The White House took great offense this week when conservatives suggested President Obama might be trading a judicial appointment for a wavering Democrat's vote on his health care reform plan. "Absurd," a miffed administration official told Politico.com. Wherever could the American people get such an impression? Let us count the ways.
On Wednesday, the very day Obama hosted 10 swing Democrats who had opposed the expansive health care takeover bill in November, the White House issued a press release trumpeting the nomination of Scott M. Matheson Jr. to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Matheson just happens to be the brother of Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah -- one of the 10 Dems invited to sip wine and nosh on calorically correct appetizers with the arm-twister-in-chief.
The seat on the 10th Circuit has been vacant for nearly a year. When one of the judges, Michael McConnell, resigned to take a lucrative post at Stanford Law School last summer, Matheson -- Rhodes Scholar, law school professor and dean -- let the White House know right away he wanted the job. For nearly a year, there was no action.
Liberal groups have been complaining for months about the glacial pace of Obama's judicial nominations -- a predicament they blame not solely on obstructionist Republicans, but on Obama's own team of incompetent, indecisive foot-draggers who put the issue at the bottom of their priority list. (It's worth noting that Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch supports Matheson's candidacy.)
As the National Law Journal pointed out at the beginning of this year, "the Obama administration has been slower than the Bush administration was in sending judicial nominations to the Senate, submitting 12 circuit nominations last year compared with 28 for Bush in 2001. The White House last named a circuit nominee on Nov. 4."Now, out of nowhere, comes the announcement of Matheson's nomination -- in the heat of White House vote-grubbing to salvage the Democrats' government health care designs? To quote Dana Carvey's old Church Lady character on "Saturday Night Live": How conveeenient.
Let us consider the possibility, for a brief moment, that this is all merely coincidence. Is the White House so fantastically blind and tone-deaf that it failed to detect the blood-red flags and blaring alarm bells that Scott Matheson's judicial nomination would raise coming on the very day Obama was wooing his brother? Incorrigibly corrupt or incorrigibly stupid. Take your pick.
The perception of a judgeship-for-Obamacare-vote deal is, of course, horribly unfair to Matheson, who seems more than qualified for the position. But full blame for creating that unmistakable perception lies squarely at the feet of the rank opportunists in the White House, whose timing is worse than a broken metronome.
This debacle comes on the heels of damning disclosures about other possible White House bribery. Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania admitted to veteran Philly newsman Larry Kane that Team Obama dangled a "high-ranking" position in the administration if he dropped out of the Senate race and left incumbent Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter alone.
And earlier this month, The Washington Times noted that Mary Patrice Brown, the person assigned by the Justice Department to oversee an internal investigation into the shady dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation cases, is now "the leading candidate for a federal judgeship -- for which she is being vetted by some of the same offices she supposedly is investigating."
So, wherever did we get the impression that pay-for-play is the Obama way? Somewhere, Chicago corruptocrat Rod Blagojevich -- who wanted to play, but didn't get paid -- is laughing bitterly.