Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing began today, and there are many things about it that have troubled me already.
To take just one, let's examine the opening remarks of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who spoke "of the need to defer to the president's nominees," saying that Obama won and "that ought to matter." He also said "that presidential elections have consequences, and he might be open to voting for [Sotomayor]."
Senator Graham seems oblivious to the system of checks and balances instituted by the U.S. Constitution. In Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 2, it says:
"[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States..."
Yes, Obama did win his election and he is the President of the United States, but Senator Graham also won his election and he is a U.S. Senator, and it is among his powers and duties as such to advise the President and to give or withhold his consent for the President's judicial nominations.
If President Obama nominates judges that Senator Graham believes will undermine rule-of-law and the U.S. Constitution, then he has a duty to withhold his consent. During his opening remarks he even acknowledged that this is how Obama viewed the process when he was a Senator. During the Alito confirmation hearing, Senator Obama said:
“There are some who believe that the president, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether the justice is intellectually capable and an all-around good guy; that once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question as to whether the judge should be confirmed. I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe it calls for meaningful advice and consent and that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record.”
When he said this, Barack Obama articulated the correct view. It is always amusing and frustrating to see politicians flip-flop on Constitutional issues like this to take the view which suits them best at the moment, but it is flabbergasting to see Senator Graham take the incorrect view at a moment when it does not suit him and will not help his political cause.
Among other things, this is the kind of behavior that makes the Republican Party so impotent. This is the lack of resolve, leadership, and good statesmanship that the Republican Party cannot continue to blunder into if it wants to survive and successfully implement its platform in the American government.