Jonah, these types of sweeping statements about the Bush appointees always grate — whether they are made by people of Sullivan’s bent of mind, or real lefties, or our side. The Bush judges are mostly very solid conservatives. It is an overstatement to say all of them fit one mold.
One of the most important court decisions in the national security arena over the last 3 years has been in the Jose Padilla case. A very fine district judge in NY ruled that Padilla, an American citizen, could be held without trial as an enemy combatant. That decision was then reversed in 2003 by a panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The opinion, reasoning that Padilla, instead, had to be treated as a criminal defendant, was written by Judge Barrington D. Parker, Jr. — a moderate liberal (originally named a district judge by Clinton in around 1993) who was one of the first batch of judges nominated by Bush in 2001 to serve on the Circuit Courts. (I wrote about the case here way back when for those interested.)
Judge Parker’s ruling was later reversed for procedural reasons (and later still on substantive grounds — but that’s a longer story). As it happens, I know Judge Parker well and have very high regard for him. But he is no conservative.
It’s worth noting, in this environment, that Judge Parker’s elevation is explained by the fact that President Bush started out by trying to be accommodating, to reach out to Democrats in a spirit of collegiality. The Democrats response was to confirm quickly the judges they liked, like Parker, and filibuster eminently qualified conservative judges whom they did not like. Morals: (a) there’s no upside in trying to be reasonable and accommodating with people for whom this is war; and (b) this is an ideological battle that has to be waged, so let’s get it on.
But the narrower point for now is that categorical statements about the Bush nominees as a class are apt to be inaccurate. Sullivan’s is inaccurate, to say the least.