On the first day of confirmation hearings for John Roberts, Republican senators spent a lot of time explaining what Democrats shouldn't be allowed to ask George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominee. As Michael Scherer puts it today in Salon, "One by one, Republican senators cited judicial ethics rules and historical precedent to explain why the American people should not expect to hear anything of substance from Roberts before he becomes the chief justice." Former Sen. and Attorney General John Ashcroft, providing commentary for CNN, said at one point Monday afternoon that there were just two things that Roberts shouldn't have to address: the future or the past.
As usual, though, it was Republican Sen. John Cornyn who dived farthest off the deep end of partisan hackery. When Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy noted in their opening statements Monday that Hurricane Katrina has reminded us that many Americans are "left out and left behind," that we "cannot continue to ignore the injustice, the inequality and the gross disparities that exist in our society," and that we need a "responsive" federal government, well, Cornyn felt the need to set things straight.
"I believe the American people will see this for what it is," Cornyn said in a statement released by his office. "We ought not to appropriate a national tragedy in a misguided effort to further a political interest of any sort."
That's right, Sen. Cornyn. It's wrong to "appropriate a national tragedy" to "further a political interest," and that's something your party would never do. It's not like the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee once offered photos of George W. Bush on 9/11 in exchange for campaign contributions. It's not like the Republican National Committee decided to hold its 2004 convention later than usual and in New York to capitalize on a 9/11 anniversary. It's not like the Bush-Cheney campaign ran a campaign ad featuring footage of the destroyed World Trade Center or firefighters carrying a flag-covered body. And it's not like the president invokes the memories of 9/11 again and again and again to sell his war on Iraq, to obscure the effects of his tax cuts, to get himself reelected and to gussy up his administration's response to Katrina.
Appropriating a national tragedy to "further a political interest"? The Democrats know something about that, Sen. Cornyn. They've learned at the feet of masters.