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  • Christina Dahlman

'Hypocrisy' on the Right?

To return once more to the PFAW-blog's active criticism of CFJ and other organizations fighting for the fair treatment of federal judicial nominees, today I want to address in particular another one of Kyle's accusations. He writes,

"As for the claim that Democrats must ensure that 'each and every judicial nominee is given a hearing and is reported out of committee' … well, let’s just say that is not how Republicans operated under President Clinton either."

The embedded link points to an earlier post of Kyle's in which he claimed that "nobody on the Right ever seems to mention the nearly 50+ Clinton administration nominees who never received a Committee hearing or a floor vote, thanks largely to the Republicans." This refrain has become a popular one among liberal critics of Judge Southwick and other Bush nominees - this idea that Democrats are only engaging in behavior for which Republicans set a precedent during the Clinton administration. I'll set aside for now the fact that I think it's somewhat counter-productive to exchange accusations of 'hypocrisy' in this case. Instead, in response I wanted to point to the transcript of an online chat hosted by the Washington Post back in 2003. In this chat, former CFJ executive director Sean Rushton ably addressed many common misconceptions about the treatment of Clinton's judicial nominees and the recent history of judicial confirmation process in general. The whole transcript is worth reading; but in one portion in particular, Sean took the trouble of going through a mathematical breakdown of the fate of Clinton's nominees. Here's an excerpt that goes to the heart of Kyle's accusation of "hypocrisy" on the part of "the Right":

"Bottom line: in all 6 years that Chairman Hatch ran the Judiciary Committee while President Clinton was in office, there were fewer than 26 nominations left in Committee. "Compare this treatment to that accorded George H.W. Bush's nominees, when Democrats were in the majority and controlled the Judiciary Committee. Then, the Democrats failed to confirm 58 nominees over the course of only 4 years."

The point here is that counting up the number of Clinton nominees who were named but never confirmed is too simplistic a measure of whether or not those nominees were 'blocked' or 'obstructed' in some way by the Republicans in control of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. And what's more, I'll say again that the issue here is not one of political payback or name-calling: Leslie Southwick is both professionally well-qualified and personally unassailable. A man of his caliber and character simply does not deserve to have his reputation so smeared by his critics.

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