Ross Mackenzie

Left-right rhetoric frames the judicial nominations debate - and, lamentably, for good reason. Even with Monday's 14-senator agreement the debate, the power war between liberal and conservative goes on.

Both ideological sides have transgressed - that's both sides.

Yet on the larger landscape, we have arrived at this juncture in American ideology primarily as a consequence of the abuses of the left over many years. In a strict sense, the excesses of the right have been reactions to - pay-back, retaliation for - the unwillingness of the left to moderate in the retention and exercise of political power.

First the left lost presidential power - or in achieving it proved inept (Jimmy Carter) or hubristic and solipsistic (Bill Clinton). Then, as the nation began turning more conservative and Republican, the Democratic left began losing legislative power, with today's still thin but growing Republican margins in both congressional houses.

Along the road, the left perceived its future relevance in doubt, and so built principally in Washington's K Street neighborhood a new industry dedicated to preserving its hegemony in the last of the branches, the federal courts - from which it could legislate and thereby maintain power, albeit in a different way.

This new industry or lobby - supported by other extralegal entities long adept at shaping public opinion (entertainment, establishment churches, the mainline media) - combed every conceivable corner of every federal judicial nominee's record for any ethical or temperamental transgression, or any example of ideological deviation from a left-defined "moderate" norm.

With the vilest smears, the left killed the nomination of Robert Bork, almost killed the nomination of Clarence Thomas, and has stopped or stymied the nominations of good people whose sole sin generally has been to be defined by the left as ideologically unacceptable to its own peculiar view of right reason.

And so we have arrived at the present hour, with Monday's bipartisan Senate agreement accepting three of President Bush's appellate nominees, rejecting two, and leaving the fate of others to the "trust" and "good faith" of the members of the oldest old-boys club since Rome - whose Senate club itself was not averse to knifings of mere ideologies but of caesars.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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