Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fox News Sunday: "We Can Control Ourselves"

Mainly I want to discuss the appearance of Senators McConnell, Graham, and Feinstein with Chris Wallace, but will just mention quickly that former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, mentioned in today's NYT article as having told the Administration that a Gonzales nomination would be unacceptable, denied making such a statement. He said the meeting last week was "about process, not people," and added "I would support Attorney General Gonzales if he's nominated." An interesting statement, quite possibly designed to save face when a Gonzales nomination does occur.

At the start of the panel discussion, Chris Wallace reminded viewers that Bill Kristol (who is, unfortunately, not on the panel today) predicted (back on 6/22) that Justice O'Connor would retire. He also predicated that Gonzales will be her replacement: will he get the twofer?

The senators on the shows today seem to be repeating the line of "we will conduct ourselves well" over and over again - perhaps in a serious effort to convince themselves? Senator Graham said he thinks the very reputation of the Senate is at stake, to make sure that the confirmation process doesn't become a "food fight."

Like Specter and Leahy, the three on Fox today urged the outside interest groups to stand down; McConnell said "what's done on the outside will have little impact on what ultimately happens on the inside," and Graham added "if we give our votes over to the special interest groups, shame on the Senate." Feinstein called the campaign-style advocacy from the outside "destructive to the process."

Senator Feinstein urged Bush to "reach into the mainstream, to try and bring people together," while Graham said the president "will send up a solid conservative." He added that there was no requirement to maintain the ideological balance on the Court as it stands now, but there is a requirement to consult and to move the process forward.

McConnell dodged a question from Wallace about whether he'd support a Gonzales nomination, and Feinstein refused to provide names of candidates she would find acceptable (she said she would be happy to give those names to the president, but would not say them publicly). She said "obviously" she thought O'Connor should be replaced with a woman, but didn't say that was a requirement in her mind.

Wallace asked about the prospects of a filibuster, which all three senators said wasn't even being talked about at present. Feinstein said such a move would be "a last resort. No one wants to see a filibuster." McConnell said that if a filibuster occurred, the nuclear option would be "on the table, obviously, but I don't think a filibuster can be maintained" (i.e. under the Gang of 14 agreement). He cited the "excellent work of Senators Graham and DeWine" in making that agreement, a comment which will add to conspiracy theory that those two senators were dispatched by the Republican leadership to join the Gang of 14.

Today, Senator Graham said that he wasn't of the opinion that "ideological attacks are not an extraordinary circumstance." He said he hopes the Gang of 14 agreement will hold, but as he has since the compromise downplayed the role of the group, saying that their agreement "had no effect but to give the Senate a chance to start over."

The only time the discussion got slightly heated was near the end, when McConnell started discussing a timetable for the confirmation process. He said "we're going to plow through the process in about the same time we've always used," saying that the average interval between nomination and confirmation in recent years has been 72 days, and that there are 92 days now before the new Court term starts in October. Feinstein jumped in and responded "It's important that we have the time to do what we need to do. No one wants to delay this, but no one wants to be intimidated into forcing through" a nominee. She noted that O'Connor said in her retirement letter that she would serve until her successor is confirmed, "so there's not going to be a gap." With the number of recesses over the next couple months (the whole of August), things are going to have to move either very quickly (i.e. in July) or more deliberately (i.e. in September). I'd guess quickly will be the route the Adminstration takes, but we'll see.

On the panel discussion toward the end of the show, Juan Williams and other guests said they thought Gonzales is the obvious choice, although Brit Hume said there is a serious tension between the president's desire to nominate him and to put a very strong, true-believing conservative on the Court.


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