Tag Archives: Jeff Sessions

Was Sotomayor's Confirmation Really a Surprise?

It shouldn’t have been. The final vote was 68-31, hardly close by any measure. The media will lament the fact that only nine Republicans voted for her. So what? She’ll be sworn in Saturday, GOP support or not. I guess we should count our blessings nine Republican senators had sense enough to vote yes.

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Throughout Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation process, Republican opposition was overblown. People like Jeff Sessions and Mitch McConnell were paraded on the Sunday talk shows as if they had the power to stop or at least derail a process that seemed inevitable by the numbers. Now we know how that turned out.

Aside from the fact this was a victory for the White House, it should tell President Obama something as well. Bi-partisanship is overrated. Why should this president waste his own political capital on finding common ground with lawmakers who have a naked, partisan agenda? For every Lindsey Graham, who voted in favor of Sonia Sotomayor because it was the right thing to do, there’s a Jim DeMint, who sees Obama’s undoing behind his every initiative.

Beat ’em down, Mr. President. And that goes for Democrats who cross you as well. I say this knowing it’s not Barack Obama’s style to use a stick on his opposition. His nice guy approach worked well during the presidential campaign, but these people are playing for keeps. Not for nothing they’re saying if he can’t get healthcare reform passed, it means the end of his presidency.

Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation is metaphor for a new reality that Republicans are having trouble figuring out. They’re not the majority anymore. That’s why they’re sending out minions to disrupt town hall meetings on healthcare. That’s why the birthers won’t go away, no matter how bankrupt their cause. Since January 20th they’ve been looking for an opening, any opening to land a mortal blow on the Obama presidency.

Time will tell if healthcare is in fact that blow. But for now, the Sotomayor confirmation, plus the extension of “Cash for Clunkers” both represent incremental victories for President Obama. They should also represent abject lessons about the limits of a bi-partisan approach with this particular batch of Republicans.

To be fair, not all of them subscribe to the “party of no” doctrine that their leadership embraces. Not even all those who come down as opposed to some Obama policies are bad people. It’s going to be up to this president to separate the chaff from the wheat.

So, back to the original issue. Were you surprised by Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation, or by her margin of victory? You tell me.

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Will Sotomayor Choreography Change Outcome?

For the record, there are 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They’re the ones holding hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the US Supreme Court.

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The Republicans know going in that, absent some bombshell revelation, she’ll be confirmed. That means the hearings, which will likely last the rest of the week, are about the pageantry and stage managing the Beltway is famous for.

Republicans own no franchise here. It wasn’t that long ago (was it?) that Democrats played about the same role when Samuel Alito was confirmed.

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For the 19 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the televised hearings represent a chance  to show their rhetorical chops to the folks back home. Take my word for the fact that none will mentioned that all but two of them are white men. Regardless, each will play their role.

Chief among the antagonists is Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He’s been honing his act for the past several weeks, most recently on “Meet the Press”. Problem is, his blathering about justices not having empathy based on their life experience flies in the face of what Justice Alito himself has said on more than one occasion. Someone is sure to b ring up the fact that of five cases Judge Sotomayor ruled on that went to the Supreme Court, three were reversed.

Again, the Republicans will be forced to look at Alito’s record, which shows both cases he ruled on that went to the High Court were reversed . We already know the lead plaintiff in the infamous New Haven firefighters case will testify for the GOP. Former Yankee pitcher David Cone is set to testify as well. And all this for an outcome that, barring an earth shattering development, is pre-ordained.

Say what you will about President Barack Obama. In picking Sonia Sotomayor he got it right. The Republicans know it. So do the Democrats. The hearings are merely a formality. So that brings up the question of what Judge Sotomayor’s appointment to the court actually means. If people think it will change its fundamentally conservative nature, they’re in for a disappointment. The nucleus of Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy remains intact. Of this quintet, only Kennedy is an occasional wild card.

So what do the Republicans really fear? Is it the nominee herself, or is it her potential powers of persuasion? Sonia Sotomayor is no doctrinaire progressive. Her seven minute speech Monday was designed not to grate. “The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law”, says the nominee. Maybe so. Yet we all know the application of law changes over time. Otherwise, we’d still be living under Plessy vs. Ferguson, wouldn’t we? We ought to remember that the decision that found separate but equal to be constitutional was 7-1.

Anyway, that’s another argument for another day. The question as these hearings move forward is this. Can the Republicans stop Sonia Sotomayor? Should they even try?

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Eric Holder to the Rescue?

If there’s one area of the Obama presidency that’s been vexing to many of his strongest supporters, it’s been his reluctance to take a hard look at the past sins of his predecessor.

Specifically, questions about torture, illegal surveillance and the like have been given short shrift by this president.

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The thinking of his inner circle seemed to be that dredging up the past serves no purpose, even if laws were broken. That rationale was bogus from the start.

Now it looks like things are changing, and light may finally be shed on alleged misdeeds of the Bush cabal. The president and his people, or at least most of them are starting to realize that some of the stuff Bush and his people allegedly did can’t be ignored. The “let’s move on” school has suffered a serious setback. With allegations that the CIA, at the behest of Dick Cheney, put together a counterterrorism program without letting Congress know, and that Attorney General Eric Holder may name a special criminal prosecutor to probe whether US interrogators tortured suspected terrorists, those who have been pressing the administration to get the facts have new and potent ammunition.

Even the naming of a prosecutor may not go far enough if all they’re looking at is some CIA grunt who may have gone too far. Who were the lawyers, who were the policymakers who either affirmed the use of torture or looked the other way when they knew it was happening? The narrow focus of a Justice Dept. probe may not get all the facts. And of course, there’s already pushback from Republicans with a raft of silly pronouncements about why there should be no investigation at all.

“What’s going to be the positive result”? asks John McCain. “This is a terrible trend”, argues Texas Senator John Cornyn. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama could only come up with Dick Cheney’s service to his country. All these arguments are so weak as to be laughable.

However, don’t think for a minute that some of these Republicans won’t try to hold Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court hostage to stop any serious attempt to hold anyone accountable.

Think it can’t happen? Think again. Washington ‘Beltway’ politics is a strange and often ugly thing to watch.

Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing starts Monday. Watch some of these same senators try to drag out that hearing while at the same time, on the down low, they try to horse trade with President Obama. This is where AG Holder comes in. There are reports that, even though he’s been a reluctant convert to the idea of looking at this stuff, he’s not really on board with the idea that the president’s political advisors were calling the shots against a serious investigation.

So, is it Eric Holder to the rescue,

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or does the Obama Administration need to go even further in probing Bush era misdeeds?

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