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Saturday, May 13, 2006 

Alan Simpson on Judicial Nominees

Former Senator Alan Simpson is one of my favorite politicians. He was a real straight shooter who said what he felt and didn't care who he pissed off. The statement that he gave before Justice Scalia's confirmation hearing (then-Justice Rehnquist's hearing for his elevation to Chief Justice was also going on) way back in 1986 is worth looking at...
"Well, we certainly washed all the laundry on Bill Rehnquist. I assume we will do that with you. And yet not one of us, not one of us up here would want to sit right there at that table. We could not pass the test. We could not stand the heat. It is easier up here. We can brag and bluster, and blather, and almost like a comic book character, you could invent 'Captain Bombast', pull the cape around the shoulders, and shout the magic words 'Get him,' and rise above it all in a blast of hot air.
Three sitting Members, though, of this U.S. Senate, right now, voted against the sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1964. Do we keep score on them? Do we let them know we will never forgive? They changed, they listened, they adopted, they adapted, and they learned. Don't others get that leeway in this particular arena?

Oh, I tell you I can hear it now: 'Oh, Simpson, you old silly. There is a higher standard here for the Attorney General or for the Supreme Court, or for the Federal district court. There is a nobler and higher yardstick for the Chief Justice or the Justice.' Or for any Presidential appointee. Oh, what bosh and twaddle that is. What arrogance that is, true arrogance. A higher standard than that than a U.S. Senator, a proud office we all cherish and lusted after, and try to honor? Just because we get elected? Well, we have a word for all that in Wyoming. It is succinct, scatological, and searing when it is said in the proper Western twang."
Simpson was referring to the tendency of his fellow Senators to act as an Inquisition board, picking apart anything and everything that a judicial nominee had done. They acted in this manner, and still act in this manner, in spite of their own many personal failings. There were Senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There were Senators with mistress and drinking problems. There was even one who drunkenly drove a car into a river and left a woman in that car to die. Yet these are the people who pillory nominees because they ruled on a case that involved a company that managed their mutual fund. What a truly bizarre spectacle this is.

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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