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Lead the Way

Senate Republicans may not understand the true stakes in the coming judicial showdown.

12:00 AM, Apr 14, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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IN RECENT DAYS I interviewed Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, and Ralph Neas, executive director of People for the American Way. Together these two are the architects of the policy of unyielding obstruction by Democrats of George Bush's judicial nominees. It is difficult to overstate their influence on the Democratic caucus: They are widely considered to be the hands steering Democratic policy on judges.

Both blew the usual rhetorical smoke about how well President Bush is doing with his judicial nominations--Bush has by far the lowest approval rate to the appeals court for modern times for a president three months into his second term. And both used the same talking points on all the blocked nominees, including the risible assertion that Democrats had no idea Bill Pryor was a Roman Catholic until Senator Hatch asked him. The transcripts provide a summary of the threadbare case against the blockaded judges, and far from a persuasive one.

But they also provide much more: A clear warning to the GOP that the stakes in the coming showdown over the filibuster include the Supreme Court. Here's Nan Aron:

Hewitt: Do you expect Democrats to filibuster Supreme Court nominees as well, Nan Aron?

Aron: You know, that's a fairly good question because if President Bush did what President Clinton did and share names with prospective candidates to get the Democrats's consent as Clinton did, if Bush did that, his nominees would sail through.

Hewitt: A lot of names are out there. For example, Fourth Circuit Court Judge Mike Luttig. Would you oppose, and urge a filibuster of Mike Luttig?

Aron: Absolutely, but you see, if this president were to sit down with the Democrats, I assume, I don't know for sure, but I assume that they would say "Mr. President, this guy shouldn't be elevated. His views are just too outside the constitutional mainstream for us." If he were to do that and come up with someone else that met the requirements of the Democrats, the person would sail through.

Hewitt: Would you oppose Judge Mike McConnell if he were nominated and urge a filibuster?

Aron: Yes, we would.

Hewitt: Do you oppose, and urge a filibuster for John Roberts?

Aron: Yes, we would.

Hewitt: In essence, people--three judges I've just named. Three, if you go down a long list of judges who have already confirmed by the United States Senate. If Alliance for Justice--Ralph said the same thing by the way last week that he'd have opposed the same three judges. If the radicals are in charge of the Democrats, don't we need to break this down because, in essence, unless they nominate someone you like, you'll urge a filibuster and overturn majority rule?

Aron: You know, you just named three individuals but can't be the only three people who come to mind. There are dozens and dozens of others.

Hewitt: Miguel Estrada? He comes to mind.

Aron: Miguel Estrada pulled out so he's not even being . . .

Hewitt: No--if he was nominated to the Supreme Court, would you oppose and urge a filibuster.

Aron: Of course we would! And so would I assume the vast majority of Americans. I think what you have to do is look at Miguel Estrada's record--his hearing record before the Senate Judicial Committee. He refused to answer questions. Well, judgeships are too important. Judges have too much influence over our lives. Simply to rubber stamp somebody because the president says that he wants this guy on the Supreme Court . . .

And here's Ralph Neas:

Hewitt: I want to close with just a couple of questions about the next Supreme Court vacancy. Will you oppose Mike McConnell if he is the nominee?

Neas: Absolutely. Mike was a colleague of mine at the University of Chicago Law School. Lovely individual, but truly extreme on a wide range of issues.

Hewitt: Will you oppose Michael Luddig

Neas: Absolutely. Even farther right than Michael McConnell.

Hewitt: Will you oppose John Roberts if he is the nominee?

Neas: Michael Roberts . . . ?

Hewitt: John Roberts.

Neas: [We're] studying his record and his record is one that we have a number of people taking a very close look at. My gut is that John Roberts shares the judicial philosophy of Michael McConnell, Michael Luddig, Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas, but we're not done with our study.