Back in the Jungle
Michael Ubaldi, July 31, 2003.
Byron York has been dutifully - and stoically - following Senatorial judicial gridlock for months, charting the course of President Bush's challenged judicial nominees. It's become a veritable grudge match, with less important and appreciably moderate judges passing committee and floor votes, and a select few blocked or pseudo-filibustered. After Priscilla Owen met a blockade by Democrats, vote obstruction has simply become business as usual. Senate Republicans have been generally timid and abortive, no doubt reconsidering acts of seizure during Clinton's tenure and curiously refusing to force Democrats to actually execute a real filibuster. I'd talked about it several times back at the beginning of this stalemate so at this point, the latter is inexplicable. A six-month-long halt in Senate business for the sake of Democrats reciting poetry and exhortations about miscellany is unthinkable; one would expect the average filibustering Senator's nerve to fail in six or seven business days. But this weakness of spine applies for both parties, and it seems likely that Republicans prioritize Senate power over the judicial prerogative of any given sitting president, and thus simply prefer to reserve the convenience of an embarrassment-free filibustering for themselves in the future.
So, having completely missed their chance to invest heavily up front and win big fairly quickly, Republicans are attempting oddly reckless strategies:
[A] Republican interest group, the Committee for Justice, funded in part by a Catholic political-action committee, the Ave Maria List, ran a newspaper advertisement that featured a photo of a door marked "Judicial Chambers" with a sign that said, "CATHOLICS NEED NOT APPLY." "Some in the U.S. Senate are attacking Bill Pryor for having 'deeply held' Catholic beliefs to prevent him from becoming a federal judge," the ad said. "Don't they know the Constitution expressly prohibits religious tests for public office?"
Even though some Republicans seem uncomfortable with the ad's direct, unambiguous attack, many are undoubtedly happy with its effect. The depth of Democratic anger showed that the ad had gotten under the Democrats' skin, something many Republicans found deeply satisfying.
According to Byron, Republicans intend to pursue a quasi-universal accusation of anti-religious motives from Democrats. But as he notes, opposition to pro-life stances are more incidental to Catholicism than an all-encompassing fundament [of the strategy]. It's difficult to blame Republicans for considering a descent to the basest form of hardball politics. Unfortunately, Republicans are within arm's reach of more effective, more direct and less self-destructive ways to defeat the left on judicial confirmation. And one is the insistence on a ten-letter f-word.