Monday, August 01, 2005

Filibuster v. Recess

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth about Senate obstructionism in the process of confirmation of presidential nominations. This has shifted from one side of the aisle to the other, depending on which way the wind was blowing in the White House.

I am of the opinion that partisan political opposition to a candidate's views are not a good idea. Especially starting with the Bork nomination, this has been a real issue. The Bork nomination process may have kept one conservative off the bench, but it means that now no one will even get nominated if they have opinions. Only the blandest or most inscrutible will survive the nomination process. No one who has shown genuine scholarship could make the bench, because scholarship would require expression, and expression is selected against. Thomas's appointment went forward partly because he was black, but also because his opinions were largely unknown. So I am not a supporter, in general, of political obstructionism by the Senate of presidential nominees.

By contrast, I believe that Senators' opposition to John Bolton's appointment are founded partly in his politics. But there is also a widespread belief that his combativeness with his own subordinates and lack of results as head of the nuclear-weapons-decomissioning program make him unqualified for the job. There is a big difference between saying "I don't like what he would do," and "I don't think he will do the job well." It is clearly the Senate's job to make sure that candidates can at least carry out their duties competently. There is reason to doubt that Bolton could do so in a diplomatic post, and therefore the Senate's opposition is wholly appropriate.

As for the Senate "unfairly" denying Bolton "an up-or-down vote", this is a tactic that the Republicans used often during their long tenure as the opposition party in the legislature. Allowing minority-party disruption of a dominant party's plans seems a sensible balance, in the best tradition of American democracy. Keep the filibuster flying.

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