The White House was feckless in influencing wavering Republicans in the Senate. Sen. Frist was incompetent in allowing seven of his senators to break ranks. Now there is calm in the Senate. There is drift. Yet the storm will come anew. The compromise worked out by Sen. John McCain and seven Democrats cannot possibly hold. According to the compromise, the Democrats say they will filibuster future presidential nominees only for "extraordinary circumstances." Thus all will depend on what the Democrats deem "extraordinary." As we have seen, the Democrats already claim that a judicial nominee pledged to judicial restraint is an "activist." Can people who so willfully twist the meaning of a word be relied upon to abide by the meaning of the word "extraordinary"?
Republicans were hoping to eliminate the judicial filibuster this week so that they could confirm judicial nominees with a simple majority -- 51 votes rather than the 60 votes necessary to shut down a filibuster. They had their eyes not only on the judicial nominees who have been languishing unconfirmed for years because of the Democrats' filibuster threat, but on the Supreme Court openings that are likely to develop this summer. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist's health in doubt, such an opening will probably come before the summer ends. Then does one really think this week's vaunted compromise will hold?
By almost anyone's interpretation a Supreme Court opening can be described as "extraordinary." When the opening occurs, the Senate will be right back to the brink of a battle royal. Little has been gained in this compromise, save perhaps a proper appraisal of Sen. Frist. He is not a leader. The battle royal will come when the president nominates Rehnquist's successor. The Democrats will be even more desperate and their character assassination of the president's nominee will be even more reckless and damaging to the nominee and to the court.