We have been living through the summer of legislative red herrings: gay marriage, flag burning, cut 'n' run, etc. All of them are politically explosive, but practically irrelevant. The votes either were never there or the victory was purely symbolic.
Now comes word from the Washington Times that Majority Leader Bill Frist and company are planning a big fight on lower court judges for July. For weeks, former Frist aide Manuel Miranda has been leading conservatives to bad-mouth his former boss for failing to bring up judges on the floor. "Frist staff is asleep at the wheel," Miranda wrote in an e-mail last week to activists, "plotting out a response to suburban flag-burnings."
At the top of Miranda's complaints for his former peers is the continued delay of a vote on Terrence W. Boyle, a frustrated jurist from North Carolina whose prospects have been sinking as of late. As Salon and the Center for Investigative Reporting have exhaustively reported, Boyle has broken ethics rules by ruling on cases that involved companies whose stock he owned. (A similar fate befell another Bush nominee scrutinized by CIR and Salon, Judge James Payne, who eventually withdrew his nomination.)
On the cusp of a possible showdown in the coming weeks, CIR has prepared a timeline of Boyle's declining prospects, with a blow by blow of all the tantalizing twists and turns, including a dubious defense of Boyle put forth by Sen. Elizabeth Dole last week in the Washington Times, and a response by Salon editor Joan Walsh, duly shredding it.
Miranda, in particular, does not seem overly optimistic about Boyle's chances. When Frist and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., recently wrote a letter asking Boyle to respond to the CIR/Salon ethics charges, Miranda exhibited full-throated exasperation in his newsletter. "Just another excuse for GOP delay," he exclaimed. But then Boyle is just a stepping stone. As Miranda pointed out in his newsletter today, conservative activists are already looking to the elections in 2008 and 2010, the next chapters of this epic battle to control the judiciary.