Bench Memos

Ken Starr’s Real Views

CBS, AP, and other outlets reported earlier this week that Starr had said that getting rid of the judicial filibuster would be a “radical, radical departure from our history and our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.”

This seemed like a very odd thing for Starr to say, so I contacted him.

He forwarded to me an email he had sent to someone else who had asked about this matter:

“In the piece that I have now seen, and which I gather is being lavishly quoted, CBS employed two snippets. The ‘radical departure’ snippet was specifically addressed — although this is not evidenced whatever from the clip — to the practice of invoking judicial philosopy as a grounds for voting against a qualified nominee of integrity and experience. I said in sharp language that that practice was wrong. I contrasted the current practice . . . with what occurred during Ruth Ginsburg’s nomination process, as numerous Republicans voted (rightly) to confirm a former ACLU staff lawyer. They disagreed with her positions as a lawyer, but they voted (again, rightly) to confirm her. Why? Because elections, like ideas, have consequences. . . . In the interview, I did indeed suggest, and have suggested elsewhere, that caution and prudence be exercised (Burkean that I am) in shifting/modifying rules (that’s the second snippet), but I likewise made clear that the ‘filibuster’ represents an entirely new use (and misuse) of a venerable tradition. . . .

“[O]ur friends are way off base in assuming that the CBS snippets, as used, represent (a) my views, or (b) what I in fact said.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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