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Monday, May 23, 2005

In Defense of the Compromise

I'm quite a bit to the left of Harry Reid on almost everything and I'm not a member of his cheering section when it comes to ideology, but like many others I've admired the leadership he's shown being outnumbered in the Senate by 10 members. And you can call me a sell-out if you want, but when push comes to shove I am pretty much of a pragmatist and I think the current compromise on judicial nominees was a smart move for the following reasons:

1. The Democrats didn't have the votes. If they did, I have no doubt Reid would've pushed it. The alternative was having the Repugs vote away their right to filibuster when Rehnquist vacates the Supreme Court this summer (which he will almost assuredly do) AND jam all of their Circuit Court nominees through. The only option open to the Democrats at that point would be to bring the Senate to a grinding halt. (Which I'm certainly in favor of -- I just don't think now's the time.)

2. Right now, the Circuit courts are stacked with Republicans, and the current nominees who are being granted up-or-down votes -- Brown (DC), Owen (5th) and Pryor (11th) -- aren't going to make that much difference in the balance of things. The 11th out of Atlanta and the 5th out of New Orleans are wingnut nightmares, and there is already a 5-4 majority on the DC court.

On the other hand, those that are not being granted up-or-down votes could affect the balance of certain key Circuit Courts, and the others are just downright dangerous:

William Myers - 9th - The only Circuit Court remaining with a strong Democratic majority is the 9th in San Francisco. Myers is the only one of Bush's noxious appointment earmarked for the 9th. Keeping him out of there was crucial.

Henry Saad - 6th Circuit - The 6th in Cincinnati is right now evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Letting Saad on would've given Republicans a clear majority.

Brett Kavanaugh (DC) - Ken Starr's protege, he co-authored Starr Report's section on grounds for impeachment. He also played key role in defending BushCo's unprecedented claims to executive branch secrecy. There was just no way the Democrats could let this guy be repaid for that kind of partisan hackery.

William Haynes - 4th Circuit - played a central role in the decision to hold American citizens as enemy combatants with no access to courts or counsel, and also the decision to hold detaineees at Guantanamo without protection of the Geneva Convention. According to the People for the American Way, "His duties include developing and overseeing legal standards for military personnel which failed to prevent and may have actually helped produce torture and mistreatment of US detainees in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere."

3. Shutting down the government over this could've turned into a P.R. nightmare for the Democrats. Maybe Frist will decide to go nuclear over some Supreme Court nominee if the Democrats do, indeed, filibuster, but the public are much more likely to become aware of what is at stake in a Supreme Court nomination. Most people probably don't know who the Circuit Court appointments are, and wouldn't think it was worth bringing the wheels of government to a standstill over them. If the Democrats do intend to take this option, and I'm certainly not against it -- better a congress that gets nothing done than one that keeps passing awful bills for the benefit of MBNA -- it will play out better over a high profile case and a Dobson-appointed judge that will rate much higher in public awareness, such that the stakes become clearer and it doesn't turn around and blow up in the Democrats' face.

Bottom line: if the Democrats are going to go balls-to-the-wall, it would be better timed over a Supreme Court nominee.

4. It is pissing off the Freepers, Dobson and Assmissile, who see this as Frist's failure to go in for the kill. Dobson and his ilk have been angry that Bush didn't move on the Defense of Marriage Act, and feel they were poorly used in the last election. They want to be repaid for their efforts, and this was supposed to be it. They would be happy with nothing less than each and every one of these reactionary judges being jammed down the throats of the Democrats who dared oppose them. It didn't happen. They are screaming in outrage, and quite frankly, they ought to be -- their boy Frist obviously had the votes. How come he couldn't deliver? Why did they have to compromise anything? Fault Harry Reid for not being able to sway one more Republican if you will, but Frist couldn't control his own moderates. It looks bad for the kitty killer, no matter how you look at it.