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Posts Tagged ‘partisan’



Kagan Vote: DiFi & Babs Toe SCOTUS Party Line

Friday, August 6th, 2010

By James Kuo
California News Service
Special to Calbuzz

When California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer voted Thursday to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, they kept intact a pattern of party loyalty that increasingly defines high court nominations.

Since they arrived in the Senate more than 17 years ago, Feinstein and Boxer both have voted for all four justices nominated by Democratic presidents – and against both justices nominated by a Republican.

Both have made clear their belief that a nominee’s judicial philosophy – not merely their experience, integrity and intellect — is a perfectly valid criterion in deciding whether to support a nomination.

The Senate confirmed Kagan by a 63 to 37 vote with all but one Democrat voting in favor and all but five Republicans voting against.

In speaking to her colleagues, Feinstein said Kagan’s professional qualifications alone were not enough to win her support.

“A nominee must also show that he or she has the appropriate judicial temperament, has the commitment to follow the law, and bring a judicial philosophy that will not pull the Court outside of the mainstream. And I have confidence in her in each of these areas.

Boxer praised Kagan’s “intellect, her broad range of legal experience, her sense of fairness, and her profound respect for the law.’’

Thursday’s vote underscored the growing partisan divide on judicial confirmations.

A quarter century ago, Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed by a 98-0 vote; the only Republicans to support Kagan were Lindsey Graham of North South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

Graham’s support for Kagan, which angered many of his fellow conservatives, illustrates the divide over how the Senate exercises its responsibility to provide “Advice and Consent’’ as put forth in the Constitution.

Unlike Feinstein, he said that a nominee’s ability to serve, not judicial philosophy, should be the deciding factor in confirming a justice.

“She is not someone I would have chosen,’’ Graham said of Kagan on the Senate floor. “But it’s not my job to choose. It’s President Obama’s job and he earned that right.”

Feinstein and Boxer’s perfect record of supporting the choices of their own party’s presidents and rejecting those of the opposition is increasingly common among newcomers to the Senate. However, among the 32 senators who have served as long as Feinstein and Boxer, only eight – all Democrats – have voted so consistently along party lines.

Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which conducts hearings on the nominees, has spoken bluntly on the role of judicial philosophy in the confirmation process.

“Mine is a vote that is made with the belief that a person’s legal reasoning and judicial philosophy, especially at a time of crisis, at times of conflict, and at times of controversy, do mean a great deal,’’ Feinstein said on the Senate floor in 2006 before she voted against Justice Samuel Alito.

Feinstein listed twelve cases throughout history in which legal views and philosophy – not competence – were the rationale for rejecting Supreme Court nominees.

“It is my belief that (Alito’s) legal philosophy and views will essentially swing the Court far out of the mainstream, toward legal philosophy and views that do not reflect the majority views of this country.’’

A year earlier, Feinstein praised John Roberts’ “brilliant legal mind’’ and his “love and abiding respect for the law.’’ Yet she voted against his confirmation after expressing concern about him “staying in touch with people who have different life experiences,’’ and his failure to clearly articulate his judicial philosophy.

The partisan divide has been more pronounced over the past five years.

Each of the sitting justices who preceded Roberts received overwhelming bipartisan support. Both of President Reagan’s nominees, Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, were confirmed unanimously.  Clarence Thomas, President H. W. Bush’s nominee was confirmed by a close 52 to 48 vote after a former employee accused him of sexual harassment. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, both Clinton appointees, received large bipartisan approval.

California’s senators have not been as partisan on other federal judgeships. Feinstein voted against only eight of the 323 federal judges nominated by President Bush. Boxer voted against 12. Both senators voted in favor of every judge nominated by President Clinton.

California News Service reporter James Kuo is a senior at the University of California Irvine. CNS, a project of UC’s Washington Center and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, may be reached at cns@ucdc.edu

SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION VOTES

Antonin Scalia (Reagan)               1986     98-0

Anthony Kennedy (Reagan)       1988    97-0

Clarence Thomas (Bush)               1991     52-48

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton)   1993  96-3

Stephen Breyer (Clinton)              1994     87-9

John Roberts (Bush)                       2005    78-22

Samuel Alito (Bush)                        2006    58-42

Sonia Sotomayor (Obama)           2009    68-31

Elana Kagan (Obama)                      2010   63-37

Carly does some deep thinking: Going all somber and Senatorial on us, Hurricane Carly Fiorina announced with great solemnity Thursday that she decided she would vote against Kagan’s nomination.

If she had a vote. Or if anybody asked her.

“I closely followed the Senate’s confirmation hearings and have taken time to carefully consider how I would vote on Elena Kagan’s nomination were I a member of the Senate today,” she said,  suspense building unbearably.

Scene: Night at Monticello. Carly Fiorina sits at an old oak campaign desk, gazing out into the dark, face lit only by the reflection in the window glass of a single flickering candle.

Brow deeply furrowed, she swiftly scratches a few sentences with a quill pen on parchment. As she dips the writing instrument back into a small bottle of blue ink , the camera zooms in for a tight shot from behind,  revealing what she has just written: “Memo to self: Get Fred Davis in here to brainstorm a new spot – me talking to Jefferson. Or is it Hamilton? I always get those two mixed up.”

After much deliberation and chin stroking, Carly duly informed us in her statement, that while Kagan has many good qualities:

“…the process also underscored her lack of experience as a jurist, which in my mind is a key element in determining whether or not a nominee is qualified to serve as a member of the Supreme Court…

“Unfortunately, her complete lack of judicial experience coupled with a public record that sheds minimal light on how she would execute these duties gives me great pause about her qualifications to serve on the highest court in the land.  It is for that reason that I have decided not to support her nomination to this position.”

Calbuzz fun at home for the kids: See what happens when you replace the word “jurist” with “legislator,”  “Supreme Court” with “Senate” and “the highest court in the land” with “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”  You’ll be amazed!

Hurricane history lesson: What does Elena Kagan have in common with Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall, William Rehnquist, Earl Warren and 36 percent of all the Supreme Court justices ever confirmed? Hint: The answer is not that they all single-handedly trashed world-class tech companies.

The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.

A candidate couldn’t say one thing one day – like, for example, that they were opposed to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — and another thing another day – like they basically agree with an opponent who favors a path to citizenship. They’d be afraid of being called a liar in the papers, and that would actually matter.

But in the California governor’s race it now appears that we are witnessing the Death of Truth. From a cosmic perspective, this has come about because:

– The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically-sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.

– The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed  by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)

– It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

All of this feeds the corrosive cynicism that infects our politics, demonstrated most visibly in low voter turnout. Even among those who vote, healthy skepticism is often supplanted with a smart-ass, know-it-all facile sophistication that assumes all politicians are liars (they’re not) and that everyone in public life only wants to do well (we still believe there are some who want to do good).

Cynicism, of course, breeds further alienation and disgust, causing a downward spiral of disengagement from the process, leaving voting (and caring) to the true-believing wing-nuts who are certain they know the truth because they read or watch it at one of the ideologically-determined web sites or stations that conclusively confirms their prior held beliefs.

Exhibit A for the Death of Truth is Her Megness, eMeg Whitman herself.

Let’s be clear: Krusty the General (Gandalf) Brown and his Merry Pranksters in Oakland are guilty of their own special brand of spin. But it’s pretty much your normal, basic campaign (wink-wink) re-framing like you’d get from Gov. Schwarzmuscle, President Oybama or Golden Gate Feinstein.

Brown has failed to level with voters about how he’d deal with the state budget (we think he’d shift all the responsibility for services back to cities, counties school districts, with a local option to raise taxes, and get the locals off the state’s books), among most other issues. But his guy Sterling Clifford has a point when he argues that “Meg Whitman is trying to paper over her lies and deceptions with dollar bills.”

Indeed, when it comes to killing truth, eMeg is miles ahead in felony flip-floppery. The pro-Brown California Working Families tried to drive that point home last week with the release of an online ad titled “Lies.” detailing just a few recent examples of Megspeak:

– She was for double furloughs for state employees before she was against furloughs altogether.

– She was for a path to citizenship before she knew what it meant, and then she was vehemently against it, before she declared herself aligned with Brown, who’s for it.

– She was for sending state agents into work places to hunt down and arrest illegal immigrant workers until she decided she was against that (probably illegal) idea.

– She was against extending benefits to children of illegal immigrants (like admission to state universities and colleges) before she was . . . wait, maybe she’s still against that, but OK with letting illegal immigrant offspring get treated at a hospital.

– In the primary she said, “We have to prosecute illegal aliens and criminal illegal aliens in all of our cities in every part of California.” Now she says, “What has bothered Latinos for too long is the harsh rhetoric around the immigration debate. Too often, the debate has been tinged with hurtful words signaling intolerance or worse to many Latinos.”

If a candidate changes his or her position from A to B, he or she can be accused of flip-flopping (or changing his or her mind). What makes the Whitman campaign’s changes so special is that her paid mouthpieces are out there insisting that eMeg has NOT changed her position one iota. She’s entirely consistent and not a rank opportunist, they argue.

Calbuzz has been harping on this lack of truthiness by the Whitman camp for some time, and we’ve catalogued a partial list of prevarications. But where are the other non-partisan voices willing to hold Meg’s feet to the fire? Why isn’t every editorial page and columnist in the state thundering with indignation, instead of equating Brown’s admittedly infuriating avoidance of staking clear positions on policy with Whitman’s corporate style, black-is-white daily deceits and deceptions?

The beyond standard quantum limit nature of Whitman’s spending so far has enabled her, like no California candidate in history, to take advantage of Calbuzzer Mark Twain’s timeless dictum: “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”

So far, eMeg has circled the globe several times, while the too-often-timid California media are still struggling in the dark to find their trousers.

Prop. 14 Debate: Good Arguments on Both Sides

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Calbuzz is of two minds about Proposition 14 on Tuesday’s ballot.

On the one hand, we think anything both major political parties are dead set against must be touching on something important. And we can see how it would be that if candidates had to appeal to voters of all stripes — not just Democrats and Republicans — it’s possible that more centrist, moderate, reasonable legislators might get elected who would be prepared to compromise in Sacramento to get something done, fercrineoutloud.

On the other hand, there’s a pretty sound argument that parties ought to be able to pick their own representatives and that taking away that right cuts parties off at the knees at a time when parties are bringing people into the political process who might otherwise have no clue for whom to vote. We’ve already approved a new, non-partisan system for creating legislative boundaries. Let’s give that a chance to work before trying to fix electoral outcomes by tinkering with the electoral system.

Here are a pair of arguments on Proposition 14, from the great political writer and author Lou Cannon and from Thomas G. Del Beccaro, vice chair of the California Republican Party.

CA Forward Moves Ahead on Majority Budget Plan

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

cafwd_logo

California Forward, the good government group backed by the state’s most muscular civic foundations, decided Wednesday – at least tentatively – to stand up and play a role in reforming California.

The goo-goos’ leadership council agreed to support scrapping the two-thirds legislative vote now required to approve the budget in favor of a majority vote, according to leakage through the Victorian windows in the Drawing Room of the Sterling Hotel, where the group was meeting in Sacramento to hash out an action item agenda.

Endorsement of a majority budget vote would be part of a package of reforms that includes two-year budgeting, performance management measures, a sunset review of government codes, a rainy-day fund and a “pay-go” requirement that new legislation must identify funds or cuts, Calbuzz also learned. (Until the whole group agrees with the leadership council’s proposals, support for any of this remains provisional.)

The group – backed by California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation – is ideologically diverse, so the two-thirds budget vote proposal has proved a difficult one for members because of the partisan polarization split on the issue.

Cal Forward is also apparently inching toward support for a constitutional change to return to local governments the authority to raise revenues with less than the two-thirds vote mandated by Proposition 13 since 1978.

Whether reforms like these can be accomplished one at a time or in clusters, or whether substantive reform will demand a constitutional convention, as outlined by the Bay Area Council, remains to be seen. But for now, at least, it looks like California Forward is opting to assert an active role in the reform movement.