Over the weekend, the media and the blogosphere were abuzz with the story that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens may retire. With the justice being 89 years old, this shouldn't surprise anyone. And, given recent history, it also won't surprise many to learn that things will probably get very stupid. It won't make any difference who President Obama nominates to replace Stevens, that nominee will be painted as a terrorist and/or (probably "and") a communist.
If we've learned one thing in recent years, it's that elected Republicans are reactionaries and that the reactions their jerking knees lead them to is always completely out of proportion to the facts. We've also learned that Republican voters, aided by talk radio blowhards and lunatic conspiracy theorists on FOX News and the internet, are panicky grandmas who are afraid of their own shadows and, worse, are almost eager to be frightened into a stampede of sheep. If Glenn Beck or Michelle Malkin say that the Obama nominee wants to kill everyone, then they'll be more than happy to believe what confirms their own paranoid fantasies.
Wait, did I say that "things will probably get very stupid?" I guess I misspoke. There is no nominee and things have already begun to get stupid.
The second-ranking Republican in the Senate suggested on Sunday that the party would filibuster the next appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, if that nominee were deemed to be outside of the judicial mainstream.
"It will all depend on what kind of a person it is," Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) declared during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." "I think the president should nominate a qualified person. I hope, however, he does not nominate an overly ideological person. That will be the test, and if he doesn't nominate someone who is overly ideological, you may see Republicans voting against, but I don't think you will see them engage in a filibuster."
What makes for an "overly ideological" judge? We got a little preview of that. Arlen Specter was interviewed at the same time and told Chris Wallace that maybe we needed someone to balance out the court.
"I am a little troubled by what Arlen said," Kyl countered. "Don't have somebody coming in with preconceived attitudes. I'm going to be tough on the executives or I'm going to be for the little guy, we've had too much of that."
We've had too much of judges "standing up for the little guy?" Really? If Democrats don't grab that quote and run with it, someone's just not doing their job. It's about the dumbest damn thing I've heard in a while, as well as being nowhere near true.
And is Kyle actually threatening to filibuster a judicial nominee? Here's Kyle in 2005 on eliminating the filibuster when voting on judicial nominees (the "nuclear option"):
For 214 years it has been the tradition of the Senate to approve judicial nominees by a majority vote. Many of our judges and, for example, Clarence Thomas, people might recall, was approved by either fifty-one or fifty-two votes as I recall. It has never been the rule that a candidate for judgeship that had majority support was denied the ability to be confirmed once before the Senate. It has never happened before. So we're not changing the rules in the middle of the game. We're restoring the 214-year tradition of the Senate because in the last two years Democrats have begun to use this filibuster.
"[W]hat would occur as a result of the question that will be asked to the presiding officer in this debate is basically, is it the tradition of the Senate to have an up or down vote to give these nominees an up or down vote with the majority vote prevailing or is the last two years the real precedent of the Senate to require 60 votes?" Kyle said on the same program. "And I think that the presiding officer will say no the tradition of the Senate has been that a majority vote prevails."
By the way, all the Republicans called filibustering judicial nominees "unprecedented" and all the Republicans were wrong.
But more important is that Kyle is basically arguing that when Democrats filibuster a judicial nominee, it's a disaster of historic proportions. But when Republicans filibuster a judicial nominee, it's democracy in action. I'm getting awfully damned tired of typing out the word "hypocrisy" every other time I write about Republicans. It's tiring. I wish they'd just knock it off and try honesty for a change.
I'm torn over which offends me more, the Republican belief in my stupidity and inability to remember five years back or the idea that the American public needs to be protected from someone who'll "stand up for the little guy" -- i.e., the vast majority of the American public.
I guess in the end I can combine the two -- and a lot more -- by saying I'm offended by the shamelessness of the Republican party. Because Sen. Jon Kyle, Republican of Arizona, just announced he'd filibuster any nominee who'd promise to protect the American people from getting screwed.
And he said it as if it was a good thing.
Get updates via Twitter