Petty, Partisan, and Disingenuous

In delivering his “if you liked Bush’s judicial nominees, you’re going to love mine” speech today, John McCain blasted Democratic “obstruction” of President Bush’s nominees and held himself up as a paragon of virtue and integrity:

Of course, in the daily routine of Senate obstructionism, presidential nominees to the lower courts are now lucky if they get a hearing at all. These courts were created long ago by the Congress itself, on what then seemed the safe assumption that future Senates would attend to their duty to fill them with qualified men and women nominated by the president. Yet at this moment there are 31 nominations pending, including several for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that serves North Carolina. Because there are so many cases with no judges to hear them, a “judicial emergency” has been declared here by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. And a third of the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is vacant. But the alarm has yet to sound for the Senate majority leadership. Their idea of a judicial emergency is the possible confirmation of any judge who doesn’t meet their own narrow tests of party and ideology. They want federal judges who will push the limits of constitutional law, and, to this end, they have pushed the limits of Senate rules and simple courtesy.

And yet when President Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg to serve on the high court, I voted for their confirmation, as did all but a few of my fellow Republicans. Why? For the simple reason that the nominees were qualified, and it would have been petty, and partisan, and disingenuous to insist otherwise. Those nominees represented the considered judgment of the president of the United States. And under our Constitution, it is the president’s call to make.

So, to hear McCain tell it, nobody but him in the Senate understands “simple courtesy” or the basic rule that senators should defer to the president on nominations or that voting against a nominee is “petty, partisan, and disingenuous.”

It is not surprising that McCain would use this opportunity to attack the Democrats on this issue – after all, he is trying to win over the Right and, as we all know, they just love to fight over judicial nominations.  

Of course, it is not as if Republicans have been good stewards of the confirmation process, as McCain realized back before he was busy pandering for right-wing votes:

“We Republicans are not blameless here,” McCain told me. “For all intents and purposes, we filibustered Clinton’s judges, by not letting them out of committee.”

Nor has McCain always upheld his own standard of deferring to the president, as evidenced by his own voting record during the Clinton administration:

Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Nomination of H. Lee Sarokin to be United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of H. Lee Sarokin: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of Rosemary Barkett to be U.S. Circuit Judge for 11th Circuit: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of William A. Fletcher to be U.S. Circuit Judge for 9th Circuit: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to be U.S. Circuit Judge for 2nd Circuit: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of Ronnie L. White to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of Ann L. Aiken to be US District Judge for the OR District: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of Susan Oki Mollway to be U.S. Dist. Judge Central Dist. Hawaii: McCain – Nay

On the Confirmation of James J. Brady to be United States District Judge Middle District of Louisiana: McCain – Nay

Of course, all of these Clinton nominees must have been unqualified because otherwise it would have been petty, partisan, and disingenuous of McCain to have voted against them.

Or perhaps McCain only applies this standard to Supreme Court nominations, which would explain his gushing support of Robert Bork.