Van Taylor

If you’re interested, as I am, in keeping a Republican majority in Congress (even with the inevitable disappointments that entails), you may want to chip in to RedState’s campaign to raise funds for Van Taylor, an Iraq War vet running as a GOP challenger in a Texas district that went 70% for Bush in 2004:
More here and here.
UPDATE: The 17th District isn’t just figuratively Bush Country – it actually includes the President’s own Crawford ranch.

The General Interest

Taranto points us to this essay by Michael Tomasky in the American Prospect returning yet again to the question of What Do The Democrats Stand For? Tomasky argues – correctly – that the Dems have become increasingly effective as an opposition party, but that when it comes to retaking a majority:

What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it don’t even think in philosophical terms and haven’t for quite some time. There’s a reason for this: They’ve all been trained to believe – by the media, by their pollsters – that their philosophy is an electoral loser.

This is old hat by now, even from Tomasky, but this time he offers up a solution:

[New Deal and Great Society] liberalism was built around the idea — the philosophical principle — that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest.
This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance — not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.

Leave aside for now the correctness of this characterization of the New Deal and Tomasky’s arguments about where and when the Democrats lost their connection with the common good and the general interest, and how Ronald Reagan appropriated that theme for the GOP. I’m not that familiar with Tomasky’s writings in general, but he does make a good faith effort, as New Republic neoliberals like Peter Beinart and Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan have been doing for years, to get to the heart of what is most reactionary and illiberal about today’s Democrats, and his essay is worthy of reading at length. But the simple fact is that placing the general interest above special interests runs so completely contrary to the core of how today’s Democratic Party operates that suggesting that the Democrats become champions of the general interest seems like a crude parody of the party. Tomasky gravely underestimates the difficulty of breaking the habit of casting issue after issue in terms of how it affects the concrete interests of particular subgroups of voters. A quick tour of issues vital to bedrock Democratic constituencies only underlines this:

Continue reading The General Interest

And I Agree With Myself!

Patterico catches his nemesis, LA Times writer and blogger Michael Hiltzik, posting comments under a pseudonym – even on Hiltzik’s own blog! And better yet, Hiltzik cited the pseudonym’s comments as if they were independent support for his position in a battle with another commenter at his site. You have to read the whole thing to get the full effect (even better if you’ve followed Patterico’s lengthy and acrimonious feud with Hiltzik). Chalk this up as further proof that any time a journalist gets in an argument with a practicing lawyer, bet on the lawyer.
UPDATE: Hiltzik responds, essentially admitting the charge but – rather than apologize for deceiving readers through the use of multiple online identities who interacted with each other – setting up a straw man (that the issue is about pseudonyms generally) and ranting generally about Patterico (no such attack would be complete without calling Patterico a racist, and Hiltzik manages to work that hoary canard into his rant). Really, I’m starting to wonder if Patterico is actually Hiltzik – this guy is just too pitch-perfect a weaselly, sneering, blinkered, high-handed caricature of a big media liberal to be for real.
SECOND UPDATE: Hiltzik’s blog is down now, but there was an announcement earlier that the blog was being suspended pending an LA Times investigation:

The Times has suspended Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog on Hiltzik admitted Thursday that he posted items on the paper’s website, and on other websites, under names other than his own. That is a violation of The Times ethics policy, which requires editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public. The policy applies to both the print and online editions of the newspaper. The Times is investigating the postings.

Wow. Even Dan Rather didn’t go down this fast. I didn’t and don’t think this was a firing offense, but I can understand why they suspended the blog. The Real Ugly American explains that the problem was Hiltzik’s failure to observe the rules of the medium he chose:

What is bad form, and cowardly, and has resulted in lots of people being run off of websites, blogs, message boards, video game communities, etc in shame and ridicule is using multiple names in an attempt to hide your already anonymous self to make a particularly offensive comment, or create phony allies for your arguments.
I have seen it first hand many times. People who do this become the laughing stock of the community and their ruined reputation lives on in infamy years after they have been excommunicated.
In an anonymous community the only thing you have is your name. People learn to trust it, or suspect every claim made by certain individuals based on their posting history.
What Hiltzik appears to have done (he may yet deny he is guilty of this unpardonable interweb sin) has brought many an anonymous 16 year old to tears and shame. For a professional journalist to be caught red handed is an embarrassment to not only him but to his profession and his employer.

Katie Rather

Lest anyone think that CBS has changed its spots by signing Katie Couric as the permanent replacement for Dan Rather, check out the Media Research Center’s 15-year “greatest hits” list of Couric’s on-air liberal leanings. Many of these aren’t that damning in isolation, but the overall pattern – negative characterizations of Republicans, conservatives and their ideas, aggressive, loaded questions for conservative guests and softballs and sycophancy towards liberal guests in general and the Clintons in particular – paints a compelling picture of a standard-issue liberal Democrat who brings her biases to work. I suppose marrying her to the existing institutions of CBS News kills two birds with one stone (although Matt Lauer, the surviving Today Show lead, isn’t much better).

DC Circuit Punishes Unlawful Domestic Eavesdropping

The DC Circuit yesterday upheld an award of $10,000 in statutory damages, $50,000 in punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees against a government official who received and caused the publication of a telephone conversation obtained through illegal eavesdropping within the United States. (Via Bashman). The defendant in this long-running legal saga: Democratic Congressman James McDermott. The court found that it was undisputed that McDermott knew that the phone conversation was recorded illegally, a fact that he then conveyed to Adam Clymer of the New York Times, who ran the contents of the illegally tapped phone call on the front page of the Times on January 10, 1997. The plaintiff? None other than House Majority Leader John Boehner, whose cell phone was illegally intercepted when he joined a conference call with the then- House Republican leadership regarding an ethics complaint against Newt Gingrich.

Interestingly, Judge David Sentelle, who was relentlessly demonized by Democrats throughout the 1990s for his role in appointing Ken Starr, disssented, noting among other things that under the majority’s reasoning, Rep. Boehner could also have sued the Times.

So, if you are keeping score at home, that would be one House Democrat to zero current Congressional or White House Republicans who have been found by a court of law to have participated in illegal domestic surveillance of political opponents.

“Where in the World Is John Snow?”

Yesterday’s NY Sun asked a good question about why the Bush Administration isn’t getting more credit for the current economic good times and pushing harder for its economic agenda. And speculated that Treasury Secretary John Snow should have been replaced by now:

To the untrained eye . . . Mr. Snow is not being pushed as the administration’s finance spokesman, even though there are a number of crucial economic issues being debated. According to Washington insiders who did not wish to be quoted, Mr. Snow agreed last fall to resign, and was expected to step aside earlier this year. A Treasury spokesman declined to comment on the issue. It appears that the White House has simply been too busy to find a replacement. Among those mentioned to possibly take his place is Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The administration may have concluded that the timing for advancing Mr. Card’s career was poor, and decided to wait for a bit.

The High Priesthood

Tom Elia flags this fatuous comment by Molly Ivins (is there any other kind?):

Bloggers are not news-gatherers, but opinion-mongers. I have long argued that no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter — nothing like interviewing all four eyewitnesses to an automobile accident and then trying to write an accurate account of what happened. Or, as author-journalist Curtis Wilkie puts it, “Unless you can cover a five-car pile-up on Route 128, you shouldn’t be allowed to cover a presidential campaign.”

It’s bad enough to have to listen to the argument that citizens of a democracy shouldn’t be entitled to publish opinions on a war if they haven’t fought in one; it’s even worse to hear that those citizens – whether or not they have fought in a war – shouldn’t publish opinions on one if they haven’t covered a war from the hazardous terrain of the Pentagon briefing room . . .
I’m tempted to retort that reporters shouldn’t be allowed to offer opinions about the law, legislation, judges or the courts if they haven’t gone to law school. The fact is, one of the beauties of the blogosphere is the diversity of experiences people bring to bear – there are many bloggers who can write about law, business, the military, science, medicine and other topics from first-hand experiences that few journalists can match. And on the topic of politics in particular, with the exception of academia, hardly any business in America is less subject to regulation than journalism; journalists tend, if anything, to be uniquely unqualified to understand how government interacts with the governed.
Anyway, I’ve never been in the “blogs will replace and destroy old media” camp, so to some extent I actually agree with Ivins’ broader point that blogs can’t really replace the newsgathering resources of newspapers. But if there’s one area where blogs are every bit the equal of old media, it’s the ability to dispense informed and incisive opinion. Bloggers who are more worthy of attention than Molly Ivins just aren’t hard to find.

Shoot to Die

This is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard, and makes you wonder how tough Eliot Spitzer’s administration would be on criminals with weapons rather than Blackberries:

[State] Sen. David Paterson is pushing a bill that would require cops to shoot to wound, rather than using deadly force – drawing outrage from officers.
The bill also would create a new provision for second-degree manslaughter that would be reserved specifically for an officer who “uses more than the minimal amount necessary” to stop a crime suspect.
Paterson, who is on Eliot Spitzer’s ticket as lieutenant governor, has reintroduced the bill twice since first sponsoring it in 2001, refusing to let it die.
In a memo urging its passage, Paterson wrote: “There is no justification for terminating another’s life when a less extreme measure may accomplish the same objective.”
Current law gives cops a wide berth to use deadly force when a suspect presents a danger to another person’s life.
Paterson (D-Harlem) wrote that a police officer, under his legislation, “would have to try to shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg.”

First of all, this man has obviously never fired a gun – not that I have either, but I at least respect the fact that it’s extremely difficult to hit a moving target in the arm or leg. My dad was NYPD and always told us the cops were told to shoot for the middle, that way you have a chance of hitting something and stopping the guy. As any soldier or cop knows, you don’t shoot with intent to kill or intent to wound; you shoot with intent to stop someone coming at you (or at someone else) – you shoot to immobilize, to incapacitate.
And second, cops are also (wisely) instructed that firing a gun is deadly force, which it is. You start shooting, somebody could die. That’s a lesson that shouldn’t be diluted with fantasies of sci-fi style stun-setting shootings and Hollywood marksmanship. Shoot to kill or don’t shoot at all is the only sensible rule.
UPDATE: I forgot until after I’d posted this that Paterson has been blind since infancy. Maybe that makes him less of a fool for having no clue how hard it is to shoot to wound, but it doesn’t make this any more practical as public policy.

Enforcing Campaign Finance Laws

Apropos of this story:
Most campaign finance laws are toothless, which only adds to their hypocrisy. But a good test of whether a law regarding campaign finance – or elections generally – is worth enacting is whether a violation should be sufficient to result in (a) imprisoning a public official, (b) overturning an election result or (c) calling a new election. And you should consider that possibility in the worst case scenario, where it means convicting a politician you strongly support and/or handing over an election to an adversary you loathe.
Some laws are clearly worth that: laws against voter fraud, laws against outright bribery, even laws against taking money from foreign governments. I would argue that if you replaced the current scheme with clear, bright-line full-disclosure rules, non-trivial violations of those rules could be sufficient to result in one of those three severe outcomes.
If the purpose of the law in question isn’t worth overturning an election or throwing an elected official in the slammer, then it shouldn’t be on the books in the first place. Free speech, even about politics, has its outer limits, but within those limits the government shouldn’t be handing out speeding tickets.

The Smoking Gun

I just have to say, to all the media people hyperventilating over a day’s delay in reporting the news that Dick Cheney accidentally shot a hunting companion: get a grip! Is the story newsworthy, in the sense of being interesting? Of course. But in the sense of being important? No. And news that’s interesting but not particularly important can wait.
And to all those on the left looking to make a ‘scandal’ of some sort out of this: really, it’s time to apply the Clinton-Gore test: what would you say if this was Gore during the Clinton years. Certainly, we conservatives would have mocked Gore mercilessly, which is all in good fun (I’d have run some Cheney jokes here myself the last few days, but the good ones were pretty well-circulated already). But I just can’t imagine people on the right getting angry or indignant over such a story, as opposed to rolling on the floor in laughter.
(And it should go without saying that anyone who tried to use this story to draw a lesson that’s anti-gun or anti-hunting is not going to find a lot of votes in that position; there’s a reason guys like Gore and Kerry have taken such pains to be photographed while hunting).

The Trouble With Harry

If Harry Reid wants to make favors for Jack Abramoff an issue, bring it on:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator’s staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist’s team about legislation affecting other clients.
The activities – detailed in billing records and correspondence obtained by The Associated Press – are far more extensive than previously disclosed. They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donations from Abramoff’s firm, lobbying partners and clients.


Abramoff’s records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid’s office in 2001 alone.
Most were to discuss Democratic legislation that would have applied the U.S. minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and Abramoff client, but would have given the islands a temporary break on the wage rate, the billing records show.
Reid also intervened on government matters at least five times in ways helpful to Abramoff’s tribal clients, once opposing legislation on the Senate floor and four times sending letters pressing the Bush administration on tribal issues. Reid collected donations around the time of each action.


Abramoff’s firm also hired one of Reid’s top legislative aides as a lobbyist. The aide later helped throw a fundraiser for Reid at Abramoff’s firm that raised donations from several of his lobbying partners.
And Reid’s longtime chief of staff accepted a free trip to Malaysia arranged by a consulting firm connected to Abramoff that recently has gained attention in the influence-peddling investigation that has gripped the Capitol.

There’s more; read the whole thing. Is all of this the end of the world? No. But it certainly shows that Reid was every bit as much in bed with Abramoff, and maybe moreso, than many of the Republicans he is criticizing, and as such his ties to Abramoff will become a major liability to the Democrats’ need to make the Abramoff issue a campaign theme this fall (as Reid himself has signalled it will be their main theme, if not their only theme). If there’s nothing wrong with what Harry Reid did – a position Democrats will need to take if they don’t want to throw their own leader under the bus – then the bar for a Republican scandal over ties to Abramoff will have to be set pretty high.

Now That’s More Like It

Original headline on regarding John Boehner’s victory in the race for GOP House Majority Leader:
House GOP picks man to replace indicted DeLay
Which, typically, simultaneously downplayed Boehner (“man,” as if they just picked some random dude off the street) and trumpeted DeLay’s indictment, which isn’t exactly news.
The headline now, last I checked:
Reform candidate wins GOP House leadership battle
Actually, that’s taking it a little far; John Shadegg was the Mr. Outside, root-and-branch small-government reform candidate; Roy Blunt was the Mr. Inside, big-spending, spread-the-wealth status quo candidate. Boehner, perhaps wisely, positioned himself in the middle, allowing Members to vote for reform without radical change. He actually played this whole thing out pretty shrewdly, which is an encouraging sign for his future stewardship of the House GOP; while Blunt was loudly high-handed and Shadegg’s public supporters tore into Blunt, Boehner managed to hang back a bit. He was nobody’s favorite candidate, but then that’s usually the type of person who becomes the leader of a legislative caucus. And he did – in part thanks to Shadegg – end up campaigning for spending reforms, particularly transparency and reform of the earmark process. Not a great day for Republicans, but a good start.

A Taxonomy of Washington Scandals

Continuing this week’s theme of writings in other venues, I have a column up at the Weekly Standard this morning on the ten basic types of Washington scandal.
Space and time didn’t permit me to do an exhaustive comparative look at the scandals of the Bush and Clinton Administrations, but the bottom line is that the Bush White House simply hasn’t been implicated to the same extent in the types of scandals that turn on personal greed, vice and venality. Congressional Republicans, however, have been another story.

Targeting the Burbs

Pejman and McQ take on the farce of Maryland’s legislation attempting to raise Wal-Mart’s cost of hiring employees – or, alternatively, depress its wages – by mandating that a fixed percentage of its payroll be spent on health insurance. The attack on Wal-Mart, of course, comes from a variety of directions; unions and small store owners who view the company as a competitive threat are the leaders. This particular bill seems to have been driven as well by legislators looking to beef up government revenues. I particularly liked this bit of economic illiteracy:

Many state legislatures have looked to Maryland as a test case, as they face fast-rising Medicaid costs, and Wal-Mart’s critics say that too many of its employees have been forced to turn to Medicaid.

Let’s consider what this could mean:
1. People who had health insurance at their prior job quit to work at Wal-Mart, thus becoming eligible for Medicaid. This seems unlikely to have happened in large numbers, unless of course the prior job made less in wages and they preferred to get more wages instead – a choice the state wants to take away.
2. People turned down a chance to get a job with health insurance so they could work at Wal-Mart instead. Same deal as #1.
3. People had health insurance at their prior jobs but were forced to work at Wal-Mart when Wal-Mart drove their previous employer out of business. This may be the case in some situations, but remember that Wal-Mart’s primary competitors are usually mom-and-pop stores that don’t typically have generous benefits packages.
4. People left smaller employers with no health insurance to work at a bigger company with no health insurance. This is more likely – so the state is just punishing Wal-Mart for being big enough to attract enemies, even though it’s no different from a host of small businesses and creates no additional Medicaid liabilities.
5. People who got jobs at Wal-Mart previously did not have jobs. In such cases, of course, no additional Medicaid liabilities are created, but unemployed people are put to work and get a steady paycheck and work experience. This should be discouraged?
Meanwhile, if attacking the nation’s largest retailer isn’t enough, Joel Kotkin enumerates a variety of ways in which left-wing radicals, including the mayor of Los Angeles, are trying to resist the natural desire of Americans of all kinds to pursue what was once known as the “American Dream” – single-family house, yard, car – in the suburbs. I say “left-wing radicals” because I have to hope that, as with the attack on Wal-Mart, the Democratic party as a whole knows better than to attack the suburban lifestyle.
If the GOP cements itself as the party of people who live in suburbs and the party of Wal-Mart, its customers, its shareholders and its employees, there won’t be a whole lot of America left for the Democrats to represent.

Seeing Beyond Today

Friday’s Washington Post noted the lack of public interest in the intra-Republican battle for House Majority Leader:

As some House Republicans campaign to oust their scandal-blemished GOP leadership team, they are facing an obstacle back home. It seems many voters could not care less.
In interviews, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers who are home for a long January break said constituents are talking a great deal about high gas prices and even a best-selling book about killing the Internal Revenue Service, but not much about the intrigue gripping Capitol Hill. Even many of those voters who are closely following the leadership contest or the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal reportedly tend to deride all lawmakers as money-grubbing operators, and express little faith that Congress can be cleaned up by any politician.

I’m sure this is quite true: voters are perenially cynical about corruption, and few of them have the foggiest clue who Roy Blunt, John Boehner and John Shadegg are, or what they stand for.
Now. In January.
But anybody who takes this as a sign that nothing needs to be done doesn’t know the first thing about the rythms of the political caldendar. What it really means is, there’s still time to fix the problem. But once the Democrats start rolling out attack ads in September and October, it will be too late, and Republicans who don’t have a good answer won’t have time to do anything about it.
As for corruption as an issue: yes, there’s no reason to think the Democrats would be any better. And everyone knows that lobbying reform, from either party, is a pointless farce, just like campaign finance reform. As long as people have huge financial incentives to redirect Washington’s vast influence over taxes, spending and regulation, there will be corruption; as long as there is politics in money there will be money in politics. But for all of that, when the voting public thinks the incumbents are corrupt, its default assumption is to throw the bums out and start with some new bums.
Republicans may yet survive all of this anyway, of course. Many of the “corruption” charges are overblown; gerrymandering keeps many House seats permanently uncompetitive; and voters are far less likely to “throw the bums out” if the economy is doing well and the other side can’t be trusted to deal with foreign policy crises. But only a fool would ignore the need and opportunity to inject new vigor and direction into the GOP House leadership and make a clean break with business as usual. John Boehner would be an improvement in that regard over Roy Blunt, and Shadegg would be a very significant improvement, which is why I – like many conservatives outside of elective office – am supporting Shadegg. While there’s still time.

To Be Blunt

Roy Blunt seems to have missed the memo about not ticking off Dale Franks. Tell us how you really feel, Dale:

I’ll make a deal with Rep. Blunt. How’s this sound? I’ll go ahead and write whatever the hell I want to write. In return, if Rep. Blunt doesn’t like it, then he can cry me a river. I think that sounds fair. Somehow, I managed to get along fine for the first 41 years of my life without talking to Roy Blunt, and things turned out OK. I’m not a Washington journalist. My livelihood doesn’t depend on having access to powerful DC insiders. So, I think I’ll be fine if I never talk to him again.
Indeed, I would prefer it.

Read the whole thing; it’s priceless, and yes, it really does take me back to what the House was like in the early 90s. Blunt may well be a great Majority Whip – nose-counting and arm-twisting are useful skills, and someone in the leadership needs to have them – but I’m not optimistic about November if Blunt winds up as the face of the House GOP.

Advice and Consent

Article II of the Constitution provides that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . Judges of the supreme Court.” There remains, however, lingering controversy about the role of the Senate in giving (or withholding) that advice and consent, and all the moreso in today’s world of powerful (and, hence, politicized) courts.
There remains broad, bipartisan agreement that the Senate’s role in this process is not as a rubber stamp, and that the Senate has an obligation to assure itself that a judicial nominee is competent to the job, qualified by some relevant experience, has the necessary honesty and integrity, has at least some measure of independence from the person of the President, and is not otherwise disabled by conflicts of interest from serving on the bench. That’s the easy part, and we have seen nominees in the past fail to surmount one or more of those basic tests, from Abe Fortas to Douglas Ginsburg to Harriet Miers.
The trickier question is ideology: the compatability of a judge’s judicial philosophy and likely (as predicted by the public record at the time of confirmation) rulings on contentious issues with the beliefs and ideals of Senators and their constituents. Each Senator’s determination of when and whether to vote for or against a judicial nominee (or, in the extreme case, to filibuster) will be determined and publicly justified on at least two levels. One, as is familiar, is the level of political calculation: each Senator seeks to please the wishes of the voters in his or her State, the broader electoral interests of his or her party, the demands of activist groups that provide funding and logistical assistance in re-election campaigns, and (for many Senators) the wishes of primary and general election voters in future presidential contests. Often, these interests are conflicting: Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, by committing to vote for Samuel Alito, is clearly acting in a way that will please Nebraska voters but disserve the interests of his party at large and the wishes of activist groups that customarily support Democrats. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, if (as expected) he votes against Alito, will displease his Indiana constituents but please the primary voters for his anticipated 2008 presidential bid.
Aside from pure politics, however, Senators must give some thought to the public, philosophical justifications they advance for supporting, opposing or filibustering a nominee. There are seven basic models a Senator can follow in making and justifying that decision:
1. Deference to the President: The “Deference to the President” model assumes that, so long as a nominee is qualified and has no ethical issues, the Senate’s job is done, and the nominee should be approved. This model is usually advocated by a number of Senators from whichever party holds the White House – especially if that party is a minority in the Senate – and by a handful of Senators from the other party who need cover for voting to confirm because the president is popular in their state. While there’s certainly an argument in favor of this model – after all, the president gets to do the nominating, and his election should have consequences – as any number of liberal pundits have pointed out over the past five years, giving carte blanche to the president may depoliticize the confirmation process, but it only increases the incentive to politicize the nomination process, since there’s no check on the president’s nomination of highly ideological judges.
2. Judicial Philosophy: The “Judicial Philosophy” approach, popular now among conservatives, appears, at least, to be a variant on the Deference model; the argument is that nominees should not be voted up or down (or filibustered) based on their likely or anticipated votes, but should be confirmed so long as they demonstrate a reasonable process for deciding cases. At the extreme, a lack of coherent judicial philosophy may indicate a lack of competence, as was a key concern with Harriet Miers; while there is no need for a judge to swear allegiance to an all-encompassing theory of judicial legitimacy, a judge must at least show the ability to offer reasoned justifications for his or her decisions.
The downside of the Judicial Philosophy model is that it is unsatisfying. There’s too much disagreement on what constitutes a reasonable philosophy for such a model to produce consistent results across both parties, thus defeating the ability of such a model, even if widely adopted, to deliver on its promise of a depoliticized judicial nomination process (which is not to say that a sound judicial philosophy is unimportant to reducing political influence within the judiciary, just to recognize that the political process finds it insufficient to answer its demands). And there are too many pressures even from conservative adherents of this model to nominate “good” judges on particular issues for anyone to pretend that we are all entirely indifferent to the results of the process.
3. The President’s Promises: This is the model I personally prefer, as I explained back in October:

[P]residents are entitled – indeed, obligated, if you take seriously the idea that legitimacy flows from the people’s approval of the principled positions taken during an election campaign – to nominate Supreme Court Justices who are consistent with the publicly declared philosophy of the president, and the Senate is justified in rejecting nominees on ideological grounds only if the nominee is far out of whack with what the people were entitled to expect from the president they elected. To give an example, Bill Clinton ran as essentially a social liberal – as far as the issues that are decided by courts are concerned – but with one significant exception, that being that Clinton supported the death penalty. There were a number of Supreme Court Justices in the late 80s/early 90s – I believe Brennan, Blackmun and Marshall all did this – who made a practice of voting to overturn all death sentences, to the point of dissenting from the Court’s orders denying certiorari in each and every death penalty case not taken by the Court. Clinton was entitled to appoint liberal Justices, as he did, and as were confirmed by the Senate with significant Republican support. But I do think the Senate would have been justified in rejecting a Clinton nominee who was, in the Brennan mold, a doctrinaire, no-exceptions opponent of the death penalty, because that would have been out of step with the philosophy the president campaigned on.
In Bush’s case, he unquestionably campaigned and has promoted himself in office as a social conservative – pro-life, anti-same-sex-marriage, in favor of an expanded role for religion in public life. He has also campaigned and governed, at least in terms of stated philosophy, as an economic conservative. There is no justification for rejecting a Bush nominee on grounds that the nominee appears to be pro-life or pro-business. And Bush touted his belief that he admired Justices Scalia and Thomas; thus the Senate should have no grounds for rejecting a nominee in that mold. On the other hand, a nominee who was a genuinely radical small-government conservative or libertarian – i.e., someone who wanted to bring back the rule of Lochner under which the courts make substantive judgments about economic regulations – might legitimately be rejected as out of the mainstream of the Republican party and the president who leads it. . .
The flip side of that is that the president’s own supporters do have an obligation, I believe, to reject a nominee who is dramatically inconsistent, in terms of judicial philosophy, with the president’s own stated philosophy.

4. The Senator’s Choice: The Senator’s Choice model, advocated by Chuck Schumer, treats the nomination process like any ordinary legislation and allows the Senator to vote against anyone he or she disagrees with: the president nominates who he wants, but the nominee gets confirmed only if 50 Senators approve of and agree with the nominee. This model, which treats Senate elections as particularly important in shaping the courts, is little different from Deference to the President when the president’s party controls the Senate (unless there are significant dissenters within the president’s party) but it rises in importance when the Senate and the White House are in opposite hands. Traditionally, most Senators have been hesitant to follow this model explicitly without any deference to the president’s right to nominate; Ginsburg, Scalia and Roberts all received many votes from Senators who disagreed with them, and Clarence Thomas was confirmed by a Democratic-controlled Senate.
5. Consensus: The Consensus model is a variant on the Senator’s Choice model, but even more demanding and explicitly supportive of the filibuster: the demand for a “consensus” nominee broadly acceptable to a lage component of the Senate presupposes that a nominee who is unacceptable to as many as 40 Senators should not be confirmed. The main weakness of this model is the Framers’ unwillingness to require a supermajority for judicial confirmation; Article II speaks only of the consent of the Senate, not any special proportion thereof.
6. Litmus Test: Under the Litmus Test model, the philosophy/ideology of the nominee is a factor in confirmation only to the extent it can predict the nominee’s votes on particular issues, but the nominee’s view on one or more non-negotiable issues (usually abortion is #1 on this list) becomes a make-or-break factor. Conservative senators and many liberals regard this model as one that should not be admitted to in public, whether followed or not, but there are open exponents of it, most notably pro-abortion Senators like Arlen Specter (who has voted for apparently anti-Roe nominees anyway) and Dianne Feinstein, and it has had popularity at times in the past in fights over segregation and the New Deal. The Litmus Test model is perhaps the most supportive of the filibuster, since it assumes that some issues are too important to be left to uncommitted judges.
7. Status Quo: The Status Quo model has been cited much by Democrats lately, with talk of nominees who will “preserve” the Court’s “balance” and adhere to “legal mainstream” positions, but at its core it’s the most incoherent and in some ways the most small-c conservative model, as it expects that the nomination process will be used to ossify the current state of the law and prevent the appointment of judges who will bring their own, independent judgment to the bench. It’s also deeply anti-democratic, assuming that the nomination and confirmation process will be entirely unaffected by elections.

Cleaning Your Own House

This story from Daily Kos diarist Mark27 is clearly written more in the spirit of bitterness than dispassionate analysis, but of course Mark27 is right that if the GOP picks a new House Majority Leader who is seen as a genuinely clean reformer – and John Shadegg does seem by far the best of the three candidates on that score – and is able to make some headway against the corrupting influence of earmarked spending and special-interest tax breaks that attract lobbyists, the Democrats’ “culture of corruption” theme will dissolve, as the GOP will have proven itself capable of fixing the problem.
What I wonder is whether Democrats who agree with this analysis recognize its corollary: the harm inflicted on their own party by their to-the-last-dog defense of Bill Clinton.

The Roe Effect

The NY Daily News reports some appalling figures:

For every 100 babies born in New York City, women had 74 abortions in 2004, according to newly released figures that reaffirm the city as the abortion capital of the country.

And abortions for out-of-town women performed in the city increased from 57 to 70 out of every 1,000 between 1996 and 2004, a subtle yet noticeable trend that experts say may reflect growing hurdles against the procedure in more conservative parts of the country.

The new Vital Statistics report released by the city Department of Health this month shows there were 124,100 live births, 11,700 spontaneous abortions and 91,700 induced abortions in the city in 2004.

That means 40 out of 100 pregnancies in the city ended in a planned abortion – almost double the national average of 24 of 100 pregnancies in 2002, estimated by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a Manhattan-based nonprofit group that researches reproductive health issues.

First of all, what’s a “spontaneous abortion”? Please tell me that’s not a euphemism for miscarriages intended to make abortion sound like a natural occurrence.
Second, when you subtract out the out of town abortions, 40% of pregnancies are aborted – a number far too high to square with the common rhetorical effort to tie abortion to situations of rape, incest and other extreme cases.
Now, on to a not-unrelated story:

Southern and Western states are growing so much faster than the rest of the country that several are expected to grab House seats from the Northeast and Midwest when Congress is reapportioned in 2010.

Demographers and political analysts project that Texas and Florida could each gain as many as three House seats. Ohio and New York could lose as many as two seats apiece.


The projections are based on state population estimates by the Census Bureau. The bureau released its July 2005 estimates Thursday, showing that Nevada grew at a faster rate than any other state for the 19th consecutive year, followed by Arizona, Idaho, Florida and Utah. Kentucky grew a modest 0.8 percent.

Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts lost population, as did the District of Columbia. The populations of North Dakota, Ohio and Michigan grew, but at a slower rate than others.

Strangely, when you kill off 40% of your children, your population doesn’t grow so fast. And one more thought, while we’re on that subject:

Continue reading The Roe Effect

Misleading Headline

AP: “Bush to Give Up $6,000 Linked to Abramoff”. Which makes it sound like Bush took that amount in personal gifts – when, in fact, the $6,000 is legitimate, lawful donations to the Bush campaign, and the give-back (donations to charity, actually) is just a gesture of putting a xleazy character at arms’ length rather than a sign that the BC04 campaign accepted anything it shouldn’t have.
In a similar vein, I’m guardedly skeptical of the efforts to tie various Democrats to Abramoff to the extent that they just show Democrats taking campaign funds from a lobbyist who was particularly crooked; to get real traction, you either need to show officials taking personal benefits or receiving campaign contributions linked in some improper way to official action.
And while I wholeheartedly with National Review that Tom DeLay should remain stepped-down and that the House GOP needs to use the occasion to enact some real reforms, including reforms of the process by which taxpayer funds are routed to earmarked pet projects (repeat after me: you can’t get money out of politics unless you get politics out of money), I don’t agree with Captain Ed that the Abramoff scandal will decisively shift the balance of power from Congress to the White House and destroy the 2008 presidential aspirations of all current Senators. This scandal stinks and will stink some more, and it will be noticed by voters already sick of runaway spending and coziness with special interests, but it ain’t Watergate and may not even be Abscam.