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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dems Suggest A Few Candidates for Justice

According to the Washington Post and some AP reports, the President has indeed been reaching out to many Senators on both sides of the aisle regarding the Supreme Court vacancy. The President met with Senate leaders Frist, Specter, Reid and Leahy earlier today to discuss the process. While Bush offered no names for consideration the Dems offered two Hispanic judges for consideration (here).

"Several officials familiar with the discussion said Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Ed Prado of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, both of whom are Hispanic, were among the names mentioned as Bush met with key lawmakers from both parties to discuss the first high court vacancy in 11 years."

Hopefully we're seeing collegial discussion about an important national matter. It may we be that we're seeing leaders function as they should, seeking the good of the country while faithfully representing constituents. However, the recent climate of partisanship and power politics (practiced by both parties) suggests to me that it is not unwise to wonder whether this is a tactic.

What might the tactic be? It has been much reported that the GOP learned their lesson from the Dems "borking" of nominee Robert Bork in 1987. Reagan nominated Bork (I think in the summer) and then the Dems, most famously Senator Kennedy, launched a massive campaign during August that defined Bork as way out of the mainstream. It worked.

So now the learned-their-lessons Republicans and various media players have been saying, "Wait till late August or early September to announce the new nominee." Why? August is recess for Congress, which means that if an issue makes it on to the national consciousness, the media will flood the story. Think Gary Condit who watched his reputation and Congressional job disappear as the cable news stations launched "All Chandra, All the Time" coverage. Then last year the Swift Boat Veterans dominated August and derailed Kerry's campaign with their attacks on Kerry's Viet Nam record. So the logic goes that if Bush names a conservative nominee this summer, the Dems and their potent, organized and well funded interest groups will use August to destroy the nominee. Resulting GOP tactic? Silence until late August. (Supposedly. We have no idea whether Bush buys this thinking and he may name his nominee any time now.)

Imagine the Dems contemplating the GOP silence to counter the tactic of destroying the nominee in the August media vaccum: the chess match never stops. If the GOP can't risk naming a nominee or even send up trial balloons through leaks, then perhaps the Dems can. Now Reid and Leahy have put 2 names forward, it's been leaked to the press, and so we will spend the next week or more contemplating the marvelous life stories and merits of these Hispanic nominees. This gives the Dems, their organizations, and the media a month or more to help the public fall in love with these potential candidates. Support could accrue, particularly among the Hispanic community, which COULD lead to Bush and the GOP feeling political pressure to nominate at least supposed moderate Gonzales if not one of these two Hispanics suggested by Reid & Leahy. And, the GOP and their interest groups may find that if they launch attacks on these two potential Hispanic judges that they will incur a backlash from the Hispanic community and maybe beyond.

Again, all these wonderings about possible tactics may have no basis in reality and I'm not asserting that what Reid and Leahy did was a shrewd tactical move to put Bush and the GOP on the defensive. A hermeneutic of charity would incline one to think Reid and Leahy are trying to be statesmen and do what is best for the country. Let's hope for the best and be vigilant about tactics.

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