Media Blog

Joe Biden’s Selective Memory

Joe Biden, today, in defense of Elena Kagan for SCOTUS:

Administration officials are pushing back at criticism that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan lacks the requisite judicial experience to serve on the highest bench — comparing her record to that of conservative stalwart William Rehnquist.

Asked about the line of attack on Tuesday morning, Vice President Joseph Biden replied that Kagan’s judicial resume (or lack thereof) was “not a deal break, thank God.”

“You have Justice Rehnquist, he never was a judge, he didn’t do trial work,” Biden added. “You had Justice [Robert] Jackson, Justice [Thurgood] Marshall, Justice Hugo Black. Thank God there are people other than just circuit court of appeals judges. I think it is a great asset she has.”

Really? Biden voted against Rehnquist in 1986 when Ronald Reagan nominated him for Chief Justice, however. In fact, Biden and the Dems were so worried about Rehnquist in 1986, that they didn’t bother to do any homework on Antonin Scalia. From the archives of the New York Times ($ required):

If there was a forgotten figure in the proceedings, it was President Reagan’s other Supreme Court nominee, Antonin Scalia. So intense was the focus on Justice Rehnquist that Judge Scalia had an unimpeded path to confirmation. It is probably safe to assume that he was more delighted than hurt by the general neglect.

The difference in the handling of the two nominations was dramatic. The Judiciary Committee report on Justice Rehnquist was 114 pages long. The committee’s report on Mr. Scalia consisted of 76 words.

It is not that Judge Scalia lacks a public record worth examining: he has spent the last four years as a member of the Federal appeals court here and once served, as did Justice Rehnquist, as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Foil for the Rehnquist Inquiry

In addition, he is widely known as a leading judicial conservative. He angered some Judiciary Committee members by refusing to state his current views on subjects about which he had published articles.

Still, he was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 0 after a discussion – debate is scarcely the word – lasting perhaps five minutes.

Biden was a yes for Scalia, of course.