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"Run Away!" Milquetoast Democrats Strive to Live to Fight Another Day

September 17, 2005

Don’t be disheartened, Democrats, that your three days offensive— a relentless and withering onslaught of probing questions: precision guided bunker busters —couldn’t penetrate Judge Roberts’ stronghold of impartiality. His barrage of non-answers just proved too effective. He punched through unscathed and now steams toward confirmation. Better luck next time!

Here’s what you do: Start maneuvering now. Shift your effort toward framing the debate. Talk about the right issues. Go ahead and take some time to evaluate your performance. Grapple with the questions of your potency; but save your ammunition. Careful! This is no time for bravery. Calculate the tactical and political ramifications of your vote; and hope against hope your side gets enough votes to put the White House on notice. Pray. (There’s no atheists in foxholes— or the Senate!) If there is a good stiff progressive opposition, it’ll send a signal that the next nomination could very well be contested.

If that’s not a sure-fire strategy to beat back an enemy that almost always chooses confrontation over cooperation; and by your own best guess will one more time stick his thumb in your eye, then I don’t know what is.

Shit, the President should consider himself lucky that Rehnquist kicked the bucket. ‘Cause there was no way in hell you would’ve layed down for Roberts like that if it would’ve been Judge O’Connor’s seat he was filling! Right? Stay strong. Remain resolute. Show the courage of your convictions. Force them to stop and think— real hard —about what kind of battle they think they can survive next time.

Go get ’em, soldier!

So here’s the news item, which I have shamelessly marked up in the style of Happy Furry Puppy Story Time with Norbizness. That is, in shameless imitation of this post from Norbizness. It’s a pale imitation… “Very little editorialization, apart from strategically placed underlines, is needed.”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With Chief Justice nominee John Roberts concluding his Senate testimony on Thursday and headed toward confirmation, both sides began maneuvering for the looming battle over the next Supreme Court vacancy.

Three days of questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee members left Roberts, President George W. Bush’s conservative nominee to replace late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, largely unscathed and steaming toward confirmation by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Roberts’ most ardent opponents on the left promised to keep up the fight against him, but said they would shift some of their effort toward framing the upcoming debate for the vacant seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“Part of the story at this point is keeping the next nomination in mind. We want to be sure we’re talking about the right issues,” said Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, which has led the fight against Roberts.

In the next few days, Senate Democrats must grapple with the question of whether to push for the strongest possible showing against Roberts or save their ammunition for the next fight, party strategists said.

Republicans hold 55 of the 100 Senate seats and even a united Democratic caucus has little hope of swaying six Republican senators to vote against Roberts.

With confirmation all but assured, Democrats have to calculate the tactical and political ramifications of their vote. Some Senate Democrats from conservative states, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida, are up for re-election next year and could face campaign pressure to back Roberts.

Neas said he would push all Democratic senators to oppose the nominee in hopes of putting the White House on notice.

It’s important to have a strong progressive Democratic vote against John Roberts,” Neas said. “If there is a vigorous opposition, that will send a signal on the next vacancy that there could be a contested nomination.”

ALTERED DYNAMICS

Democrats and liberal interest groups voiced frustration at Roberts’ refusal during the hearings to describe his views on a host of legal issues. Republican supporters and interest groups on the right said his smooth performance ended any suspense about the confirmation fight.

“This is done,” said Sean Rushton, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice. The challenge now, he said, was to control the debate.

“If we have done our job at the end of this, people will be talking about our issues at least as much as the left’s issues,” he said, mentioning private property rights and religion in public life as areas of emphasis for the right.

The dynamics of the Roberts confirmation fight changed dramatically with the death of Rehnquist earlier this month. In July, Bush nominated the 50-year-old Roberts to replace the retiring O’Connor, a crucial swing vote on the divided court.

With Rehnquist’s death, Bush elevated Roberts’ role to chief justice and reduced the ideological impact on the court. Many Democrats viewed Roberts as ideologically similar to the conservative Rehnquist.

The battle over a replacement for O’Connor could be much more heated, with Democrats and liberal interest groups worried it could shift the court’s balance of power on hot-button issues like civil rights, affirmative action and abortion.

Senate Republicans warned the White House not to send up a replacement for her until Roberts is safely confirmed.

“We should not be distracted by other nominees. If you inject another nominee, it would have undefined and unprojected dimensions. You just couldn’t tell,” said Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Activists on both sides of the aisle said they did not expect Bush’s political problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina would force him to choose a more moderate or less controversial replacement for O’Connor.

“I don’t think that’s in the president’s character. Do you expect him to reject his conservative supporters? These are people the White House has built the entire administration around,” Rushton said.

Neas said Bush “almost always chooses confrontation over cooperation. If I were to guess, I would say that one more time he’ll stick his thumb in the eye of Democrats.”

Reuters: After Roberts, next Supreme Court fight takes shape

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