Frist And Frack

This is going to ramble a bit, so bear with me.

There’s quite a bit of blogosphere and MSM turmoil today over the Senate judicial fillibuster controversy. The latest rumblings are thanks to (a) reports that the Republican Senate leadership is getting ready to move on a procedural vote to end fillibusters of judicial nominees, and (b) Republican Senate leader Bill Frist’s decision to associate himself with a televised push by the Family Research Council next week to drum up support for some of the stalled Bush nominees.

Frist first.

I’ve never been particularly impressed with Frist. Seems like a decent fellow, but I don’t get the hoopla. For one thing, he’s not a particularly good politician. He was picked out to replace Trent Lott (whom I have even less use for) because he was seen as a straight-arrow, and that’s all well and good, but I thought he was too inexperienced for the job at the time, and he hasn’t done much since then to convince me otherwise, or that he has the leadership qualities for a really critical position like Majority Leader. I really don’t get the Frist-for-President stuff, for those reasons and others. I don’t think he’d be a competitive candidate, even in the primaries.

And I think he’s making a mistake by associating himself so closely with the Dobson effort. There’s nothing wrong with Christian conservatives organizing to support nominees they approve of, any more than anything being wrong with Ralph Neas or the ACLU organizing lefties to oppose them (I wish some on the left and liberterian side of the blogosphere could bring themselves to admit that), but it’s also just as inappropriate for Frist to be as in bed with the Dobson group as it is for Neas to be calling the dance steps for the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee.

That said, I think an awful lot of blogosphere commentators are letting their knee-jerk reactions to the “Christian Right” cloud their judgment, not so much regarding the Dobson stuff, as to the entirety of the fillibuster issue. A minority of a minority in the US Senate has installed what amounts to a religious test for court nominees, and folks, that’s dangerous no matter whether it’s being imposed in favor of or in opposition to religion and the religious.

Take Bill Pryor, for example. Pryor was the Attorney General of Alabama before being nominated by Bush, and he’d worked his way up through the prosecutors’ ranks to get there (I have a little second-hand knowledge of the guy thanks to a close friend who used to work for him). Pryor was denied a Senate vote by the likes of Dick Durban, Barbara Boxer and Chuckie Schumer very explicitly because Pryor is a devout Catholic, and thus (at least according to the fillibusterers) can’t be trusted on abortion.

Sorry, folks, but that’s a religious test, and a patently unconstitutional one. It’s no different than if Lott were to stand up and say, “I’m going to block the nomination of this Democratic judge because she’s a gol-darned atheist.” That would be entirely inappropriate, and so is the Boxer-Schumer rejection of Pryor for being a committed Catholic. Either one (and I don’t use this phrase lightly) leans hard towards being flatly un-American.

Besides which, Pryor’s record does not indicate anything like “extreme” actions based on his religion. I frankly wouldn’t have that much of a problem with blocking the nomination if we were talking about somebody as irresponsible and self-serving as, say, Roy Moore, but Pryor isn’t even close to being a Roy Moore.

Want a few more examples? Janice Rogers Brown (another naitive Alabamian, oddly enough) and Manuel Estrada (who dropped out of the process in disgust) were blocked on purely racial terms. We know now from leaked Democratic strategy memos that their nominations were seen as untenable purely because the Dems thought either of them would be hard to vote against as possible future Supreme Court nominees.

That’s got nothing to do with either of their records, and it’s got no legitimate place in the process of “advise and consent.” Not liking a nominee’s future prospects is not a defensible reason for opposing that nominee. You want to win that fight, win it in the elections for the guy (or gal) who does the nominating, not after the fact.

The blatantly racial blockings of Brown and Estrada ought to be raising a lot more hackles on the principled left and center than they are. And I’m sorry–these nominees are no more “extreme” on their side of the fence than leftie heartthrob Ruth Bader Ginsberg is on hers (quite a bit less so, in my admittedly biased opinion). A little more intellectual honesty on matters like that would be appreciated, but frankly, it’s not something I expect.


24 Responses to “Frist And Frack”

  1. Jesse Says:

    Wow. I was certainly aware that the view that the blocked confirmations being anti-Catholic, anti-Latino, etc. was the interpretation of the Republicans, which is fair (Dems attack Republicans as being biased all the time), but here you’re stating this perceived bias as fact.

    Perhaps I’ve missed a major news story here, but what exactly did Durbin, Boxer, or Schumer say indicating they didn’t allow a vote “explicitly because Pryor is a devout Catholic”? If they did say something to that effect, you’re right, that’s horribly un-American; it’s also unconstitutional (“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”). But what exactly did they say?

  2. Mod-Blog Says:

    On Frist and Fillibusters

    There is an excellent piece up at Vodkapundit concerning the fillibuster issue. The conclusions are right on, religious litmus tests on either side are downright dangerous. The liberals in the Congress have been doing this for years, and while I agre…

  3. richard mcenroe Says:

    Why is it the left can never remember what their own champions say when it’s so embarrassing? Or is this just the old lefty dodge of wasting your opponent’s time and energy with pointless questions?

    Schumer & Feinstein on Pryor

    Kay Bailey Hutchison on Miguel Estrada

    You want more? Welcome to the internet. Google.

  4. Pursuit Says:

    Nailed it Martini man, take the rest of the weekend off. I was going to write something similar, but instead, just linked.

    Well done.

  5. Jesse Says:


    Congrats on being able to Google, but your reading comprehension is a bit lacking. I asked for some quotes by Democratic Senators, and you provide me with an NRO article and a speech by a Republican Senator. The only quotes by Democrats in either of those is Schumer’s reservations about Pryor’s “deeply held beliefs”, and Feinstein’s statement “Virtually in every area you have extraordinarily strong views which continue to come out in a number of different ways.”

    Neither is even remotely a rejection of Pryor based on Catholicism. There are such things as political and constitutional beliefs, you know. The question of whether those are acceptable as grounds to reject or block a judge is an important one, but that’s not the point here. I specifically asked for evidence of explicit bias against Pryor or being a Catholic. You’ve provided none, just some out-of-context quotes provided by other conservatives. You’re only proving my point.

  6. erp Says:

    Pursuit, check the name at the top of the post.

    Totally surreal. Rapid leftwing ideologues denigrating strong views held by others.

    The constitution demands that the full senate vote up or down on the president’s nominees whether the sore losers in the opposition party like it or not. This President Bush isn’t going nominate another Justice Souter, so stop stalling and start voting.

  7. Bill Peschel Says:

    Jesse’s right: no fire there, just a lot of dust kicked up.

    If you’re going to prove your point, you need to bring the goods to the argument. Saying “there’s Google, look it up” doesn’t fly. You’re just bringing a stick to a knife fight.

  8. roux Says:

    I agree that Frist was the wrong choice for leader. Not experienced enough!

    What Republicans need is a straight shooter who will make a stand. Stop bowing down to the MSM and the libs.

    Tell the people what you are going to do and then do it. Stop pussy-footing around.

  9. Right Wing Nut House Says:


    Nineteen sixty four was not a good year for Republicans. Johnson was riding the crest of the legislative legacy of the martyred John F. Kennedy. And he was garnering the sympathy and respect of millions of people for the way he handled the difficult …

  10. Neo Says:

    You only missed one major point ..

    Let’s Get On With It.

    The GOP, at least at the Congressional level, has always been a really bad choreographer of these sorts of political events.
    I realize that the majority party has the unseemly job of actually producing a budget etc., so it occupies a lot of their time, thus they leave most of the PR to K Street. The Dems must have had better lobbyists during their 40 years.

  11. Pajama Pundits Says:

    Yeah, what he said

    Will Collier, that is. Frist And Frack

  12. JABBER Says:

    Jesse’s right…McEnroe’s links didn’t do the job of nailing the Dem senators on “anti-Catholic” bias. But in the end, Jesse misses the forest through the trees. No reasonably talented politician will willfully say something stupid like “We can’t be electing Catholics to the Judiciary” for just the reason that Green posts…it would establish a religious litmus test. Instead, what do the politicians say? “Deeply held beliefs.” Which allows them to deny any anti-Catholic/Religious bias while still making their point that they don’t want “extremists” on the bench because of those “deeply held beliefs.” This is the kind of newspeak that politicians of either party use. But at the end of the day, it is what it is: A religious litmus test, which has no place in our country. Disagree with a person’s views? Fine. But don’t say they can’t serve because they have “deeply held beliefs.” That’s bullshit.

  13. azlibertarian Says:

    You’re right that Frist has been a disappointment. You’re also right that this fight about the filibuster is misplaced. The President–of either party–deserves a simple vote from the majority of the Senate on his judicial nominees. Frist (and presumably the WH) should have pushed for these rules changes long ago [How did those extra-constitutional rules end up in place anyway?].

    If the Dem’s want a filibuster over these nominees, I say let them have it. Make ’em go to the mats and stand there all day and night yammering about one thing or the other. Did anyone (besides the gov’t employees granted time off)notice anything different the last time the government got shut down? Did the sun not rise and set on time? Did the garbage get picked up? Then what are we worried about?

    This issue is all about abortion, which the R’s are more closely representing the people’s will. The D’s know they can’t win abortion “rights” at the ballot box, so are fighting the issue in the courts.

    And you just gotta love…
    “…leftie heartthrob Ruth Bader Ginsberg…”. I’ve never thought of her as a heartthrob, but am glad somebody does.

  14. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Will Collier
    RE: Good For Lefties….

    “…but it’s also just as inappropriate for Frist to be as in bed with the Dobson group.” — Will Collier

    …bad for Christians, eh?

    Is that what I’m reading here?

    Black Southern Baptists let Lefties preach from their pulpit. And that’s okay.

    However, it’s bad for Frist to speak Christianity from the floor of Congress? [Note: Where any duly elected member thereof can say jolly well whatever he wishes??!?!? Without fear of prosecution under the law…because they’ve got a law that allows that.]


    I don’t know the nature of your ‘faith’, Will. But personally, I think you’ve got the right to say whatever you want whenever you want to say it. That goes for Senator Frist as well.

    Why is it you think it’s wrong for the good Senator to not be able to say what he thinks? Whether he stands in the Senate or in the public venue, elsewhere?

    If his constituents don’t like what he says, they’ll remove him.

    Where do you think you get off telling him what he can or cannot say? Who died and made YOU ‘god’?

    You can disagree with him all you like. It’s your preogative. But please avoid trying to act as public censor. It looks badly on you.



  15. Pursuit Says:


    I stand corrrected. Will, nice job. Stephen, uh…get back to work!

  16. Bogus Gold Says:

    Will Collier for Senate Majority Leader

    Over at Vodkapundit, Will Collier is making a heck of a lot more sense than anyone in the Senate leadership at the moment.

    A minority of a minority in the US Senate has …

  17. richard mcenroe Says:

    And sometimes They do your job for you…

  18. richard mcenroe Says:

    And sometimes they do your job for you…

  19. Sandy P Says:

    Those memos weren’t leaked!

    Anyone w/a shared folder icon on your computer at work could do the same thing.

    The dems did it to themselves.

    They’re the ones who chose and gave the instructions to the computer people as to how to set up the stuff because they were in charge at that time.

    Besides, the dems have already alienated a lot of Catholics, oh, yes, let’s do some more damage.

  20. Tyler Says:

    I never really understood why they picked Frist for senate majority leader? Maybe I’m biased, being from Alabama, but they should have picked Shelby for senate majority leader.

  21. Rod Stanton Says:

    The Dr. is not a leader. These judges should have been to the floor of the Senate in March. He needs to be replaced. It is not a lack of experience it is a lack of moxie. It seems his IQ is not >100. I care not who he talks to, I care about the fact that in 2 years he has not got anything of significance (other than big government bills) done.

  22. Joust The Facts Says:

    The Judicial Filibuster Dilemma

    There’s great reading on the topic at Right Wing Nut House from Superhawk, and by Will Collier at Vodkapundit.

  23. Vacuum Energy Says:

    Trent Lott and the Democratic Party

    Will Collier of Vodkapundit has an amazing post in which he illuminates the filibuster strategy of Senate Democrats. Also interesting is his take on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist:

  24. triticale Says:

    Bringing a stick to a knife fight is not a bad idea. It can offer an advantage of reach.

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