Monday, September 05, 2005

Mea Culpa, mea culpa, and a thousand Hail Marys; I had a chance to take a last minute trip to Rehoboth Beach and took it, just as the news that Chief Justice Rehnquist had died flashed across the land.

Although no one should ever cheer when someone’s life ends and no one does, the timing of Rehnquist’s death was truly remarkable—just as the Senate was about to have hearings on the Roberts’ nomination and his almost certain confirmation.

Liberals had plenty to fear in the coming week. After all, Roberts was slated to take O’Connor’s seat, the justice who’d been instrumental in safeguarding civil liberties.

O'Connor's deciding votes in favor of affirmative action, “environment protection, personal privacy, voting rights, protection against discrimination” and restrains on the death penalty were the rampart walls securing our human rights.

President Bush has now played switcheroo and nominated Roberts to Rehnquist’s vacancy instead. From the perspective of a liberal, this is great news.

In Bush’s latest flip-flop, the president provided Democratic senators with a strategic fighting bucksaw, one they can wield all the way to next year’s elections.

For starters, now Roberts’ earlier records are even more of interest and apposite. After all, when senators have confirmed chief justices in the past, their recorded narrative was an open book. This should make available to any Democratic senators who wants it, the threat of filibuster if Roberts is not more forthcoming than he has been so far with his responses.

Moreover, as the Washington Post notes, "Some conservatives worry that Bush has given Democrats an opening...Roberts had been nominated to succeed the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor [a centrist,] "liberals will [now] fight much harder to keep a conservative -- such as Roberts -- from getting the O'Connor seat, whereas the philosophy of Rehnquist's successor is less vital to them."

The swing vote was always O’Connor; and Democratic senators are now free to deny a vote to someone who is not of equal constitutional temperament as her.

The latest polls show the public's perception of Democrats is not as obstructionists, but as a coterie of toothless ineffectual opposition party hacks. They want Democrats to fight back.

Let's hope the senators from our party can remember how to use the tools of the Senate to power drive their message of opposition to voters in time for next year's election cycle.

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