Politics & Policy

The Right Man

The case for Chairman Orrin.

In the midst of a global war on terror, Americans were given an opportunity to replace their commander-in-chief with a new leader. But they chose to stick with President Bush, and made him the first presidential candidate in 16 years to win a popular majority.

Senate Republicans now face a momentous fight of their own over judicial nominations. This may very well include difficult battles over the makeup of the Supreme Court. And that’s why they must allow Orrin Hatch to remain chairman of the Judiciary Committee for two more years. He is the right man for the right committee at the right time.

“Like wounded animals

backed into a corner,

the Left will now fight

with more vigor.”

The public has handed the GOP a mandate to end the Democratic party’s unprecedented attempts to filibuster the federal bench. For the second election in a row, voters have increased Republican control of the Senate by electing candidates who have promised to break the judicial gridlock. South Dakotans even ousted head obstructionist Tom Daschle, giving him the inauspicious distinction of becoming the first Senate leader in half a century to lose a reelection. Republican John Thune beat him by mentioning judges at every opportunity.

None of this means it will get any easier to confirm the president’s judicial nominations. Instead, it will probably become even harder. Like wounded animals backed into a corner, the Left will now fight with more vigor. Liberals understand that their social agenda is doomed unless judicial activists on the federal bench salvage it for them. That’s why they’re presently rushing to the courts in the hope that judges will overturn the will of the people in the eleven states where large majorities just approved ballot initiatives banning gay marriage. For the Left, the federal bench is a last-ditch line of defense against the barbarians from the red states (and not a few blue ones). The next Supreme Court vacancy will only increase their sense of desperation.

As this struggle looms, Senate Republicans need the steady hand of Utah’s Orrin Hatch. His experience as chairman of the Judiciary Committee will prove to be a vital resource in the months ahead. The same goes for the bulk of his staff, which has already confronted Democratic obstinacy and won’t waver as it joins the battle once more. Forcing Hatch and his aides to quit the committee over blind obedience to a seniority rule whose purpose is to keep the Republican party strong would be the political equivalent of a self-inflicted wound. Given the extraordinary circumstances, now is the time to make a narrow exception.

The American people just voted to give President Bush four more years. Senate Republicans should back him up with the best team they can field, and that means a Judiciary Committee chaired by Orrin Hatch for two more years.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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