What Others Are Saying

Atlanta Journal Constitution
May 22, 2005

Objections have no basis
By Jim Wooten

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson nails it.

"With the exception of arbitrary or vague statements like 'not being in the mainstream,' they haven't made any specific arguments against the qualifications of these seven judicial nominees," he says of Democratic efforts to prevent confirmation of President Bush's appellate court nominees.

In fact, says Isakson (R-Ga.), Senate Democrats have "gone so far in their offers to say 'you pick any five you want to approve, and pick two we won't approve.' They want not to approve some just for general principles. This speaks volumes about the whole debate."

The end of this road is near. This week for certain will play out the next, but sadly not the last, chapter in the 5-year-old campaign to right what embittered Democrats see as the 2000 election wrong. But for . . . Al Gore would be in his second term . . .

In the partisan view, this illegitimate occupant has, at best, a marginal right to leave his imprint on the nation's courts, and no right to change the 5-4 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, for neither is his "mandate."

The result, as this long partisan struggle has devolved, is this week's showdown when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) invokes what Democrats call the "nuclear option" and Republicans call the "constitutional option." Efforts at compromise have been directed more to fund-raising and future elections than to any honest attempt to identify individuals whose qualifications could be seriously questioned.

Certainly nobody could seriously question the superior qualifications of the two women who are up first, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown.

If either belonged to the good-ol'-girls network that considers Emily's List contributions to be a validation of their ideological correctness --- Emily's List being a financial support system for pro-abortion rights Democratic women --- their superior qualifications and intellect would be heralded everywhere Birkenstocks gather.

But, shame of shame, the poor, misguided judges have drifted into a suspect class.

When Rogers writes, as she did in one passage that alarms the left, "The public school system is already so beleaguered by bureaucracy; so cowed by the demands of due process; so overwhelmed with faddish curricula that its educational purpose is almost an afterthought," liberals may be alarmed, but the passage strikes me as no more than a statement of present-day reality.

In fact, what either nominee has said or written that's been offered up as evidence that they are "out of the mainstream" refers, obviously, to a mainstream that has not been reflected in election results.

In both cases, they were certainly not thought to be out of the mainstream in their home states. Owen, in her last race, won 84 percent of the vote and was endorsed by every newspaper in Texas. Rogers won in California with 76 percent.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) defended both last week. The focus, he said, should be their legal knowledge and experience.

"The essential principle for picking a federal judge," he said, "should be their commitment to the law. We need judges who put the law before personal philosophy, ideology or politics. That is what separates the judiciary from the legislative branch."

When Owen and Rogers are allowed confirmation votes, both Chambliss and Isakson predict that they --- and the five others being blocked by Democrats --- will get 65-70 votes.

It is time to act. This president has been twice selected by the nation's voters. He has the right to nominees of his choice, unless individual cases can be made otherwise.

If those judges indeed prove to be "out of the mainstream," the nation will hand power to the other party. And, if Democrats in a fit of pique, wish to bring the Senate to a halt to make their case, that is their liberty.

But, as Isakson noted Thursday, that tactic has been tried. The backlash is why he's in Congress.
 
* Jim Wooten is associate editorial page editor. His column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.