I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, January 16, 2006

GOP Dog Training

I have two dogs who are well-behaved only when they think it’s in their interests, and so I’m always on the look-out for really effective dog training methods. The GOP definitely has well-honed dog-training skills, and as a result, they now have a very good, well-behaved dog named Arlen. He used to be a bad dog, but no longer:

Step 1: Arlen the Bad Dog

The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation. . . .

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely," Specter said, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

"The president is well aware of what happened, when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster," Specter added, referring to Senate Democrats’ success over the past four years in blocking the confirmation of many of Bush’s conservative judicial picks. "... And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning."

Step 2: Arlen is Beaten with a Rolled-up Newspaper

The Washington Times - 11/08/04:

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, says he is not convinced by Mr. Specter's assurances that all judicial nominees will be treated fairly. "He is a problem, and he must be derailed," Mr. Dobson said on ABC's "This Week."

Mr. Dobson described Mr. Specter's original remarks last week as "one of the most foolish and ill-considered comments that a politician has made in a long time." "There are many, many members of that committee [who] are more qualified and less of a problem then Senator Specter," he said.

National Review Editors - 11/05/04:

It follows that Arlen Specter should not be elevated to the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. . . Specter's litmus-test attitude (after pressure on Thursday, he backtracked, in a statement, saying he has no litmus test — but we know him too well to take the chance) is wrong in principle, because it demands that judges pledge fealty to an anti-constitutional decision. For the social conservatives who just elected Republicans to office for the very purpose of getting sound judges confirmed, Specter's elevation would not just be a symbolic slap in the face but an actual betrayal. Find the man another sinecure.

The Washington Post - 11/14/04:

Appearing yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called Specter's comments "disheartening" and said the Pennsylvanian had "not yet" made a persuasive case for the chairmanship. Frist said Specter will meet this week with the Senate GOP leadership as well as Judiciary Committee Republicans but that a final decision will not be made until January.

Step 3: Arlen Whimpers and Lays Quietly on the Floor

However, conservatives began a campaign to deny him the chairmanship after his comments on Roe v. Wade and judicial nominees. Specter then met with many conservative Republican Senators, and based on assurances he gave them, he was recommended for the Judiciary Committee's chairmanship in late 2004.

The Washington Post - 11/17/04

Key Republicans said yesterday they believe that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will be approved by GOP colleagues as chairman of the Judiciary Committee despite an uproar over his expressed doubts that a Supreme Court nominee who opposes abortion rights could be confirmed by the Senate.

The predictions followed an extraordinary, nearly two-week-long campaign by Specter to firm up his shaky grip on the chairmanship. It culminated yesterday in personal appeals by Specter to GOP leaders and committee colleagues to trust his assurances that he will do all within his power to win speedy approval for President Bush's judicial nominees. . . . .

Step 4: Arlen the Good Dog

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., closed five days of hearings Friday and announced his support for Alito's ascension to the high court.

Step 5: Arlen Gets Patted on the Head and is Thrown a Treat

Blogs for Bush:

Well, the worries are laid to rest - Senator Specter has handled himself and the two Supreme Court nominees deftly and with exceptional patience and grace. He's done a good job by the Republican Party, and we owe him thanks for a job well done.


This is also a good time to reconsider the Republican leadership's decision a year ago not to deny Arlen Specter the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I don't think there's any question that this was the right move.

Specter has conducted himself well, and might have caused problems had he been on the outside. Unlike with the gang of 14 deal, Power Line had the right line on this one. We grudgingly agreed with the decision of the Senate leadership not to block Specter.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review:

Specter did a fine job presiding over the hearings. That's what he's supposed to do. As far as the past goes-- a year ago this November--he issued a warning to the president and announced a litmus test--against too-conservative nomineees--the morning after the presidential election. It was our view (my words here, not "ours") that Senate Republicans should get a backbone--publicly acknowledge that conservative values won the election and they should actually take the lead in D.C.--and say club rules be damned. They chose not to. I think that was a mistake, albeit, clearly, not the end of the world. He's chairman. As chairman, he did his job with the two excellent candidates the White House put up who made it to the committee. Good for him.

I honestly wish my dogs were that easily trained. They could learn a lot from Arlen.

My Ecosystem Details