The New York Times article on President Obama’s first judicial nominee (which I discussed here) repeats the now-common charge that the White House ceremony in May 2001 in which President Bush announced his first 11 nominees for federal appellate seats “provided a political air to the nominations.” That charge is often used to suggest that the White House ceremony triggered the Democrats’ subsequent unprecedented measures of obstruction of judicial nominees.
The contemporaneous reaction of leading Democrats to that White House ceremony, which included Clinton recess appointee Roger Gregory and Clinton district-court appointee Barrington Parker Jr. among the nominees, was markedly different. The Associated Press’s next-day account of the event (titled “Senate Democrats seem ready to allow most of Bush’s first judges”) noted that “Democrats appeared content with the choices.” In particular:
“We are pleased that the White House has chosen to work with us on the first group of nominations,” said Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.D. He noted that some Democrats already had turned in positive reviews of some of the nominees.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, even attended the White House announcement. “Had I not been encouraged, I would not have been here today,” he said.
In other words, far from having “a political air,” the White House ceremony was so nonpartisan that Senator Leahy was happy to attend, and minority leader Daschle praised the White House for working with Senate Democrats on the nominees.