Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Manuel Miranda, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's staff lawyer who ran his judicial confirmation campaign, last Friday resigned under pressure. His scalp was demanded by Democrats, and Republicans complied. That showed who is ready and willing to play the tough partisan game in the U.S. Senate -- and who is not.

Frist's willingness to throw his own aide overboard concluded a spectacular exhibition of the muscular Democratic minority's triumph of the will, personified by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. By a stroke of luck, Republicans had found a trail of e-mail messages by Democrats that exposed a coolly crafted plan to reject President Bush's federal judges. But Democrats managed to turn their own corruption of Senate confirmations into bipartisan outrage over a staffer leaking a senator's sacrosanct communications.

Making Manny Miranda a scapegoat confirms Democratic success at hijacking the confirmation process. Frist can get neither the super majority of 60 senators needed to break filibusters nor the simple majority of 51 needed to change the rules. The Republican recourse to cry "shame" at Democratic perfidy looks feeble in light of the GOP surrender in the Miranda affair.

However, Miranda's "departure statement" Friday signaled a fight still could be made. Asserting that some Democratic documents "recorded collusive, partisan considerations in the confirmation process and much worse," he said "only a small amount of these have been made public. The ones made public are the least indicting of the ones I came to see." That material is now in the hands of the sergeant at arms, an employee of Frist.

Nearly a year ago on Feb. 27, 2003, I reported in this column that Ted Kennedy had devised a "grand design" to keep Bush from taking over the federal judiciary. I attributed direct quotes about his filibuster scheme to "internal sources," and Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic staffers recognized language from their own e-mails. The Wall Street Journal last November published parts of 15 such messages, which later were posted on a Web site.

The messages expose the symbiotic relationship between senior Democratic senators and left-wing pressure groups, even plots to coordinate confirmation hearings with pending court procedure. Republicans had a smoking gun, evidence that Democrats have politicized the Constitution's "advise and consent" clause.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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