When You’re Down, Pick a Fight

Suppose you are the President of the United States and you are nearing the end of your time in office with dismal approval ratings and a history of seeing a bunch of your controversial judicial nominees run into opposition in the Senate for a variety of reasons, so much so that you had even been forced to withdraw more than one nominee to the Fourth Circuit because of such opposition.  

Would you, in an attempt to find nominees that could win widespread support, consider listening to home state Senators when they make bipartisan recommendations for filling vacancies to that circuit?  

Not if you are George W. Bush:

Senator Jim Webb today responded to the White House nomination of Duncan Getchell for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. After an extensive search to find highly qualified Virginians to fill the two vacancies, Senators Warner and Webb sent five recommended candidates to the White House. Duncan Getchell was not on this list.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship, Senator Warner and I submitted a list of five exemplary candidates to the White House whom this body could support. In an effort to fill the Virginia vacancies on the Fourth Circuit as quickly as possible, we undertook an open and extensive search to find five individuals whom we deemed eminently qualified.   

“At the end of this process, Senator Warner and I submitted five outstanding candidates to the President.  These five candidates possessed exceptional legal qualifications and received the highest ratings from the legal organizations and Bar Associations. Virginia has a long tradition of outstanding federal jurists. The names that Senator Warner and I offered were consistent with that tradition.  

“Today, despite our good faith, bipartisan effort to accommodate the President, the recommendations that Senator Warner and I made have been ignored. The White House talks about the spirit of bipartisanship, lamenting congressional obstructionism.  The White House cannot expect to complain about the confirmation of federal judges when they proceed to act in this manner.”

Instead of nominating any of the 5 candidates put forward by Senators Webb and Warner, Bush decided to go his own way by naming yet another Federalist Society member in Getchell:


29 August 2001

Richmond Times-Dispatch

The attorney general’s office has turned to the Republican- leaning Richmond law firm of McGuireWoods to help it defend a GOP redistricting plan against a Democratic lawsuit.

E. Duncan Getchell Jr. of Richmond has been appointed special counsel to the attorney general’s office. The Republican-controlled General Assembly appropriated $500,000 to hire outside counsel if its redistricting plans were challenged in court.

Democrats filed suit in Salem Circuit Court, contending that the House of Delegates and Senate redistricting plans were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to diminish minorities’ voting power and reduce representation by female legislators.

In charge of redistricting for the first time, Republicans redrew legislative districts to lump several Democratic incumbents into the same district and thereby create GOP-leaning open seats. The plan resulted in a handful of Democratic retirements in the House of Delegates.

McGuireWoods represented the state in 1981 when a redistricting plan by General Assembly Democrats was challenged. Its partners include former Attorney General Richard Cullen. U.S. Sen. George Allen was a partner in the law firm after leaving the governor’s office in 1998.

Taxpayers paid for lawyers to attend PR meeting on redistricting

16 December 2003

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia taxpayers picked up a $570 tab for a Richmond law firm’s involvement at a public relations strategy meeting among top Republicans in a redistricting case, two Virginia newspapers reported in their Tuesday editions.

Participants in the meeting included Edmund A. Matricardi III, then executive director of the Virginia Republicans. It was held three days after Matricardi covertly monitored a high-level Democratic conference call about redistricting strategy and an hour before he would do it a second time.

McGuireWoods lawyers Frank B. Atkinson and E. Duncan Getchell Jr. submitted the bill to the Virginia attorney general’s office, and the firm was paid at the rate of $285 an hour for attending the two-hour meeting in then-House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr.’s office, the Daily Progress of Charlottesville and the Danville Register & Bee quoted officials as saying Monday.

Democrats questioned whether taxpayers should have paid for the McGuireWoods lawyers’ participation in the March 25 GOP meeting.

Matricardi, as you may recall, pled guilty to a felony in 2004 after violating wiretapping laws by eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls. 

And then, just for good measure, President Bush also nominated another Federalist Society member, Steve A. Matthews to the same circuit.  Matthews just so happens to be a board member of the Collegiate Network – the right-wing media training ground that counts as alumni people like Rich Lowry, Dinesh D’Souza, and Ann Coulter – as well as a board member of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which nominated Rush Limbaugh for 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

Rush Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host in the United States and one of the most popular broadcasters in the world. His daily radio show is heard on more than 600 radio stations in the United States and around the world. For 18 years he has used his show to become the foremost advocate for freedom and democracy in the world today. Everyday he gives voice to the values of democratic governance, individual opportunity and the just, equal application of the rule of law — and it is fitting the Nobel Committee recognize the power of these ideals to build a truly peaceful world for future generations.

It is obvious that nothing energizes the Right like a fight over judicial nominees, especially fights that can be carried over into upcoming elections, and it seems if President Bush’s strategy for the remainder of his term is to continue his practice of going out of his way to pick such fights.