Obstructing judges

Published July 7, 2004 4:44PM (EDT)

President Bush went to John Edwards' home state of North Carolina today to meet with conservative judicial picks and complained about Senate Democrats -- naming Edwards specifically at a meeting with reporters -- "obstructing" his judicial nominees. But Bush had to make calls to his nominees today because conservatives are angry that Bush struck a deal with Senate Democrats, promising not to make "recess" appointments if Dems allowed floor votes on non-controversial nominees.

The Progress Report points out that Republican claims of "obstructionist" Senate Democrats are disingenuous at best. "In the three and a half years since Bush took office, the Senate has confirmed 198 judges. In the eight years Bill Clinton was president, 377 of his nominees were approved. Why is Bush able to have his nominees approved at a faster rate? Just three of Bush's nominees have been blocked, compared to 20 during the Clinton presidency. In the first 1000 days Bush was President, judicial vacancies dropped from 9.9 per cent to 4.6 per cent."

And the Kerry-Edwards campaign today said that between the two senators, Kerry and Edwards have supported confirmation of nearly 200 of President Bushs judicial nominees.

As for the caliber of some of Bush's most controversial nominees, the Progress Report looks at one who made it through the confirmation process. "Displaying a shocking indifference to women's rights, 6 Democrats and 45 Republicans confirmed Bush nominee James Leon Holmes to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench in Arkansas. Holmes, a Little Rock attorney who supports a constitutional amendment banning abortion, once wrote that 'concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.' Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) noted that '30,000 American girls and women become pregnant each year from rape or incest.' But Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was unconcerned, saying Holmes's callous remark about rape victims was 'a literary device called exaggeration for effect.' Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who voted to confirm Holmes, said that he "apologized for that comment [and] acknowledged it was wrong.' But Holmes has never acknowledged he was wrong. In a carefully worded letter, Holmes apologized, 'regardless of the merits of the issue,' only for his 'articulation.'"

And there's more. Just seven short years ago, Holmes also wrote that a "wife is to subordinate herself to her husband." And Holmes has also "compared pro-choice advocates to Nazis and abortion to slavery."

But don't forget some of Bush's other choices for the bench: Judge Charles Pickering, who reduced sentences for convicted cross-burners; and Judge William Pryor who called Roe vs. Wade the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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