September 21, 2005

"In my judgment, in my experience, but especially in my conscience I find it is better to vote yes than no."

Senator Leahy does the right thing and supports John Roberts.
"Judge Roberts is a man of integrity. I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."
Interesting. The hearings were full of statements by Democrats that it's not enough to be asked to take Roberts at his word that he's not an ideologue. Leahy sounds like he's admitting that the Senate's role is weak. At the same time, he's preserving room for himself to say later that Roberts deceived the Senators.

Remember what Hillary Clinton said about the vote on Roberts: "They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it." Did Leahy successfully analyze his interests? Or do you "take him at his word" that he's following his conscience?

20 comments:

Mark Daniels said...

With all respect, the answers to your two questions are not mutually exclusive. Leahy may be voting for Roberts both as a result of having analyzed his own interests, political or otherwise, and of a resolve to vote his conscience.

My guess is that this decision by the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee to vote for Judge Roberts will stem whatever trend among Senate Dems was gathering steam after Harry Reid's announcement that he will vote against the judge.

Irrespective of his motives, it's a gutty move on Leahy's part, really. That's why I think his statement can be taken more or less at face value.

Art said...

What's the percentage for a Democratic senator voting to confirm Roberts?
Will the Democratic base love him for it? No, exactly the opposite, especially if Roberts winds up being further to the right than he let on during the hearings.

Will the Republicans give the incumbent Dem a pass because they voted for Roberts?

No, they'll be right in there with ads calling Senator XXX...."dangerously extreme, out of step with America, attacking YOUR values."

Tony Blair doesn't expect the Tories to do him any favors. And he'll offer none to them.

George Bush shouldn't expect any help from Democrats.

EddieP said...

I don't know what his motivation is, but I haven't heard anything like this from Leahy in a long, long time. Maybe, after listening to Biden, Reid, and Kennedy, his conscience really did get to him. More likely, he is saving the venom for Sandra Day's replacement. However, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for the next few weeks.

mjh21 said...

Leahy's move, while it will incite the hard left, leaves some wiggle room for the dems to say that they are reasonable - "Hey, we voted for John Roberts didn't we?" - when they oppose the next nominee who will be a conservative's conservative if one is to take the President at his word.

Only someone irrational could oppose the Roberts' nomination and I think that while the dems recognize this, they have decided to play to the middle ground - half will oppose Roberts and half will vote for him reluctantly. This way some of the hard left gets what they want and the centrist dems get some cover.

This is all a dance before the big one: O'Connor's replacement. There, all of the dems will vote against the next nominee.

Mark Daniels said...

It might be good to remember that Leahy and Specter have a positive relationship, one apparently characterized by mutual respect. Is it too much to hope that the efforts of the Gang of Fourteen on judicial filibusters was an early warning sign that members of the Senate, at least, are increasingly willing to work together? Maybe.

But I'm also encouraged by members of both parties who are stepping up to volunteer theelimination of pork spending earmarked for their states in order to pay for hurricane relief.

Eddie said...

The great thing about the Supreme Court is that, once he gets on, he no longer has to answer to the likes of Kennedy or Leahy.

Steven said...

Art --

Senators are not nearly as easy to subject to party discipline as Labor MPs; Bush needs the Democrats to look unreasonable to get his own party to nuke any fillibusters for a Scalia-like replacement for O'Connor.

If the Democrats vote against Roberts, Bush's hand is strengthened when dealing with the seven Republicans of the fillibuster deal. Roberts is highly qualified and hardly likely to be any further to the right than the Justice he replaces.

If the Democrats vote for Roberts, their hand is strengthened if it comes to fillibustering a Scalia-like replacement for O'Connor, because they've shown they can be reasonable enough to vote for a highly-qualified conservative to replace a conservative.

So the question is, do the Democrats want to please their base, or actually have a shot at influencing who gets on the Court?

Too Many Jims said...

Eddie said...
The great thing about the Supreme Court is that, once he gets on, he no longer has to answer to the likes of Kennedy or Leahy.

Of course, nor does Souter have to answer to the likes of, well you get the picture.

Simon said...

Meanwhile, Reid & Kennedy will vote no.

While I continue to have reservations about Chief Justice Roberts, you have to hand it to Bush, the nomination is a political masterstroke. Democrats all seem to realize and understand that they can't stop Roberts, which leaves the question of how to use the vote to send a message to the White House. And I think they probably all have a cohesive message in mind: "please send us someone more like Kerry would have nominated". But - and here's the catch - they can't work out how best to send the message!

One school of thought holds that if Democrats portray themselves as reasonable by voting for Roberts, they have more credibility voting against the next nominee. The problem with this theory is that their own rhetoric has been so extreme that there is nothing that they could say about the next nominee that they have not already said about Roberts. Of course, Teddy knows that his complaints are utterly cynical - but the dem base, like the GOP base, believe their own propaganda. Which inevitably begs the question: if Roberts and the next nominee are described in the same terms, how do you justify voting for the former and against the latter?

The other school of thought says that they should vote no, because this will send the message "we're no pushovers". The problem with this is, it will also send the white house the message that there is NO ONE that Bush could reasonably nominate who the dems will vote for.

Will voting yes or no bring them a more moderate second nominee? I think neither strategy will accomplish this. Which leaves their only plausible objective being to play to the base by voting no.

ricksamerican said...

Conscience? Leahy? Excuse me? The man is a practicing Catholic who votes consistently and defiantly for abortion rights. That is not a position a Catholic can defend publicly in good conscience, by definition. Not even arguable. This is all a very carefully orchestrated, choroegraphed, calculated dance. One on this side, one on that side. It wont hurt Leahy with his base, for crying out loud, he's from Vermont--home of the socialist member of Congress, the laughable, the pathetic, the absurd Mayor of Burlington. Leahy was chosen to be "reasonable" because his is the safest seat in the senate. He gets to call himself a statesmen, and risk nothing. Now, when Bush's second nomination comes down, Leahy will say, "I'm a reasonable man. See, I recognized in John Roberts and emminently qualified jurist, and because I am not a blind ideologue I voted for him despite our many potential disagreements. But his man or woman is beyond the pale. Here I must draw a line. Here I must make a stand. Mark my words. I have been at church with Pat Leahy, I have known his childhood buddies, I have cooked dinner for the man, and he's no man of subtle judgement and sensitive conscience.

Art said...

Steven said:
"Senators are not nearly as easy to subject to party discipline as Labor MPs; Bush needs the Democrats to look unreasonable to get his own party to nuke any fillibusters for a Scalia-like replacement for O'Connor."

Republicans do discipline senators who aren't far enough to the right. They have and will take them out in a primary....or make them suffer to keep their jobs.

I think the Democrats are pretty much stuck with whoever Bush nominates. I know his ratings are in the dumps now but he only has to get back up to a 45 percent approval rating to trigger the "Bush approval surges" headlines...then the media get cold feet again and stop writing about his staff getting indicted.

Their best hope is to use this to win seats in the next election. They won't get that by kissing up to Bush.
It's kind of like the mob: They wouldn't kill cops, judges or reporters unless they were doing business with them.

vnjagvet said...

Art:

There are two sides in the fight. Both have zealots with whom they must deal. That's politics. The bottom line is how many senators are really in play, and how many can be peeled off from their party.

To the extent GWB nominates a judge who has demonstrated intelligence, integrity, judiciousness, modesty and fairness, and comes across in the hearings as a decent human being few of the 55 republicans will be tempted to oppose the nominee, and some 5 of the 45 democrats will be hard pressed to support a filibuster. It is all a matter of numbers. But it is numbers that count.

Watch the seven democratic senators who broke the filibuster logjam this summer for clues. That is where the rubber will meet the road.

P.S. Leahy was not one of them.

ziyahaaq said...

Leahy is a weasel from a state that will try to elect a Red to replace Jeffords. I reccomend the change the state name to New South Quebec and secede.

Art said...

ziyahaaq said...

"Leahy is a weasel from a state that will try to elect a Red to replace Jeffords. I reccomend the change the state name to New South Quebec and secede."

The bad news is their sales taxes would go up. The good news is they'd get universal health care and corporations would want to move jobs there to cut payroll costs.

ziyahaaq said...

Bon d├ębarras.

Coco said...

ricksmaerican:

Conscience? Leahy? Excuse me? The man is a practicing Catholic who votes consistently and defiantly for abortion rights. That is not a position a Catholic can defend publicly in good conscience, by definition. Not even arguable.

DOn't more than half of U.S. catholics support abortion rights? I'd say that makes it arguable if you are asking the question from a "conscience" standpoint.

ricksamerican said...

Coco
No, absolutely not. When you see poll numbers like that, you are getting responses from self-identified Catholics, i.e. folks who haven't been in a church in twenty years, but, if asked, will identify themselves as Catholics.

The other reality is that the teaching of the Cathoic Church is not determined by opinion polls, even amongst Church-going Catholics.

It is a matter of conscience--THE matter of conscience--for a Catholic to conform his/her conscience to the official teaching of the Church. If that proves somehow impossible, it is the duty of the individual not refrain from scandalizing the rest of the faithful by remaining silent.

The question of conscience identified here is not arguable. One either conforms one's conscience or one remains silent. Politicians like Leahy, Kennedy, Kerry, et alia are not in good standing in the Church (not in a state of grace) and, stictly speaking should not present themselves for the sacrament of communion. The issue that was debated amongst the bishops during the last election had to do with whether a priest confronted by one of these politicians improperly presenting himself for communion should publicly refuse to offer it. Some bishops did instruct there priests to withhold the sacrament, others demured.

Coco said...

Fair enough (and probably likely) interpretation of such poll results ricksamerican. But I think you miss the point of my post.

Your point seems to be that because Leahy disagrees with official Catholic doctrine that this ipso facto means he can't make any other decisions in life in "good conscience." His personal decisions about his personal religious briefs and how he squares that with his religion's official doctrine simply doesn't render him a "conscience" eunech in all other matters.

ricksamerican said...

Coco
Fair enough. My personal distaste for the man got the better of my intellect (such as it is). In charity I should give the man the benefit of the doubt.
It's hard, but doable.

Beldar said...

I respect Sen. Leahy's cunning, and credit him with better-than-senatorial intelligence. I do not credit him with sincerity on matters with even a substantial partisan component, and judicial confirmations are (unfortunately, and especially in his view) partisan.

He's neither running for President nor at the same risk of crippling home-state base backlash as, say, the California senators. Thus he's free to make the play he deems smartest.

I therefore infer that this vote is entirely about maximizing his Party's chances of defeating the next nominee, whoever he or she is and entirely without respect to the merits of that nomination. That's okay; I can respect that. But I think it certainly will nudge events in the direction of the nuclear option.