Meaningful Consultation

Here is what Sen. Coburn was doing during the hearing today (link):

Yeah, that's a crossword puzzle.

Update: The more I think about it, the more important I think this picture is. All day, Republicans pounded home the idea that they were all already going to vote for Roberts, and that Roberts didn't have to really say anything during the hearings. In other words, their main message today was that the hearings are pointless, both because we won't learn anything from them and because Roberts will be confirmed anyway. For example, check out this editorial from the Washington Times:

At the risk of heresy, I want to ask a simple question: Why are we having these hearings? After all, there is little doubt Judge Roberts will be confirmed. Unless he has a secret history that will, miraculously, soon be revealed, the final result -- already confirmation by a solid majority -- is a foregone conclusion. Even the votes against Judge Roberts -- such as Sen. Barbara Boxer's promise to vote "no" unless he expressly agrees to uphold Roe v. Wade -- are unlikely to change.(...)

So, again, why have hearings? Senate votes aren't affected, and history demonstrates the Senate is perfectly capable of judging a nominee without them -- if it wants to. Yet, in this case, we will hear not only from the nominee, but also, more importantly, from all the interest groups, pro and con, vitally interested in the nomination.

And that, I think, explains why we will have the hearings. They aren't for the senators, who likely know how they will vote. The hearings are for the interest groups and their constituents.

This also seems to be the sentiment Coburn is trying to get across by openly completing a crossword puzzle during the hearings, live on television. The basic consrvative argument here is that the hearings are pointless--everyone should look away. There is nothing to see here.

This is a very good strategy for the Republicans in the Senate. Poll after poll has shown that the majority of America really isn't paying a lot of attention to Roberts anymore, pretty much because of Katrina. The entire Republican strategy today plays into our newfound national apathy toward the hearings.

Unfortunately, we are going a long way to playing into this stealth strategy. Throughout the progressive blogosphere, there was a surprising dearth of posts about the hearings today. Katrina posts and searches still outnumber Roberts posts and searches by a wide margin. This means we are on the brink of defeat, since the hearings for Roberts will be over on Thursday night, and the Katrina aftermath will be with us for months, if not years.

If we are going to have any shot of changing the complexion of this hearing, we in the blogosphere are all going to have to start paying a lot more attention to Roberts, and start doing this right now. Most people are undecided on Roberts, and they will remain such as long as they are not paying attention, which works for the Republicans. This is a tragedy, because in the midst of Bush's greatest failure, he is on the brink of securing his greatest victory. Come on People—walk and chew gum at the same time.

First Opening Statements Thread

I am having problems with my wireless connection, but it seems fixed now. Specter and Leahy have already spoken. Hatch is speaking right now. You can see the entire judiciary committee here.
  • It is over for a few hours. I'll have more on this later in the afternoon and evening. The hearings open again at 9:30 tomorrow, and will last until 8:30 pm (yikes!)

  • Senator Orrin Hatch: "[T]he Senate can and should do what it can to ascertain the jurisprudential views a nominee will bring to the bench in order to prevent the confirmation of those who are likely to be judicial activists.” [Address before University of Utah Federalist Society chapter, 2/18/97]. I guess he changed his mind.

  • Can someone be disqualified for excessive use of baseball metaphors? Lots of Americana, nothing of substance from Roberts.

  • I think it is particuarly interesting that as Roberts begins to speak, the news wire has Brown resigning from FEMA. This is not hte same Bush administration of even four months ago. This is an administration that has become weak to the point where it will indeed back down and cave to public pressure.

  • Coburn in tears when he says: "When I ponder our country... my heart aches for less diviseness, less polarization, less fingerpointing, less bitterness, less mindless partisanship, which at times sound almost hateful to the ears of Americans." And then he promptly left the hearings and went to a Club for Growth fundraiser.

  • Brownback opens by wishing himself happy birthday. How very humble of him.

  • Durbin looks to shift the burden of proof to those looking to confirm Roberts, rather than those who are not yet sold. Frankly, that is where it always should have been, but somehow our checks and balances have eroded enough that it doesn't work that way anymore.

  • I can't even remember which Republican is droning on right now. Its all the same: you never have to tell us anything about anything ever, except that you will stop persecuting us humble Christians. Don't they ever get bored of hearing themselves?

  • This seems to be the culimination of five years of speeches for Schumer. I remember when he first laid out this argument five years ago, and I was hooked instantly. Ideology needs to be a determining factor in judicial confirmations because, let's face it, ideology plays a role in how judges rule. As Schumer just said, certainly both Ginsbewrg and Scalia think they are fair, yet they rule differently case after case after case. Ideology is the reason. We all know that, and thus we must consider it when confirming a judge, just as President's consider it when selecting a judge. Ideology is perhaps the number one determining factor in determining how a judge will rule, and thus it is absolutely necessary for Roberts to answer every qeustion, so we can develop a clear picture of his ideology.

  • Woo-hoo! He actually said "resume" instead of calling him "well qualified." I always thought Schumer was excellent on judges.

  • Schumer's up--perhaps the main event. He tries to frame the debate as mainstream versus ideolouge. Says he will vote based on the answer ot this question.

  • They are back, and I'll tell you right now, if Lindsay Graham really is a "Democrat by night," then the sun won't go down for a long, long time.

  • Feingold just spoke--nothing remarkable--and the first break has been announced.

  • Did Sessions really just say "objective standards of morality," after a huge tirade about "activist judges," and then go on to argue that ideological concerns should not be a factor in approving nominees? Wow.

  • Feinstein was way too wonky (autonomy is not exactly the most emotive word for self-determination), and her speech ran long. This was too bad, because the end was the most interesting part, where she began to talk about the potential abuses of religion. I've been waiting a while for someone to finally talk about that.

  • The Dems are conceding the "well-qualified" point. Worse, they keep repeating it. Kennedy did it earlier, and Feinstein just did it. In fact, it was practically the first thing out of Feinstein's mouth. For crying out loud Dems, if you want to concede the point, that's one thing, but don't help the Republicans hammer it home by constantly repeating it yourself. Just come up with another word for it, like "you have a long resume," or something. Don't use their words, for crying out loud.

  • DeWine seems to be fretting about the loss of his base. He just indicated that he will be voting for Roberts.

  • Whether or not the basic Democratic talking point will work in slowing or stopping Roberts almost doesn't matter to me, because it is just so wonderful. We must protect civil rights. We must allow the government to step in and work toward a common good. Big government is not a bad thing, as long as it is effective. The struggle for civil rights is not over. A lot of this is related to Katrina, but it seems to be a near-total reversal of 1990's era rhetoric that dominated the party leadership for a time and helped turned me away from the party for a number of years. Even if it is rheotic--and coming out of the mouth of Bankruptcy Biden it sounds like just rhetoric--it is an important turning point in the national debate that will indeed be to the benefit of progressivism. The era of small government is over.

  • The basic Republican talking point so far seems to be that Roberts is oh so well qualified, and that he should shut up and eveyrone should be happy with that and vote for him. That strikes me as a defensive talking point that seeks to avoid conflict (and democracy) at all costs.

  • Biden comes out hard and strong. Says right now he would vote no. Very impressive. I had stepped out of the room to grad some food, and when I came back in I heard Biden's voice saying words that I never thought I would hear from Biden. So far, itseems the Dems on the committee are united in opposition.

  • Kennedy now. He's a much better speaker than Leahy. His speech is mostly about rights, with a heavy emphasis on civil rights.

  • Hatch goes on about politicizing the judiciary, when no one has politicized the judiciary more than Hatch:Originally, after Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 1994 elections and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch assumed control of the Judiciary Committee, the rule regarding judicial nominees was this: If a single senator from a nominee's home state objected to (or "blue-slipped") a nomination, it was dead. This rule made it easy for Republicans to obstruct Clinton's nominees. But in 2001, when a Republican became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take objections from both home-state senators to block a nominee. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George W. Bush's nominees. In early 2003 Hatch went even further: Senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it could still go to the floor for a vote. Finally, a few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with "Rule IV," which states that at least one member of the minority has to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee. After that, he went on for ten minutes about how Roberts shouldn't answer any questions, and we should all like it. Seems to fit with his general pattern.

Roberts Blog, Preview Thread

OK, I'm in DC now. This will not be my usual style of blogging. I will provide frequent, short updates throughout the day in a series of threads. One thing will be the same: my views are not relfective of any organization whatsoever. I'll be using this thread until around noon, then I'll start another one.
  • NPR will be broadcasting the hearings gavel to gavel, as will C-SPAN.

  • If you haven't read it yet, check out this excellent article on how the Chief Justice if different from the other eight Associate Justicies.

  • Staying on public opinion for a bit, just like with Bush, the partisan gap on Roberts is a lot more interesting than the overall numbers.Time Poll conducted by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas (SRBI) Public Affairs. Sept. 7-8, 2005. N=1,000 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).
         Confirm    Not Confirm     Unsure
    All    48           26            26
    Dem    29           41            18
    Ind    48           29            31
    Rep    73            9            23
    I don't really care about the numbers for Republicans, since over the past four years they have shown that they will fall into lockstep with pretty much anything their leaders suggest. I am a lot more interested in pushing Democratic numbers to become at least a mirror of the Republican numbers. Ideally, Democrats would be even more unified.

    Obviously, we are not going to get pretty much anywhere unless the numbers for Independents move, big time. Democratic gains over the past eight months have come almost entirely within Independents, and right now pretty much all of our potential successes are predicated upon maintaining those gains. In order for this to be an effective fight, Independents cannot remain equidistant from Dems and Reps.

  • The polls on Roberts are starting to pile up. While Roberts still has a decent confirm / not confirm margin in most polls (the range is roughly +15 to +25, depending on the poll), he has not had a majority in favor of his confirmation since he was nominated for Chief Justice. In fact, public opinion favoring his confirmation has eroded significantly since late July:
    Poll     Date    Confirm / Not Confirm Margin
    News      9/9               +20
    Time      9/8               +22
    CBS       9/7               +25
    Pew       9/7               +16
    
    Fox       8/31              +24
    CBS       8/31              +17
    
    Gallup    8/7               +23
    News      8/4               +23
    
    Fox       7/27              +31
    Gallup    7/24              +37
    ABC       7/21              +36
    With the exception of CBS, slowly but surely, the margin is dropping.

  • Roberts will try to make the case that he is replacing Rehnquist, not O'Conner. This will include noting that he was first contacted by the White House in April, and by noting that O'Conner is still on the Supreme Court. Despite the obvious fact that he was nominated while Rehnquist was still on the court, considering how quickly Bush changed Roberts' nomination to chief justice, I am at least willing to grant that the White House was clearly fixed on Roberts as the next chief justice before Rehnquist passed.

Roberts Can Be Stopped

In less than ten hours, I will be in Washington D.C., ready to help lead the blogger opposition to John Roberts. Before this fight begins in earnest, I just wanted everyone here to know that they shouldn't believe the pipe about Roberts being a sure thing. As Bush's support has collapsed, so has the support for everyone around him. Just look at the latest poll on Roberts:Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Sept. 8-9, 2005. N=1,009 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"As you may know, President Bush recently nominated John Roberts to succeed William Rehnquist as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court. From what you've heard or read, do you think Roberts should or should NOT be confirmed by the Senate to serve as chief justice?"

Should Be    Should Not Be    Unsure
   44		24	    32
"Are you concerned that President Bush's appointments will make the Supreme Court too conservative; OR concerned that the justices he appoints won't be conservative enough; OR are you not too concerned either way?"
Too Conservative    Not Con Enough   Not Concerned
      31		       10		    53
Less than half of the country is ready to see this guy confirmed, and that number seems to be dropping fast. There are a lot of minds still to be made up. Also, there are a lot more people concerned about the court becoming too conservative than there are those who worry it will not become conservative enough.

There are a lot of minds yet to be made. We can win this fight, and with Bush sinking like a stone, we can change the complexion of the next nominee. He has already at least partially backtracked on Michael Brown, and his political capital is running out fast. Even if we lose, we must succeed in portraying Roberts as a hard-right conservative in the mind of the public. If we fail to do this, Bush will be able to nominate any psycho conservative in the future he wants. Further, even if we lose, we muse get almost every single Democrat to vote against him. If the party can't stand up now when Bush is weaker than he has ever been, then we are pathetic.

It is time for our first major fight since Bush's numbers began falling off a cliff in late July. It is time to stand up.

Bush Nominates Roberts For Chief Justice

Roberts had been O'Connor's replacement. Now he's Rehnquist's. As my wife points out, this gives the lie to the GOP claim that Roberts is a moderate. If he's conservative enough to replace Rehnquist, he's no moderate.

By the same token, can we continue to oppose Roberts because he's not a moderate? I never thought that was the best criticism to begin with. If Kerry had been elected, would he have been expected to nominate a conservative to replace the conservative Rehnquist?

However, questions still remain about Roberts' record on civil rights as well as his general honesty. I still think Roberts should be opposed. What are your thoughts?

PS - How pissed must Scalia be?

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