Friday, March 08, 2013

More Hackery

It's one thing when an obscure blogger engages in political hackery.  It's quite another when a major newspaper does so.

Communist "journalist" I.F. Stone famously observed that "What makes the Washington Post a great newspaper is that you never know on what page you'll find the page-one story."  Sometimes, the page-one story is nowhere to be found, except in the archives.

For instance, yesterday, the WaPo devoted no less than three stories to the Senate GOP filibuster against President Barry's nominee to fill a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  One pretends to be a straight news story by Paul Kane ("Democrats said that the GOP filibuster was a politically motivated effort to halt the career of a potential Supreme Court justice").  Another is an op-ed from Greg Sargent, bemoaning filibusters generally.  The third and final is the third editorial on the editorial page, which called for an "up or down vote."

The D.C. Circuit is often described as "the second-most important court in the land," given its jurisdiction over Federal agencies and rule-making, and the fact that those who sit on it are frequently promoted to the United States Supreme Court.  No fewer than four sitting Justices --- Antonin Scalia; Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Chief Justice John Roberts --- sat first on the D.C. Circuit.

So it's little surprise that Presidents treat their appointments to the D.C. Circuit seriously, and Senators treat them no less seriously when considering their confirmation.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats failed to break a Republican filibuster against one such nominee, Caitlin Halligan.  I won't get into the merits or demerits of that nomination.  What is interesting is the facts that are absent from the WaPo's three articles on the issue.

What do all three have in common?  Not a single one mentions that the seat to which Halligan has been appointed is the one vacated by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005, and that Democrats refused to vote on President Bush's nominee to fill the seat, Peter D. Keisler, who served briefly as acting Attorney General in the Bush Administration, and on whose nomination Democrats refused to act when they seized control of the Senate in 2006.

It's not like this fact is hard to find; after all, Wikipedia has a nice entry on the D.C. Circuit which includes identification of the tenure of various judges in office, and another on Keisler.  One would thing that this fact is of at least marginal significance, particularly since the WaPo's editorial complains that "When lawmakers hold nominees hostage to politics and ideology, trampling the legitimate prerogative of the president to staff the government and the judiciary, it degrades the effectiveness of government and the courts, deters qualified people from pursuing public service and poisons the politics in Washington."

And indeed, five years ago, the WaPo called it "a travesty that [Keisler] has yet to get a vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee," so I can't call the WaPo's attitude "hypocritical," which was how this post got started

But why is it any less a "travesty" that Democrats seek to profit from their petulance by putting one of their own into a seat they unfairly held open?  The WaPo does not explain, because no one there wants people to remember how we got here.

Blogger Sargent is correct about one thing, however: Democrats are reaping what they sowed.  However, Sargent is incorrect in complaining that it's about "weak" filibuster "reform."  What they sowed was a war over the Federal judiciary.  It's a battle they chose when they went to the courts to pursue an agenda they couldn't pass democratically, and when they smeared the late Robert Bork.  And it's one they doubled down upon when they unfairly blocked President Bush's judicial nominees.  Complaining about Senate Republicans finally choosing to engage in the battle by employing like tactics is simply a demand that the other side unilaterally disarm.

After all, if those wascally Wepublicans didn't use the same weapons as the Democrats, they'd be so much easier to defeat.

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