World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations … and by “good” I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:
Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton … In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush’s blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton’s stalled choices soon after taking office … GOP senators had also hoped to use the “blue slip” tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee’s state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state’s 12 House Democrats in the screening process.
So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama’s judicial nominees? Nice try.
Furthermore, Obama did not “ignore” their letter – in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House “consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states” because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:
“I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge,” U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.
Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas “losing the battle” to use the “blue slip”? As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state’s Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process – and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don’t like Obama’s nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.
In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama’s judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:
The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation … so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.