THE BLOG

Republicans Have the Principled Backbone of an Invertebrate

08/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jeff Schweitzer Scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in neurophysiology

According to a 2005 article in the conservative Weekly Standard, Republicans "have long taken the position that, because it is the president's prerogative to select Supreme Court justices, any nominee who is qualified and does not subscribe to an extreme judicial philosophy should be confirmed."

That is until we have a Democrat in the Oval Office.

With Obama now nominating the next justice of the Supreme Court, those "long standing" principles no longer apply. The position is jettisoned like yesterday's old fruit. This obvious asymmetry and inherent hypocrisy exemplifies why Republicans have lost credibility, and a series of elections. Conservatives feign to stand on principle when in fact political expediency is the only driving force. This becomes evident by the inversion of their principled positions when a Democrat takes office. What was unyielding and divine when promulgated by Republicans under Bush becomes nothing but a liberal conspiracy when applied by the Democrats under Obama.

Let us look at some specific examples of principles that apply to one president but not the other, giving Republicans the spine of an octopus and none of the brains possessed by that animal.

During the confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito, Majority Leader Bill Frist said the judge's Democratic opponents are "smearing a decent and honorable man in imposing an unfair political standard on all judicial nominees." This remember is the Party that called Sonia Sotomayor a "racist" with no remorse for "smearing a decent" person because the epithet was offered by a Republican. Senators berated Democrats for making the nomination "a partisan contest." Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was angered by the lack of bipartisan support. Contrast this to the hyper-partisan Republican behavior elicited by Sotomayor's nomination now that Party roles have reversed.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, each Republican candidate sought to out-right the other by reassuring his base that he would nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. Does it not logically apply that a liberal president would then seek to nominate a liberal justice? Yet that very thought sends Republicans into a twisted rage.

The inconsistencies in the Republican position on Sotomayor are so profound that blatantly contradictory statements often appear in the same utterance. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not rule out a filibuster on Sotomayor's nomination. He then noted that he "consistently opposed filibustering judges." Of course he really meant he opposed filibustering judges nominated by a Republican president but at that point his tongue was so tied that no further words could escape. How can any constituent take these guys seriously?

Republicans have become that dinner guest with more food on his shirt than in his plate: unpleasant to witness but too embarrassing to remedy. And the guest just keeps on eating, sharing the bounty with shirt and mouth alike in almost equal proportion in a sad spectacle of excess and cluelessness. What we witnessed today in the opening of the hearings on Sotomayor were Republicans similarly soiling themselves.

Republicans live in a happy fantasy world, unaware of the demands imposed by reality or table hygiene. When in power, all their actions are justified, and all opposition unpatriotic. When out of power, those very same actions become unpatriotic and all opposition justified. They have created the political equivalent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

Unfortunately, the real world cannot afford the luxury of indulging this Republican fondness for myth and mirth. Let's confirm Sotomayor, behave like adults, brush off the crumbs and move on.