Sunday, November 07, 2004

With friends like these.... 

Hugh Hewitt is one of the blogs I read every day. I usually like and agree with Mr. Hewitt's take on politics and have a lot of respect for his opinion even when I do disagree with him. Such is the case now. Hugh has posted his reaction to the movement among conservatives to block Arlen Specter from the Chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The real rub occurred when Specter the day after the election re-stated (in so many words) his commitment to Roe v. Wade as judicial precedent. His commitment would have the very real possibility of chilling some of the President's nominations to the bench who might otherwise be inclined to overturning Roe.

Hugh's Reaction is one I disagree with. I have three and half points in response to his post.

1. Opposing Specter's chairmanship would be good pro-life politics. Hugh says that he understands that Specter has been no friend of the pro-life movement. He also says that removing Specter would be bad politically for the pro-life movement. I think he is wrong because pro-lifers have been getting restless for some time with the GOP's lack of concrete action on the issue of abortion. Pro-life groups form the core base of the Republican Party, serving their interests would be expected, natural and would be an action that wouldn't involve the courts or any contentious legislation. This would be an easy yet necessary victory for the pro-life movement. Besides, causing panic and alarm at the New York Times is something that the President's majority would enjoy seeing very much.

2. Changing Committee Chairmanships would hardly be fatal to the operations or nature of the Senate. Hugh claims in part
Institutions that are destabilized for expediency's sake do not regain stability after a convenient alteration. That was the lesson of the Roman Revolution, where a series of departures from settled precedent in the name of urgent expediency eventually brought down the entire structure
I am going to go out on a limb here and recall that Senators have been forced from their Committee assignments and the like with no visible harm being done to the body. Trent Lott was forced out because of stupid and rash comments and the Senate functioned properly. Patrick Leahey was forced from the Senate Intelligence Committee because of leaks back in the day with no harm being done. If keeping Specter from the Judiciary chair would have this negative effect on the institution, then one had better consider midstream changes in leadership positions like the ones cited above as being harmful as well.

3. Who is in Charge Matters. Hugh further argues that what is far important an argument and what might be lost in all of the brewhaha over Specter is the makeup of the committee as a whole. I am going to agree with his point here. Making sure the president's nominees can survive a wayward Republican and having a debate on "blue slips" and filibusters of the nominees is something that should be tackled as well. I would point out, however, that the chairman's spot DOES matter. It is the chairman who determines who will and who won't receive a vote of the committee. The chairman is also responsible for setting the agenda and the list goes on. Given Specter's liberal voting record, I don't want to take the chance that the chairman of the committee will embarrass the president over judicial nominations.

3.5. Finally, I will be honest that part of my motivation comes from the possibility of seeing Specter finally receive a little comeuppance for shooting from the lip like he did. I am a sore spectator from his primary win back in April against Pat Toomey and I consider him an embarrassment for Pennsylvania and for my beloved party generally. The fact that he would go to the mat for the "right" of adults to kill innocent babies is an intolerable state for him to be in. I want to see him suffer a little bit for his actions and this would be a great way to finally catch up to the veteran lawmaker.

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