Bench Memos

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Re: Leahy’s Demagoguery


A blogger (“Kyle”) at People for the (Un)American Way has tried to take me to task for my criticisms of Senator Leahy’s statement last week on judicial nominations, and he seems to imagine that he has scored a few points.  Let me briefly dispel his illusions.


On my first point—that Leahy obscured the fact that Democrats had decided to hold as hostages last year the five district-judge nominees who had their hearing last week—Kyle faults me for not stating that the Democrats held these nominees as hostages in retaliation for Senator Brownback’s hold on the nomination of district-judge nominee Janet Neff.  Well, given that Leahy himself referred to “Republican Senators” (in the plural) and did not mention Brownback and Neff, I hardly see how I am to be faulted for my supposed omission.  More pertinently, as best I can tell, Kyle is merely contending that Democrats were justified to hold the five nominees as hostages.  That is hardly a rejoinder to my criticism that Leahy obscured the hostage-taking.


Citing a New York Times article, Kyle may also be contending that these five nominees were all part of some “package” deal that included Neff.  But a well-informed Senate source assures me that the deal involving Neff related only to other Michigan nominees.


On my second point—that Leahy’s comparison of Bush 43 nominees confirmed under his chairmanship to those Bush 43 nominees confirmed under Republican chairmanship obscures the unprecedented measures of obstruction (e.g., filibusters, returning nominations over intersession and even intrasession recesses) taken by Leahy and his fellow Democrats in the last two Congresses—Kyle somehow thinks he rebuts me by comparing the number of confirmations of Bush 43 nominees to that of Clinton nominees.  Kyle’s comparison is certainly relevant to (though hardly dispositive of) the question of how Democrats’ treatment of Bush nominees compares to Republicans’ treatment of Clinton nominees.  But it has no bearing on Leahy’s absurd suggestion that he deserves more credit than Specter and Hatch for getting Bush nominees confirmed.


Kyle has no coherent response to my third point—that blacks are certainly not “underrepresented” among the President’s judicial nominees—and he does not even muster a response to my fourth (on so-called “Asian-Pacific American” nominees).


On my scorecard, that makes PFAW’s cumulative record about 0 for 267 over the last couple years.


Tags: Whelan


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