Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Supreme Court: Veins Void of Blood

"When we speak of preserving the constitution, we mean not the paper on which it is written, but the spirit which dwells in it. Government may lose all of the real character, its genius, its temper without losing its appearance.

Republicanism, unless you guard it, will creep out of its case of parchment, like a snake out of its skin. You may have despotism under the name of a Republic.

You may look on a goverment, and see it possesses all the external modes of freedom, and yet finding nothing of the essence, the vitality, of freedom in it; just as you may contemplate an embalmed body, where art hath preserved proportion and form, amid nerves without action, and veins void of blood"

Daniel Webster
July 4, 1806
Concord, Mass.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


We had a very good call today and were at our 50 person limit again so we may need to split into two calls next week as more folks come into the national Coalition. On the call, we discussed:

1) Timing projections on a possible Supreme Court vacancy and process.
2) An introduction to key developments and a who's who on the issue (Third Branch-grasstops) (Progress for America-ads) as two key coalition players in Washington, and the important role of the small Federalist Society lawyers working group.) .
3) The short list and the top three contenders Luttig (Federalist Society pick), Roberts (Washington insiders pick) and Garza (a Texas/Hispanic pick).
4) Update on filibuster reform (6 confirmed, Boyle, and the Bush Admin 3 (Myers, Haines, and Kavanaugh) .
5) Update on Henry Saad.

Below is an article that should remind us of the strength of our horizontal Coalition, but also what the vertical Left does right...i.e. being team players and working together. .

Manny Miranda

Bench Warfare

The coming battle over President Bush's Supreme Court nominee.

by Duncan Currie


BY NOW, RALPH NEAS, head of the liberal group People for the American Way (PFAW), must be used to hyperbolic appraisals of his influence from both friend and foe. The "101st senator," Ted Kennedy once called him on the Senate floor. "When it comes to judicial nominations," opined the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page, "Mr. Neas might as well be the one and only Senator. The 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee salute and follow [his] orders."

Neas takes this all in stride. "I've been attacked, I believe, 53 times by the Wall Street Journal editorial board," he laughs, and he deems it a source of "great pride" for PFAW. As for the Journal's exaggerated estimate of his power, he adds, "I can't think of anything more absurd."

He needn't be so modest. Along with Alliance for Justice chief Nan Aron and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights boss Wade Henderson, Neas is one of Washington's three most powerful liberal activists in the judicial wars. Whatever their personal sway over Senate Democrats, Neas, Aron, and Henderson sit atop a vast assembly of nationally known progressive interest groups, including NOW, NARAL, the National Women's Law Center, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and the Sierra Club.

Aron's Alliance and Henderson's Leadership Conference are both umbrella organizations, the latter being the oldest and largest such civil rights association in America.

But along with PFAW, they're also the principal helmsmen of the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary. According to Neas, the coalition boasts "about 70 active organizations," and they function together like a well-oiled machine. Over the past few years, Neas says, there has been a coalition meeting "almost every day." The steering committee meets "at least once a week," as do various legislative and legal task forces. And coalition members are in daily communication by phone.

PFAW and the Alliance for Justice have done much of the intellectual spadework for those who are mounting the opposition to President Bush's more conservative judicial nominees. PFAW has published multiple editions of Courting Disaster, its analysis of how a Supreme Court dominated by the likes of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas might affect American law. The Alliance for Justice, meanwhile, has kept a close eye on the bench through its Judicial Selection Project, which Aron spearheaded in 1985. Both groups have provided exhaustive research on such appellate court picks as Charles Pickering, Miguel Estrada, and Priscilla Owen.

But that was all just warm-up for the Big One: the fight over the next Supreme Court nominee, which may well come in the fall, should Chief Justice William Rehnquist's health force him to retire. The coalition's network of some 70 active groups may soon balloon. "If there's a Supreme Court nomination," Neas predicts, "there'll be many more organizations involved."

He would know. In 1987, Neas, Aron, Henderson, and other liberal bigwigs piloted the 300-member "Block Bork" coalition, a motley alliance of local and national advocacy groups. "Block Bork" was of course successful, though similar efforts in 1991 failed to keep Justice Thomas off the bench. During the Thomas hearings, irate Republicans claimed PFAW and the Alliance for Justice were feeding anti-Thomas dirt to the offices of Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee. The Washington Post even reported on an "increasingly symbiotic relationship between committee staffers, liberal interest groups and the news media."

It was the same charge Republicans had made during the Bork hearings. And it's the same charge they've made since George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001. PFAW and others deny they brandish inordinate control over Senate Democrats. That may be true. But it's also true, as a series of judicial memos leaked in November 2003 showed, that Democratic staffers seem especially interested in how "the groups" will react to a given nominee. And those staffers rely heavily on the opposition research of PFAW in particular.

To be sure, comparable groups on the right provide much of the intellectual firepower in support of Bush's nominees. The conservative groups run a conference call every Monday, and a regular Tuesday meeting under the aegis of the Republican National Committee. But the liberal organizations seem more numerous, more coordinated, and compelled by a greater sense of urgency. They've certainly been at it a lot longer. Says a senior GOP Senate aide, "They're much better--and have been much better, historically -- at revving up their groups, and communicating, and telling senators what they'd like to see done." Still, the aide adds, "We're starting to see more Republican groups now."

Most prominent of the new conservative groups is the Committee for Justice, whose formation in July 2002 was prompted by the defeat of the Pickering nomination. C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel during the first Bush presidency, serves as chairman, while Sean Rushton is the group's executive director. Rushton pings out daily emails to around 200 Washington "conservative types" (mainly activists and Hill staff) and 800-1,000 journalists. These frequently offer links to op-eds or rebuttals of PFAW's latest mischief. "We communicate with the 'grass tops,'" Rushton explains, "but we have no grassroots ambition at all, and no grassroots component."

Some of the grassroots work falls to wealthy social-conservative groups, such as Concerned Women for America and James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and the Judicial Confirmation Network. But the right's chief grassroots fundraiser on the judicial issue is an organization called "Progress for America," which came into being as a pro-Bush 527 in the 2004 campaign. During the recent filibuster row, Progress for America put out some $3 million worth of ads zinging the Democrats and defending Bush's nominees.

That may seem a hefty chunk of change. But consider that PFAW and its allies spent around $5 million on a pro-filibuster campaign. According to Business Week, MoveOnPAC, an outgrowth of the liberal web group, raised at least $1.3 million "nearly overnight" to save the filibuster. "The Democratic party's having trouble raising money," says veteran conservative leader Gary Bauer. "But not these left-wing activist groups."

Bauer regrets that, when it comes to judges, the right appears far less unified than the left. Why? "The business part of our coalition," he says, "all too often is AWOL." Traditionally, the business lobby has shied away from disputes over moral issues such as abortion. And many see the ongoing judicial struggle as an extension of the culture wars. "The anti-business groups on the left are very active," says Boyden Gray. "The pro-business groups on the other side are not." Nevertheless, he and Rushton both expect the National Association of Manufacturers to play a significant role in any Supreme Court battle.

And what a battle it will be. Last week, while Progress for America trumpeted plans to spend at least $18 million in support of Bush's choice, PFAW named its own Supreme Court Team. Not only will the liberal coalition resist adding another conservative to the bench. It may also fight Bush's elevation of Scalia or Thomas to chief justice. "I would hope that a majority of the Senate would defeat a Scalia or a Thomas nomination," Neas says. But if not, PFAW would support Democrats' "using any parliamentary option at their disposal, including the filibuster," to block a Scalia/Thomas ascension. Neas gets a bit cagier when the subject turns to Bush's new addition to the court. "I would rather not go into this," he says, "for strategic purposes."

Aron is much less guarded. I tick off a list of possible Supreme Court nominees and ask her whether each would be worthy of a Democratic filibuster. The Third Circuit's Samuel Alito? Yes. The Fifth Circuit's Emilio Garza? Yes. The Fourth Circuit's Michael Luttig? Yes. The Fifth Circuit's Edith Jones? Yes. The D.C. Circuit's John Roberts? Yes. The Fourth Circuit's Harvie Wilkinson? Yes. Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada? Yes. Senator John Cornyn? Yes. Senator Jon Kyl? Yes.

The only one Aron doesn't brand filibuster-worthy is Larry Thompson, George W. Bush's former deputy attorney general and now PepsiCo's general counsel. "We're still researching his record," she explains. Like Neas, she'd back a filibuster of Scalia or Thomas's elevation to chief justice. In general, Aron views any anti-Roe nominee to the federal bench as constituting an "extraordinary circumstance."

As the liberal coalition mobilizes, replenishes its war chest, and gears up for all-out combat, what might the White House do to prepare a response? Bring in a Supreme Court point man. The first Bush administration, Gray says, recruited ex-Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein as a "special government employee" to assist with the confirmations of Justice Thomas and Justice David Souter. Duberstein counted votes, marshaled support, played the PR game, and organized debate prep. "He was everywhere," Gray recalls.

Gray, who has close ties to Karl Rove and GOP Senate leader Bill Frist, expects the current Bush White House to replicate that strategy. "I think the plan is there," he says. But Bauer is less certain. "Karl [Rove] is a smart guy, so presumably he knows how devastating it would be if the president was unable to get a solid, open conservative on the Supreme Court." But do they have a strategy? Says Bauer, "I just don't see much."

Duncan Currie is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.

June 20, 2005 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got the first paragraph (A quote by Daniel Webster) but when I clicked on the title, I got a blank Google news screen...


Could you send me the text of the article?

Paul Galanti

June 20, 2005 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Looks great! Very well done . . . people are telling me I need to
blog, too, but at the moment, it's just one more thing on my long "to
do" list. Hope yours goes well.

Regarding your first item's title mentioning "vein" . . . I heard
someone say today that one Republican in DC was overheard saying, "I'd
rather open a vein than spend time with McCain."


June 20, 2005 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good quote from Webster, one of my favorite guys.

By the way, on a completely different subject, the culture wars, have you been following the story on a young adults novel called Rainbow Party? Its actually marketed to young adults, rainbow refers to a number of girls wearing brightly colored lipstick of different colors, and party. . .well the party is them planning to do oral sex on guys in a group session thus leaving the guy with a “rainbow.” Just sent in a commentary to Amazon on it. My comment is under Protest Author in North Carolina

Its all starting to remind me of the line from the song back in the sixties by Joplin “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to do.”


Bill F

June 20, 2005 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frist blows Graham's and DeWine's
cover on judicial nominations deal
by Alexander Bolton

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and his aides have denied Rep. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) assertion to home-state conservative leaders that he and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) acted as emissaries for Frist in negotiations among 14 Republican and Democratic centrists that resulted in a compromise last month on judicial filibusters.

Dr. Oran Smith, president of the Palmetto Family Council based in Columbia, S.C., said, “Graham has been meeting with groups of conservative opinion leaders to explain his actions and to comfort conservative leaders by assuring them he was sent by the Republican leadership to broker a deal.”

As a result of Graham’s assurances, conservatives’ anger over Graham’s role in the controversial deal has slackened, Smith said.

“There’s a mixture of residual anger and ‘let’s wait and see’ because he said he was sent as an envoy and dispatched by the leadership, he and DeWine,” Smith added.

Joe Mack, the director of public policy for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, who met with Graham and discussed his role in the brokering the deal, confirmed that Graham told him “words to that effect that he was assisting the leadership.”

But when asked whether he had dispatched Graham and DeWine as emissaries, Frist replied firmly “No. No.”

Amid a conservative backlash to the deal, particularly against DeWine in Ohio and Graham in South Carolina, Frist aides have told conservative leaders that they did not encourage the two lawmakers to forge a deal to avoid a floor vote on shielding judicial nominees from filibuster.

Jeff Mazzella, executive director of the Center for Individual Freedom, said, “Frist’s staff and other have assured us that they were not behind that deal and we are satisfied that they are committed to moving forward with up-or-down votes on all of the president’s nominees.”

Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, said, “I’ve heard it from one of Frist’s liaison people that it’s not true.”

Graham did not answer yes or no when asked by The Hill if he was an emissary for Frist during the negotiations. Instead, he described a nuanced role.

“Both leadership teams were very well aware of what was going on,” he said, referring to the Republican and Democratic leaders.

He added that “everyone knew what was going on” and that some lawmakers liked it and some didn’t.

Both Graham and DeWine have been the targets of intense conservative anger since they appeared alongside five other Republican senators and seven Democrats last month to announce a deal they struck on judicial nominees who Democrats had blocked.

The deal was announced the evening before Frist had planned to trigger the so-called “nuclear option” to strip senators of the power to filibuster judicial nominees. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the majority whip, had announced a few weeks before that Frist had enough Republican votes to execute the tactic.

“I talked to McConnell and Frist during the negotiations,” Graham said. “I think Senator Frist’s primary goal was to change the rules and, barring that, felt it was better to live and fight another day.”

Conservative leaders in South Carolina responded angrily. Mack, with the Southern Baptist Convention, said “a number of our have been concerned about that role and were looking for a vote to break a filibuster.”

Thomas Ravenel, a wealthy developer who self-financed much of his race against Sen. Jim DeMint (R) in a GOP Senate primary last year, announced shortly afterward that he would consider challenging Graham in 2008.

In Ohio, conservatives responded with similar ire, saying that DeWine’s role in the filibuster negotiations was the latest in a series of actions and positions he has taken at odds with them.

Conservatives said they would retaliate by working against Pat DeWine, the senator’s son, who ran earlier this month for the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Despite having the highest name recognition in the race and having outraised his opponents significantly, the young DeWine finished a distant fourth in the race.

“His showing was extremely poor,” said Dr. John Wilke, head of the Life Issues Institute, an anti-abortion group based in Cincinnati. “A showing that bad after that good a start has reasons. Some people are saying that Mike’s business of being in the ‘Gang of 14’ hurt Pat.”

The ongoing battle between Republicans and Democrats over the makeup of the federal judiciary has been one of the highest concerns of social conservatives.

After the judges deal was struck, Ohio conservatives led by Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, another Cincinnati-based group, stepped up its efforts to find a candidate to challenge DeWine in the 2006 Republican primary.

As conservatives in Ohio and South Carolina responded angrily to news of the Senate centrists’ deal on judges, Major Garrett, a Fox News correspondent, citing “senior Republican sources,” reported that “Frist and the Bush White House were worried enough about possibly losing the vote to end the judicial filibusters that they dispatched two conservatives, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Ohio’s Mike DeWine, to cut the best possible deal.”

Burress said he suspects that DeWine is the source of that report.

“He will do anything he can to cover his tracks,” Burress said. “I call upon him to prove that, or he will be exposed as a flat out liar. I use that word very carefully. My sources tell me. I have people close to what’s going on up there that that’s not what happened.”

When asked about the Fox report, DeWine said, “If you look at the transcript, I never said that. What I said was that we had — people inside the meeting were talking to leaders — both sides were talking to leaders. But I never said that I was an emissary at all.”

“Lindsey and I got involved at the same time,” he added. “We looked at a early proposal and had the same reaction, that we couldn’t have an agreement where we would agree that under any circumstances we would not use the constitutional option,” the Republicans’ term for the nuclear option.

Alexander Bolton
The Hill

June 21, 2005 9:38 AM  

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