(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Judicial nominations I know that I've got to start thinking about other things, but once again Senator Hatch has got me feeling angry. (Despite this angry feeling, thanks to Howard Bashman for pointing out Senator Hatch's remarks). This time, what makes me angry is this. We start with the fact that Senator Hatch's remarks begin with an ode to Senatorial deference to the Presidential prerogative to pick judges: "I believe that to the extent ideology is a question in judicial confirmations, it is a question answered by the American people and the Constitution when the President is constitutionally elected." Therefore, he suggests, the Senate's role is just to make sure that the nominees are "judicious," by which he apparently means something like "competent and ethical".

So how does he explain his own vote, in a straight party-line Senatorial vote, against Clinton nominee Ronnie White? Senator Hatch doesn't even pretend that White was anything other than "judicious". Instead, Senator Hatch tells us that he voted against White only because then-Senator Ashcroft (know who he is??) and the other Senator from Missouri -- both Republicans, of course, like all people who voted against White -- were voting that way. Not because Senator Hatch thought that White would make a bad judge, or anything of the sort -- just that he thought that if the two home-state Senators didn't want White, he would completely defer to their judgment.

It seems rather clear to me that if Senator Hatch gets to make up this principle -- that it's a good idea to vote however the home-state Senators want you to, regardless of what your own beliefs are -- even when it has no basis whatsoever in the Constitution, then he's hardly in a position to criticize other Senators for voting according to the principles that they think are best, or to lecture them on their supposed duty to do what the President wants.

There. I made it through another whole post about Senator Hatch without resorting to name-calling.

UPDATE: I think that I was a little too mellow here. What I meant to say, on further reflection, was this:

Senator Hatch tells us that there's a HIGH PRINCIPLE, presumably of constitutional dimension, that a Senator must vote for a President's judicial nominee unless the nominee is incompetent or unethical or something of that sort. But then he tells us that this HIGH PRINCIPLE has just one teeny little footnote, which is that according to Senator Hatch's own particular version of the arcane protocols of Senatorial backscratch, you should vote against a nominee if the home-state Senator wants you to, even if it's obvious to everyone that the homestate Senator's vote is in violation of the HIGH PRINCIPLE. (This is paraphrase, I know -- but it's fair even if somewhat flamboyant, I think). This HIGH PRINCIPLE with teeny footnote is so idiosyncratic that it's hard even to take it seriously, and certainly so idiosyncratic that no other Senator should feel ashamed for not agreeing with it.

There -- a little more blunt, and still without name-calling.

posted by sam 3:56 PM 0 comments


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