I wish I had more time to respond to this in a comprehensive way, but let me just make a couple of points:
1. What if John McCain had actually worked with Bill Frist and the Republican leadership as they sought to gather support to change the Senate rule preventing the filibustering of judicial nominees?
2. To say that Roberts and Alito would not have been confirmed but for the Gang of 14 is complete speculation. Roberts received 78 votes. Alito received 58 votes. In fact, four of the seven Democrats in the Gang of 14 voted against Alito – Lieberman, Inouye, Landrieu and Salazar, and one of the Republicans — Chafee. Obviously, a few Democrats who were not part of the Gang of 14 voted for Alito.
3. And it’s not at all clear that Lindsey Graham, John Warner, and Susan Collins – three of the seven Republican gang members — would have voted against changing the Senate rule if the Gang of 14 hadn’t been cobbled together. Would they have voted with the Democrat leadership and against changing the filibuster rule if it meant preventing confirmation votes for Roberts and Alito? We don’t know, but I seriously doubt it.
4. The Gang of 14 may have resulted in a few important confirmations. But it also stopped the confirmations William Myers, Henry Saad – which the Gang would not endorse. It also left others in the lurch, who remain there to this day. And now that the Democrats run the Senate, where is the Gang of 14? Where are the nominees? What happened to comity?
As an aside, McCain led the effort, with Graham, to block the confirmation of William Haynes for the Fourth Circuit, which, by the way, has (I believe) five vacancies. This was once considered the most reliably conservative appellate court.