is being pressured by conservatives to denounce MA health care reform while being pressured by Massachusetts Republicans not to do so. The National Review calls Joe Miller "Cool As Ice." That is not the phrase I would... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 10/05/2010, 9:54am
Newt Gingrich Government: Bashes the welfare state in Texas speech (Dallas Morning News, 10/4). 2010: Raising money for right-wing Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer (MPR, 10/4). Mike Huckabee 2010: Says that mid-term elections will be a “political tsunami” (The Page, 10/4). Florida: Refuses to back Florida GOP gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott (Florida Times-Union, 10/4). New York: Praises controversial New York GOP gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino (NewsHounds, 10/1). GOP: Claims that he backs the Tea Party over the Party “establishment” (The Page, 10/4... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 07/20/2010, 11:59am
I have to say that this op-ed from Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition alleging that there has been some sort of double-standard in the treatment of Elena Kagan and Harriet Miers might just be the dumbest thing that anyone has written during this entire confirmation process:  The parallels between the nominations of Kagan and Miers — their similar legal background and connection to the presidents who nominated them — makes the various reactions from the right and the left stand in stark contrast. While Miers was harassed and criticized by both sides of... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 06/30/2010, 11:13am
It seems that the Right is all agog over this article in the "National Review" by Shannen Coffin, claiming that Elena Kagan "manipulated the statement of a medical organization to protect partial-birth abortion" while working in the Clinton White House. Here is the gist of Coffin's "bombshell": There is no better example of this distortion of science than the language the United States Supreme Court cited in striking down Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000. This language purported to come from a “select panel” of the American... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 06/28/2010, 5:32pm
Sen. Robert Byrd passed away this morning at the age of 92. Despite the fact that she is appearing at a conference organized by and featuring a bunch of Birthers, Rep. Michele Bachmann insists that she does not share that view. Sarah Palin headlined Freedom Fest 2010 and organizers were only able to fill about one-third of the arena. Just like that, the GOP has removed Gen. Jerry Boykin from its witness list during the Kagan hearing. The National Review endorsed John McCain over J.D. Hayworth. The Religious Right wants to know how much money Comcast makes from its... MORE >