I'm troubled by what I'm hearing from politicians -- on both sides -- concerning the type of person who should replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the process that should be followed to determine her replacement.
On "Fox News Sunday," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "Well, replacing a Supreme Court justice is very important, but they come and go. Really what I think is at stake is the reputation of the Senate. Can we have a confirmation process that will hold the Senate up to the world and the nation as a deliberative body made up of men and women who are serious about their job, or will it break down into some food fight?"
Meanwhile, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Republican Sen. Arlen Specter registered his annoyance at so-called public interest groups lobbying the president and the Senate. Specter said, "I believe that when you have these wars with the groups organizing and spending a lot of money and perhaps, for them, more importantly, raising a lot of money, that it's counterproductive and sometimes it's insulting."
Did you catch the common thread running through the senators' statements? It seems to be all about them -- the Senate, its reputation, its collegiality, its dignity. Likewise, the gang of 14 that banded together to block the Republicans' invocation of the constitutional option to end filibusters on judicial nominees appeared to be more interested in the Senate's image than in honoring the Constitution and their proper role in the confirmation process.
What narcissism! The composition of our appellate courts and the right of the president to appoint qualified judges is what is at stake here -- not whether the reputation of the Senate as a pristine body of backslapping, congenial good old boys emerges from the process.
I frankly don't care if the Senate engages in vigorous, even sometimes acrimonious debate, especially over something as important as Supreme Court nominees. Where did we get this wrongheaded idea that the senators' manners are more important than the positions they advocate?
Getting along and demonstrating mutual respect is fine, but not at the expense of the substantive issues involved. And, given the fact that so many of our politicians have turned the judicial confirmation process into a partisan circus, what business do they have complaining about the public lobbying them?
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