Right Question

Asking the right question is usually more productive than trying to prove the right answer.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

If even liberal columnists aren't listening to Democratic politicians...

... who is?

Washington Post op-ed columnist E.J. Dionne's latest installment calls on Senate Democrats to vote against John Roberts. The main thrust of the essay seems to be that esoteric questions of executive privilege during senatorial confirmations involving nominees who have worked in past administrations should be more important than, for example, the nominee's qualifications. But this transparent attempt to manufacture an excuse for Senate Democrats to vote against Roberts isn't what inspired me to respond.

At the start, Dionne quotes Senator Graham's response to some questioning by Senate Democrats, who seem to be saying that "the only way you can have a good heart is adopt my value system." Dionne dismisses this critique with a simple: " the doubts about Roberts have nothing to do with his good heart." -- which begs the question, "whose doubts are you referring to, Mr. Dionne?"

The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, just the other day opined at length and in writing that the problem with Judge Roberts is that he has no compassion, no understanding, no mercy. The chief spokesman for the Democratic Party clearly states his doubts about Judge Roberts, and they are very much about his good heart.

But then, Howard Dean is not a senator. Perhaps Mr. Dionne is more interested in the doubts expressed by Democratic senators on the Committee on the Judiciary. For those who missed the hearings, a full transcript is available from the A.P.

On day four, as the Senators were essentially getting their final thoughts into the record, Senator Kennedy opined at length that the "law requires both a heart and a head. If you do not have a heart, it becomes a sterile set of rules removed from human problems and it will not help." and asked Judge Roberts what assurances he could provide that he wouldn't be like that.

After asking a few questions, Senator Schumer summarized his feelings at exhaustive length, first laying out the reasons to confirm Judge Roberts, and then the reasons to oppose him. He said, "Let me go to the con side here. First, is the question of compassion and humanity. I said on the first days of these hearings it's important to determine not just the quality of your mind but the fullness of your heart."

Senator Feinstein jumped in to turn Schumer's three 'cons' into a question: "I think that Senator Schumer really summed up the dilemmas. And not only he has them on our side... What kind of a justice would you be, John Roberts?"

On day three, Senator Durbin was quite straightforward about his doubts: "so frequently, when asked, you have said, appropriately, that you will be driven and inspired by the rule of law, which is an appropriate term, but a hard and cold term by itself. We know you have the great legal mind and have proven it with the questions here. But the questions that have been asked more and more today really want to know what's in your heart."

So, that's four of the eight Democratic Senators on the Committee directly expressing doubts about Judge Roberts' heart, and the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee stating quite clearly that he has none. In that context, it just seems bizarre for E.J. Dionne to write, "the doubts about Roberts have nothing to do with his good heart."


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