Monday :: Oct 15, 2007

"Law and Order": Democratic Presidential Candidates Edition


by eriposte

INTRODUCTION

Systematic and serial law-breaking by the Executive can be aided by three key factors: a weak Justice Department (that fails to enforce the laws), a weak Judiciary (that fails to uphold the laws) and/or a weak Congress (that fails to hold the Executive accountable). Until this year, the Democrats in Congress had little leverage to hold the Bush White House accountable from a Congressional standpoint. However, they did have some say in influencing the leadership of the Justice Department and the kind of judges that got appointed to the Federal Courts and the Supreme Court. So, in this post I address the following question:

How did the Democratic Senators running for President vote when it came to George Bush's worst judicial nominations and his nominations for Attorney General?

The judgement that these candidates showed on these nominations is enormously important because:

(a) Both Attorney Generals (particularly Alberto Gonzalez) did enormous damage to the country and its Constitutional fabric by enabling serial law-breaking by the White House and virtually untrammeled Executive power, and

(b) Some of Bush's judicial nominees have done an enormous amount to weaken Congressional power, overturn precedent and implant a far more conservative ideology in America's fabric. Indeed, the impact of votes on judicial nominations often lasts a generation or more, unlike the impact of votes on Bills or Motions that have comparatively transient effects that could be reversed by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President.

The judgement that the Democratic candidates showed on these nominations is also revealing of the depth of their progressive nature and whether they were willing to act consistently to preserve a fair Judiciary and DOJ that are not ideologically shifted to the conservative side. In order to provide additional color to the voting patterns of the Presidential candidates, I compare their voting records to those of Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is generally considered a progressive netroots hero (a person whom I admire) and to those of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) who is not considered the opposite of a netroots hero for his serial enabling of the Bush White House's criminality.

SUMMARY

The data presented in this post on the worst Judicial and AG nominees of George Bush shows that Sen. Hillary Clinton has an almost spotless and the most progressive voting record with respect to these nominees. Sen. Obama's record is very progressive but the vast majority of the nominees in question came to the Senate floor at a time when Sen. Obama was not yet in the Senate - so it is difficult to assess whether his record would have been as progressive as Senator Clinton's had he voted on all of the same nominees. Sen. Edwards's record is also very good, but he missed some votes. Sen. Biden, Sen. Feingold and Sen. Dodd have decent records overall but are marred by votes for a handful of bad nominees (including, in Sen. Feingold's and Sen. Dodd's case, individuals like Attorney General John Ashcroft and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts). Unsurprisingly, Sen. Lieberman has the worst record overall.

A corollary to these findings is that anyone who continues to criticize Sen. Hillary Clinton as being an unprincipled triangulator or a closet Republican, but simultaneously and uncritically holds up Sen. Russell Feingold as a progressive netroots hero is not representing Sen. Clinton's very progressive record accurately.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

I will separate out the data and discussion into the following sections. In all the tables below, I've used the following color coding. A NO vote (to block the nominee) is colored green, a YES vote (to allow the nominee to go forward) is colored red and an absence of a vote (no vote = N/V) is colored yellow. If a Senator was absent for a CLOSE vote (N/V-C), that is shown in blue color. If a Senator was not a member of Congress during the time of the vote, I use a "-" and no color is assigned in that situation.

1. George Bush's Controversial Nominees for Attorney General

2. George Bush's Controversial Nominees to the Supreme Court

3. George Bush's Controversial Nominees to the Federal Circuit Courts

4. Additional Controversial Nominees of George Bush that enabled the White House's law-breaking

5. Conclusions


1. George Bush's Controversial Nominees for Attorney General

As shown in the table below, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Biden have the best record on this. Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama were not in Congress for one of the two votes but voted the right way when they were in the Senate. Sen. Dodd, along with Senators Feingold and Lieberman voted the wrong way in one case each.

Roll Call
Vote
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Dodd
Sen. Edwards
Sen. Obama
Sen. Biden
Sen. Feingold
Sen. Lieberman
3
On the Nomination/Confirmation of Alberto R. Gonzales
to be Attorney General - February 3, 2005
N
N
-
N
N
N
Y
On the Nomination/Confirmation of John Ashcroft, to be
Attorney General - February 1, 2001
N
Y
N
-
N
Y
N

2. George Bush's Controversial Nominees to the Supreme Court

As shown in the table below, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden have the best record on this. Sen. Dodd and Senator Feingold unfortunately voted for John Roberts. Sen. Lieberman voted to end the filibuster of Alito's nomination and voted for John Roberts - and has the worst record of the Senators listed below.

Roll Call
Vote
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Dodd
Sen. Edwards
Sen. Obama
Sen. Biden
Sen. Feingold
Sen. Lieberman
On the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Nomination of
Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the Supreme Court
N
N
-
N
N
N
Y
On the Nomination/Confirmation of Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to
the Supreme Court
N
N
-
N
N
N
N
On the Nomination/Confirmation of John G. Roberts, Jr.,
to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
N
Y
-
N
N
Y
Y

3. George Bush's Controversial Nominees to the Federal Circuit Courts

This list of nominees shown in the table below was obtained from Progressive Punch, who derived the list by identifying the list of nominees who were voted against by the majority of their identified list of most progressive Senators.

As shown in the table below, Sen. Clinton has the best and most progressive record of the Senators examined. Sen. Obama has a good record, but very few of these controversial nominees were nominated when he was in Congress - hence, it is difficult to say whether his record would have been as good as Senator Clinton's. Sen. Feingold follows Sen. Clinton, followed in turn by Sen. Edwards, who unfortunately missed several votes, including two close votes. Lower in the hierarchy are Sen. Biden and Sen. Dodd who voted for 3 of the controversial nominees, each. Sen. Lieberman, unsurprisingly has the worst voting record.

Roll Call #
Vote
Sen. Edwards
133
Vote on Confirmation of William H. Pryor, Jr. to the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Jun 09, 2005.
N
N
-
N
N
N
N
132
Vote to End Debate on the Nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr.
to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Jun 08, 2005.
N
N
-
N
N
N
Y
131
Vote on Confirmation of Janice Rodgers Brown
to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Jun 08, 2005.
N
N
-
N
N
N
N
130
Vote to End Debate on the Nomination of Janice Rodgers
Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia. Jun 07, 2005.
N
N
-
N
N
N
Y
128
Nomination of Priscilla Richman Owen to be
a Federal Appellate Court Judge. May 25, 2005.
N
N
-
N
N
N
N
127
Procedural Vote on a Motion to Invoke Cloture on the
Nomination of Priscilla Richman Owen to be a
Federal Appellate Court Judge. May 24, 2005.
Y
N
-
Y
N
N
Y
153
Vote on confirming President Bush's nomination of
Leon Holmes to a lifetime position on the Federal court
in Arkansas. Jul 06, 2004.
N
N
-
N
N
N
152
Vote on confirmation of President Bush's nomination of
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes to
the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Jun 24, 2004.
N
Y
-
Y
Y
N
312
Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia/Vote on Cloture. Jul 30, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N
308
Owen Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 5th Circuit/ Vote on Cloture. Jul 29, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
265
Victor Wolski Nomination to the U.S. Court of Federal
Claims/Vote on Confirmation. Jul 09, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N
144
Owen Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 5th Circuit/ Vote on Cloture. May 08, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
143
Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia/ Vote on Cloture.
May 08, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
140
Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia/Vote on Cloture.
May 05, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
139
Cook Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
6th Circuit/ Vote on Confirmation. May 05, 2003.
N
N
-
Y
Y
N/V
137

Owen Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 5th Circuit/ Vote on Cloture. May 01, 2003.

N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
135
Sutter Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 6th Circuit/ Vote on Confirmation. Apr 29, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
114
Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia/Vote on Cloture. Apr 02, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N
113
Tymkovich Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the 10th Circuit/Vote on Confirmation.
Apr 01, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N/V-C
56
Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia/Vote on Cloture.
Mar 18, 2003.
N
N
-
N
N
N
54
Bybee Nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals/
Vote on Confirmation. Mar 13, 2003.
N
Y
-
N/V
N
Y
53
Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia/Vote on Cloture.
Mar 13, 2003.
N
N
-
N/V-C
N
N
40

Estrada Nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia/Vote on Cloture.
Mar 06, 2003.

N
N
-
N
N
N
250
Shedd Nomination to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals/
Vote on Confirmation Nov 19, 2002.
N
N
-
N
N
N
202
Smith Nomination to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals/
Vote on Confirmation. Jul 31, 2002.
N
N
-
Y
N
N
108
Cassell Nomination to the Federal District Court in
Utah/Vote on Confirmation. May 13, 2002.
N
Y
-
N/V
N
N/V
57
S 517. National Energy Plan/Vote to Express the
Sense of the Senate that President Bush's Conservative
Judicial Nominees Should Be Confirmed. Mar 21, 2002.
N
N
-
N
N
N

4. Additional Controversial Nominees of George Bush that enabled the White House's law-breaking

In addition to looking at judicial and AG nominees, I added three highly controversial nominees to my list just for curiosity. John Bolton was well known to have been one of the top players in the distortion and reckless manipulation of pre-war Iraq intelligence. Porter Goss was an extraordinarily corrupt individual nominated to lead the CIA - and who made it a mission to dramatically worsen the politicization of the CIA to serve the Bush White House. Gale Norton was one of the worst and most corrupt Secretaries of the Interior in American history and virtually ran the division as a subsidiary of Jack Abramoff and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and allowed massive politicization within the Interior Dept to serve the White House. The conclusions from the data below are interesting but unrelated to the main thrust of this post.

As it turns out, even on these terrible and corrupt nominees, Sen. Clinton has the best voting record and surprisingly, Sen. Feingold has the worst voting record.

Roll Call
Vote
Sen. Clinton
Sen. Dodd
Sen. Edwards
Sen. Obama
Sen. Biden
Sen. Feingold
Sen. Lieberman
Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Nomination of
John R. Bolton to be Representative of the U.S. to the
United Nations - May 26, 2005
N
N
-
N
N
N
N
On the Nomination/Confirmation of Porter J. Goss to be
Director of Central Intelligence - September 22, 2004
N
N
N/V
-
Y
Y
Y
On the Nomination/Confirmation of Gale Ann Norton to be
Secretary of the Interior - January 30, 2001
N
Y
N
-
N
Y
N

5. Conclusions

The data presented in this post on the worst Judicial and AG nominees of George Bush shows that Sen. Hillary Clinton has an almost spotless and the most progressive voting record with respect to these nominees. Sen. Obama's record is very progressive but the vast majority of the nominees in question came to the Senate floor at a time when Sen. Obama was not yet in the Senate - so it is difficult to assess whether his record would have been as progressive as Senator Clinton's had he voted on all of the same nominees. Sen. Edwards's record is also very good, but he missed some votes. Sen. Biden, Sen. Feingold and Sen. Dodd have decent records overall but are marred by votes for a handful of bad nominees (including, in Sen. Feingold's and Sen. Dodd's case, nominees like Attorney General John Ashcroft and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts). Unsurprisingly, Sen. Lieberman has the worst record overall.

A corollary to these findings is that anyone who continues to criticize Sen. Hillary Clinton as being an unprincipled triangulator or a closet Republican, but simultaneously and uncritically holds up Sen. Russell Feingold as a progressive netroots hero is not representing Sen. Clinton's very progressive record accurately.

eriposte :: 7:33 AM :: Comments (18) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!