Even for Washington, D.C., the speed with which the two sides swapped positions on failed Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers and the newest nominee, Samuel Alito, was neck-snapping.
The White House said it was a plus that Miers had gone to university and law school at Southern Methodist University, that she would bring to the court a needed perspective from outside the elitist Ivies. Prominent in the nomination of Alito was that he had gone to Princeton and Yale law.
The White House also said it was a plus that Miers, Bush’s personal attorney and now White House counsel, had never been a judge. Many distinguished justices did not have prior experience on the bench, it said. In introducing Alito, Bush boasted that he “has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.”
One criticism of Miers was the lack of a paper trail. The White House refused to turn over her legal memoranda, saying the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t need them and the papers were privileged anyway. Alito, said Bush, “has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions,” all of which are available to the committee just for the asking.
Republicans opposed to the Miers nomination wanted protracted hearings to put off an up-or-down vote as long as possible in hopes she’d withdraw, as ultimately she did. Democrats, on the other hand, were happy to rush the process to embarrass the Republicans.
Now the Republicans are demanding a speedy up-or-down vote. Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist says “in the next several weeks.” And now it is the Democrats who are being measured and methodical. Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin says, “Ordinarily it takes six to eight weeks to evaluate a Supreme Court nominee. We shouldn’t rush to judgment.”
With Miers, who had no political track record, the White House assured social conservatives that she was a red-blooded ideologue who was with them on all the hot button issues. Alito’s backers take pains to stress that he is not a zealot, but in the words of GOP Sen. Mike DeWine, “clearly in the mainstream.”
Fifteen years ago, Democrats like Sen. Ted Kennedy found that Alito had “a distinguished record” and “a commendable career” when they unanimously approved his nomination to the circuit court. Now Kennedy finds him “extreme” and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid finds him perhaps “too radical for the American people.”
In the nation’s capital, shamelessness is an art form practiced by masters.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)