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March 06, 2003

Why Judicial Character is Not the Issue

Remember conservative outrage when the character of Clarence Thomas was attacked and Democrats said his personal life was deemed relevant to whether he should serve on the Bench?

I actually had sympathy for that outrage and wished at the time that Democrats were fighting more on the honest basis that they opposed him for fear of his rightwing legal views. I've written before that too much of political life uses personal scandals as a proxy for political disagrement. Better to have honest debates on politics and ideology and avoid personal character assassination as a stand-in.

But now, with the Estrada nomination, where Democrats are not attacking the nominee's character but only his potential conservative legal views, the rightwing is whining that Dems are not talking about character enough.

Here conservative grandee William Rusher argues:

Time was -- and not so long ago, either -- when judicial nominees were treated with careful courtesy by the Senate, which under the Constitution must "consent" to their appointment. Their character was fair game, but their opinions on legal questions that might come before them on the bench was forbidden territory.
This is a ridiculous characterization of history where the politics of judicial nominees have been debated throughout our history.

But it highlights the real fact-- the GOP didn't want to allow discussion of character in the case of Clarence Thomas, and they don't want discussion of legal philosophy in the case of Estrada. So basically, they don't want discussion of any Republican nominees' credentials at all.

Which is why they aren't getting a vote either.

Filibuster on Democrats!

Posted by Nathan at March 6, 2003 08:20 AM

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