June 15, 2001
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A news article in the national section of today's New York Times reports on a dispute in the Senate over how much power the Democrats should have in blocking President Bush's judicial nominees. The Times reports that "If the Senate held a vote on the two issues, the Republicans would probably not prevail. But the vote would put the Democrats in the politically embarrassing position of opposing public disclosure and looking like they were ready to block President Bush's Supreme Court picks."
So it's now the position of the Times news department that it is "politically embarrassing" for the Democrats to appear ready to block President Bush's Supreme Court picks.
What's so embarrassing? Presumably, one reason that the voters who elected Democrats to the Senate put them there was so that they had a check on Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. One reason that the Constitution gives the Senate a role in confirming justices is to provide just such a check. If a Bush nominee were genuinely unfit for the court, presumably there would be some political benefit to the Democrats in saving the nation from such a nominee.
Anyway, if the Times news department thinks it is "politically embarrassing" to be prepared to block Mr. Bush's judicial nominees, then the Times newsroom ought to be embarrassed of the newspaper's own editorial page. In a May 11, 2001 editorial, "A Battle for the Courts," the Times wrote: "Democrats must not be timid in using the powerful leverage they have in a Senate and Judiciary Committee evenly divided between the two parties. If they stay united they can train the White House to send up mainstream conservative nominees or enter negotiations in which ideologically conservative nominees would have to be balanced by some liberal jurists chosen by the Democrats. A key is for the Democrats to stand firm on enforcing the prerogative under the so-called blue-slip policy that allows any senator to block a nominee from his home state."
The editorial continued: "no senator is obliged to regard the president as having an uninhibited right to reshape federal courts by imposing a political uniformity based on his own philosophy. It would plainly be best if bruising partisan battles over judges could be kept to a minimum. But what Mr. Bush calls civility is less important than preserving the impartiality and independence of the judiciary, and the Senate's proper role in the advise and consent process. " (The Constitution's word is "advice," but that's a small point.)
The Times editorial, that is, urged the Democrats to do exactly what the Times news article today terms "politically embarrassing."
Paid Agents: An editorial in today's New York Times argues against the plan by Senator Lieberman and Senator Helms to support freedom and democracy in Cuba. The editorial calls the plan "counterproductive" and says it "would be likely to do more harm than good." The editorial says, "It is unclear how Americans would overcome the obstacles that Cuban authorities would erect to impede or manipulate delivery of such assistance. Even if aid actually managed to reach legitimate democrats and independent groups, the assistance would mark them as paid agents of the United States." This, the Times claims, would "discredit" them.
These same arguments could have been used to argue against American aid to the Solidarity movement in Poland, which was successful and important in winning the Cold War. The truly telling sentence is the one that says American aid would "mark" the democrats as paid agents of the United States. The idea that there is some taint or "mark" attached to being an agent of the United States, or to accepting money from it, may hold sway in the editorial rooms of the New York Times. But among those fighting for liberty in unfree lands like Iraq and Cuba and Soviet-dominated Poland, association with the United States and its ideals of freedom and democracy is and was not a mark of shame but a badge of honor.
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