01 August 2003

At the moment, I am busy getting a new computer ready to put online here. That is going to slow down commentary here for a few days. Slow down, but not eliminate.

   The Senate has failed cloture votes (votes to end filibusters) on judicial nominees Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor. Mr. Estrada does not have an extensive track record, and is being pilloried for refusing to turn over internal memoranda that he wrote while in the Solicitor General's office. As those memoranda are at least arguably privileged, and the remainder of Mr. Estrada's record reflects a thoughtful lawyer who is perhaps too often swayed by conservative assumptions. That, to my mind, is not enough to justify a continued filibuster, particularly in face of the candidates behind him in line.

   Confirming Priscilla Owen would be a disaster for authors. Ms. Owen's jurisprudence is extremely hostile to unpopular points of view and particularly to persons espousing those opinions. Her continuing diatribe on some hotbutton issues while she sits on an appellate court in Texas leads me to seriously doubt her ability to conform her opinions to the facts of the matters before her. Mr. Pryor's record in those same areas is, if anything, worse.

   But why a filibuster?

   In this instance, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The Republican minority engaged in similar and occasionally identical tactics to block Clinton nominees whose ideology was a lot closer to center than the current controversial ones. Since the Judiciary Committee is now no longer respecting the "blue slip" process, in which disapproval by both senators from the state from which the judicial candidate will be appointed is supposed to block the nomination completely—a tradition extending back to the early part of the twentieth century—the children have been left with little alternative in dealing with the neighborhood bully.

   That is exactly what this reminds me of. Mean old Georgie is trying to make his friends members of the gang, but won't even let the kids ask their parents whether his friends would be good members of the gang. Meanwhile, the actual argument makes second-grade recess sound both morally and intellectually uplifting.

   Somebody voted for these turkeys. It wasn't me.