Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Another chink in the armor

   Less than twenty-four hours after Harry Reid announced he would vote against the confirmation of John Roberts, the minority leader was upstaged by the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ranking member Patrick Leahy of Vermont announced this morning that he will vote "yes":

Leahy said he still has some concerns about Roberts. "But in my judgment, in my experience, but especially in my conscience I find it is better to vote yes than no," he said. "Judge Roberts is a man of integrity. I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."

This can't end well for Reid. Now that he has painted himself into a corner, his caucus will appear fully divided on the issue of judicial nominees.

   Here's hoping the GOP can make something of it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Bill Frist is the one to acheive any advantage from it.

UPDATE: David at Blue Mass. Group, a far more liberal blog than this one, takes a comparable view of the Democrats' strategy. He's not at all happy about how things are shaking out.


Anonymous ks said...

I like the idea of voting "present" over voting yes.

As far as Reid goes, I don't see how a no vote can hurt him. What's the sense of being united if the group supports someone who deliberately tried to muddy his ideological agenda? Without a clear picture, Reid is better off voting no or "present" rather than supporting someone he is unsure of. The Republicans stayed united on some issues (Schiavo, Iraq, tax cuts) and suffered as a result.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Bostonian Exile said...

Re: Reid

A "no" vote hurts Reid to the extent that his party is divided. As the Democratic leader, it makes his house look disorganized and he would have greater difficulty putting forward a united front and a coherent overriding message going into next year's midterms. Of the 18 Democratic seats up for election next year, 8 are well within play. Reid's actions matter little to the solid Democrats in those states, but they win no votes among swing voters, may have no effect, but alternatively could cost Democratic votes. Reid is the figurehead, and he looks to be a weak party leader if his party is deeply divided on this issue. Even the liberal special interests are likely to be less than enthusiastic in funding senatorial campaigns for Democratic senators who vote yes on this nomination.

What's the sense of being united if the group supports someone who deliberately tried to muddy his ideological agenda?

This question requires two (I think, rather heady) assumptions: 1) that Roberts actually has an "ideological agenda," and 2) his ideology (whether it rises to the level of an agenda or not) will override his considered judicial opinion when the two are in conflict. I would caution that judges decide cases counter to their personal ideologies all the time. Indeed, even Judge Roberts has done so, if we are to assume that he stalwart idological conservative that Senator Kennedy would have us believe him to be. After watching the vast majority of the hearings, and listening to the phrasing of questions, there was no way he could satisfactorily answer a large number of the "hot-button" questions. I can elaborate on that if you wish, though I would prefer to do so in a separate post.

I have to disagree with your analogy. A better fit would be if the Majority Leader, Bill Frist, opposed a high-profile measure supported by those on the other side of the aisle and the Republicans split about equally on the issue. Frist would appear to have lost control of his party, and the Democrats would (quite rightly) prey upon that perceived weakness. Accordingly, my original comments were limited to the perception of Reid as leader and its consequential effect on the party, not so much on the perception of the party itself.

11:37 AM  

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