Nearly everyone’s seen this clip before — O’s opportunistic hypocrisy on judicial appointments is old, old news — but it’s getting a fresh look on Twitter today now that Reid’s dropped the bomb. The lefty spin on this is “Who cares? Both sides change their opinions of the filibuster depending upon whether they have a majority in the Senate or not.” Right, but both sides haven’t actually gone nuclear. The hypocrisy is strictly rhetorical — or was, until today. And the fact is, Senator Obama had a fair point at the time: The more the Senate majority tries to disempower the minority, the more disgruntled and obstructionist the minority will become. Ed and I made that point today ourselves. Even tea-party Republicans in the Senate have granted unanimous consent before in the name of moving the legislative process along when they didn’t have the votes to alter the outcome. That’ll change now to some degree.
Having already weakened the taboo against lowering the 60-vote threshold, O and the Senate Dems will be sorely tempted to extend it to Supreme Court nominees if another vacancy arises before the end of his term. He’s a lame duck so he has nothing to lose by making his next appointee more radical than Sotomayor or Kagan. And Democrats who do have something to lose, like Pryor, Landrieu, and the rest of the red-state caucus, will now be free to vote no without jeopardizing the nominee’s chances of confirmation. Even if Democrats resist the temptation to lower the bar for SCOTUS appointees, it’s a cinch that O’s lower-court appointees will be more radical over the next three years than they otherwise might have been. Which, of course, is a big deal, as it’s the appellate and district court judges who craft most of America’s jurisprudence. He can make the federal judiciary much more liberal before 2016 than he could have before, all the while framing himself as a “moderate” because he and Reid, in their glorious magnanimity, have decided to let Republicans keep the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
On the other hand, maybe this is all for the best:
Though the rule’s changes will allow Obama to install a lot of liberal judges and executive officials in the near term, in the long run, ending the judicial filibuster will benefit conservatives.
The reason is that liberals are simply much better at demonizing conservative judicial appointees, even those with sterling credentials. In many cases, this has prompted Republican presidents to choose “stealth” nominees who end up taking an expansive view of the Constitution once they’re on the bench.
Scrapping the 60-vote threshold will make it easier for a future conservative president to choose judges who believe that the Constitution granted limited powers to the federal government.
One other fun fact about O’s egregious hypocrisy between now and then: He claimed in both cases that the Founders supported his position. Watch to the end here and you’ll hear that the Founders didn’t want the Senate’s minority party railroaded into silence. Watch today’s speech and you’ll hear that the Founders never anticipated a Senate minority as obstructionist as the GOP, which I guess means George Washington’s given the green light for railroading. Times change, and evidently the Founders change with them. Exit quotation: “When you start, it’s like wars — there’s no end to this. I don’t know where it goes.”