JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

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Friday, February 28, 2003
 
Nit picking

I realize it's nit-picking to point this out, but if my job consisted of only having to write a few columns a week, I'd double check what I wrote.

In his most recent syndicated column, George Will writes:

"Senate Democrats cite [Miguel] Estrada's lack of judicial experience. But 15 of the 18 nominations to the D.C. court since President Carter lacked such experience, as did 26 Clinton circuit judge nominees who were confirmed. And 43 of the 108 Supreme Court justices (most recently Byron White, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis Powell), including eight of the 18 chief justices (most recently Earl Warren) had no prior judicial experience."

I wonder why Will included Thurgood Marshall in this list? After all, from 1961 to 1965, Marshall sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Did he just guess about Marshall's experience? Or assume? It makes one wonder about Will's other figures -- the 15 out of 18 and the 43 out of 108.

In the same article -- the gist of the article, in fact -- Will writes "The president, preoccupied with regime change elsewhere, will occupy a substantially diminished presidency unless he defeats the current attempt to alter the constitutional regime here. If at least 41 Senate Democrats succeed in blocking a vote on the confirmation of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Constitution effectively will be amended. If Senate rules, exploited by an anticonstitutional minority, are allowed to trump the Constitution's text and two centuries of practice, the Senate's power to consent to judicial nominations will have become a Senate right to require a 60-vote supermajority for confirmations. By thus nullifying the president's power to shape the judiciary, the Democratic Party will wield a presidential power without having won a presidential election."

What Will means (and, if he wanted to be honest, what he should have written) is that filibusters are bad only when Democrats do it. When Republicans do it, filibusters are, for Will, good. For in his August 15, 1994 syndicated column (I'm quoting from page B5 of the Times-Picayune; it isn't on the web but it's in your local library):

"The idea that filibusters have become a serious problem is preposterous. Can anyone name anything of significance that an American majority has desired, strongly and protractedly, but has not received because of a filibuster? Who believes that insufficient activity is a defect of modern government?"

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