WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators who could play a pivotal role in any battle over the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court said on Thursday they saw no reason at this point to block him.
Democrats and Republicans stressed, however, that no final decision would be made until after Roberts is scrutinized at pending Senate confirmation hearings.
"So far, so good," Sen. Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, said in expressing the sentiment of many of the lawmakers in the group.[...]
"I think the president made a wise choice," said Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who is also a member of the "Gang of 14."
Another member, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, said, "This is a credible nominee -- and not one, as far as we know now, who has a record that in any sense can be described as 'extremist."'
I don't get it.
Perhaps this sort of thing is designed to make Dems look reasonable. So that if anything does turn out to be terribly wrong with Roberts (other than the obvious), they can say, "hey we were ready to confirm him. We tried to be reasonable, give the president the benefit of the doubt. But he turned out to be a nutcase."
If that's the strategy, it's not a sound one. If Dems do decide, in the end, to oppose Roberts seriously, there will be a whole bunch of republican talking points based on the fact that Dems have said before that Roberts is fine ("even Democrats Mark Pryor and Joe Lieberman said earlier that..."). And that the Dems are flip-floppers, or prisoners of liberal interest groups, or are unprincipled, or whichever of the boring, tired republican canards is up that day.
This kind of strategy also has the disadvantage of prejudicing the public early in the nomination. No one knows a fucking thing about Roberts, except the bit about the brief he wrote on Roe for the first Bush, and the thing about the little girl and the French fry. The only stuff we're getting in the the mainstream mediaright now is about how great his credentials are, how everyone thinks he's a nice guy, how he has cute kids that pout on national TV, how barring any surprises he'll get confirmed.
The last thing we need is Democrats making snap judgments before a confirmation hearing -- before his views are really known, and before the decision on whether to oppose him can be made with any seriousness.
But really more than anything else, it's a total abdication of these Democrats' responsibilities as Senators. I mean, we know that republicans abdicated their responsibility a long time ago, and that they'd confirm Caligula's horse if that's what they were told to do. But for Nelson, Lieberman, and Pryor to be saying they'll confirm him (presumably, in the case of Nelson and Pryor, to score political points in their home states) before knowing what they're talking about it about as cynical as it comes. I'm a big supporter of red state Dems and the necessity of compromise to stay in office, but there's a line somewhere, and they crossed it.