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Setting Up the Debate

Monday, October 31, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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I am in D.C. for a day of meetings, and missed most of yesterday’s cyberspecultions, though I did get to read Glenn Reynolds new book, which –it will not surprise anyone to learn– is a great piece of around-the-corner and the next decade analysis.

JetBlue did provide me with the opportunity to watch CNN and Fox throughout the flight, and rarely has the same thing been said so often by so many different people: A fight is coming.

Thus it was great to hear two senators who are often the subjects of suspicion on the right each make statements of the sort that will have to be rfepeated again and again.

From Senator Specter:

“You have both sides poles apart, and insistent on finding some answer to that question in advance of the hearing, which no one is entitled to. Guarantees are for used cars and washing machines, not Supreme Court justices.”

From Senator Graham:

Well, number one, we’re not going to let Senator Schumer define mainstream conservatism. He’s my friend, but that’s not going to happen. Here’s why I was part of the Gang of the 14, and I’m going to lay it all out on the table for you on a Sunday morning. I’m not for filibustering. I think when you start ideologically driven filibusters that are partisan, you erode the people who want to serve over time in the judiciary because it becomes reprisal politics. `We’re going to pay back the Democrats.’ So partisan filibusters based on judicial philosophy or ideology erode the judiciary, weaken the presidency and hurt the Senate. So I wanted to stop that and we did. We had a chance to start over.

But here’s what you’re going to get, Chuck. You’re going to get a solid conservative. He ran on the idea that `I like Scalia and I like Thomas and I’m going to send a conservative up.’ He is not going to pick someone in the mold of Sandra Day O’Connor because we tell him he has to. There’s no ideological swap test here. He’s going to do what he said he did in his campaign. Roberts was in that kind of mode. Alito, Luttig, all these people are solid conservatives, and if they’re filibustered based on ideology and philosophy, that’s setting
aside an election and the filibuster will not stand….

An extraordinary circumstance to me has never been about ideology or philosophy. It’s got to be about character, qualifications, because if we make it about ideology and philosophy, we’ve taken the power of the president away.

When the nominee is announced today, the discussion of his or her background and credentials has got to emphasize that no matter who it is, they have got to be accored an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. From the start, Republican senators have to be pushed to agree that this is their expectation.

There were seven GOP senators who joined the Gang of 14 –Senators McCain, Warner, Snowe, Collins, Chafee, Graham and DeWine. In addition, Senators Hagel and Specter were believed to be wobbly on the constitutional option.

If these senators declare early and often that a filibuster against a nominee on ideological grounds will oblige them to support the constitutional option, and to explain over and over again why, the debate will be won before it begins.

But if six of the nine remain silent the speculation about their motives will divert attention from the nominee’s qualifications and allow the idea that the filibuster as legitimate to gain traction.

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