February 19, 2009

Obama in Awkward Position on Judges

Two articles call attention to Barack Obama’s obstructionist record on judicial nominees during his four years in the U.S. Senate. An editorial in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor wonders whether Obama’s judicial nominees will have “a commitment to true impartiality from the bench” and will pass the “test of his call for a new bipartisanship.” The Monitor is skeptical because
“[Obama] was not one of the bipartisan ‘Gang of 14’ senators who, in 2005, brokered a compromise to avoid filibusters for votes on President Bush's court nominees. He has also made clear that he wants courts to use the Constitution for social policy.” (emphasis added)
The Monitor goes on to cite a recent Rasmussen poll which found that only 35% of Americans believe Obama wants Supreme Court Justices to base their decisions “on what’s written in the Constitution and legal precedents.” (link to poll below)

And the Deseret News reports on a February 13 speech by Ken Starr. The article summarizes Starr’s message:
"If President Barack Obama is hoping for bi-partisan support of his future U.S. Supreme Court nominees, he may have painted himself into a political corner … because he actively opposed nominees from former President George W. Bush … supported a filibuster against Justice Samuel Alito and voted against John Roberts.”
As Starr notes, Obama finds himself in the awkward position of being “the first president of the United States ever in our history to have participated in a Senate filibuster of a judicial nominee.” Multiple filibusters in fact (Obama also supported a filibuster against Fifth Circuit nominee Leslie Southwick in 2007). Quoting the Washington Times, Starr concludes that Obama’s Senate record on judges leaves him “hard-pressed to call for bipartisan help confirming judges or even an up-or-down vote.”