There's a growing recognition of the long-standing problem with Obama getting judicial nominees approved. Rachel Maddow, among others, has started to focus some attention on this. Today, an article in Salon's "War Room", "The GOP's secret, successful judicial war" by Joe Pace, added to the growing attention. Like most political stories, it's multifaceted and overdetermined, but I'd like to focus some attention on the presence of conservative victimology as part of the mix. "Poor victimiized Republicans are just giving Democrats a taste of their own medicine!"
Here's the beginning of Salon's story:
At present, 104 of the 876 federal judgeships -- almost 1 in 8 -- lie vacant. Some openings have persisted for so long and some caseloads have become so unmanageable that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has declared 49 "judicial emergencies." In districts once known as "rocket dockets," civil litigants can expect to wait two to three years before they get a trial. According to Carolyn Lamm, the president of the American Bar Association, the problem is "fast approaching crisis proportion."
The efficiency of the federal courts isn't an issue that tracks with partisan divisions. Nor does either party have a monopoly on politicizing the confirmation process. Seven years ago, in 2003, it was George W. Bush who complained that a "vacancy crisis" and delays in confirming judges were endangering American justice. Now it's the other way around.
Republicans claim that the Democrats are reaping what they sowed during the Bush years. But if that's the case, theirs is a vengeance disproportionate and compounded. GOP opposition to Obama's nominees is markedly different in its success rate, its indiscriminateness and the secrecy enshrouding its tactics. Unlike the noisy, targeted "judge wars" of the Bush years, what's transpiring now is a covert campaign of wholesale obstruction.
Let the data begin:
Here are some startling data points. At this point in his presidency, a Democratic-controlled Senate had confirmed 59 percent of Bush II's nominees. President Clinton, whose party had a six-vote majority in the Senate, had confirmed 72 percent by his second September in office. But despite enjoying the largest Senate majority since 1977, President Obama has gotten a meager 47 percent of his nominees confirmed -- the lowest rate since Richard Nixon. As a result, the rate of vacancies in the federal judiciary has doubled since he took office. Obama's confirmation rate is so bad, in fact, that due to retirements, the percentage of Republican-nominated district judges has actually gone up on his watch.>
And then there's the details, which prove even more devastating to conservative claims: They won't even let up for GOP-supported nominees, or nominees who are evntually confirmed with overwhelming GOP support. In short, it's not ideological, it's just sheerly obstructionist for the sake of being obstructionist:
Nor can they seem to explain why they are rejecting the judges. Agree or disagree with their justifications, Democrats at least told us why they opposed a Bush nominee. (A rare but notable exception was the declaration of Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow that they would block Bush's candidates for Michigan's courts due to his refusal to re-submit Clinton-era nominations.) Democrats opposed Miguel Estrada because of his Scalia-esque judicial philosophy, Peter Keslier because he was a Federalist Society co-founder and a Bork acolyte, William Myers because of his anti-environmental views, and so on.
But, with just two exceptions, Republican opposition to Obama's nominees seems to have little to do with their qualifications or ideological temperament. On the contrary, it's liberals who are grumbling about the president's moderate picks. The left never generated much enthusiasm for Joseph Greenaway, Alito's solidly centrist replacement on the Third Circuit. Or Albert Diaz, who spent a decade representing Big Tobacco. Or even David Hamilton, who was recommended by Indiana's Republican senator and endorsed by the local Federalist Society chapter. Even those credentials didn't stop the Republicans from filibustering his nomination for five months.
AHd here's the kicker:
Few cases illustrate the indiscriminate nature of Republican obstructionism better than Obama's nominee for the Fourth Circuit, Barbara Keenan. After clearing the Judiciary Committee without dissent, her nomination languished for half a year under the threat of a filibuster. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally filed for cloture and brought Keenan's nomination to the floor, she was confirmed 99-0. In other words, the very Republicans who maneuvered to block her up-down vote ended up voting for her. This is a story that repeats itself with disturbing regularity. In fact, despite Republican stonewalling that has extended the average confirmation time to an unprecedented five months, all but five of Obama's 42 successful nominees have been confirmed unanimously.
Once again, so much for the conservative victimology narrative. It doesn't bear the least bit of empirical scrutiny, any more than Rick Warren's absurd claims of hundreds of thousands of Christian martyrs per year, or the constant GOP claims of massive voter fraud that even the Bush DOJ could never quite manage to find.