With the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, President Bush has trapped Democrats in the frame of "polite politics." With the exception of Chris Bowers over at MyDD.com, Democrats all over the place are voicing the same argument:...
With the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, President Bush has trapped Democrats in the frame of "polite politics."
With the exception of Chris Bowers over at MyDD.com, Democrats all over the place are voicing the same argument: let's be polite until we learn more.
Think about this: Why do we believe it is impolite to aggressively question the nominee of George W. Bush?
We believe that it is impolite because the GOP has spent millions promoting the idea that Democrats will fight anything. That is the frame for the Supreme Court nomination: angry liberals. It is amazing how quickly it has taken control of even the best minds out there.
A cursory glance at sites like the Judicial Confirmation Network--a partisan front set up to advance President Bush's Supreme Court agenda--exists solely to advance one idea: Democrats block nominees.
Time and time again Democrats have faced this particular framing problem and been unable to understand what is happening. And it is happening again.
The goal of the "Democrats obstruct" frame is to shut down all criticism of the President's policies by focusing attention on process. That is the goal. "Democrats are bad Americans because they block the process."
Right now, Democrats are afraid to break this frame because John Roberts has such a fragile demeanor. It is one thing to attack Karl Rove, a well known political assassin. But it is another to attack a judge with a relatively unknown record and such an angelic demeanor.
Democrats must break frame to win this debate. The idea that Democrats can be calm during this nomination and then really kick up the heat for the next one is totally flawed. It's worse than that: it helps the Bush White House by reinforcing the "polite politics" frame.
President Bush has never in his life nominated somebody to the court who did not have a history of obedience to the Bush family. Not one time. For President Bush, a nomination is a reward not an accomplishment.
What is John Roberts being rewarded for? In what way has John Roberts played "Mr. Obedience" to President Bush?
Two issues come to mind:
SECRET PRISONS: John Roberts supported and gave legal legitimacy to Donald Rumsfeld's legal battle to hold prisoners in Cuba with a secret process.
ANTI-EQUALITY TERRORISTS: John Roberts has a history of arguing in favor of the rights of terrorist groups that attacked doctors and women at medical clinics.
It will take some time to generate specifics and talking points about these two issues, but that does not mean that Democrats should sit back and re-enforce the GOP "polite politics" frame.
We can start by saying:
John Roberts has a history of obeying the President, but as an advocate and as a judge.
President Bush looks for nominees with a history of obedience.
Will John Roberts continue to obey the President if confirmed?
This is not about yelling or being angry. George W. Bush has shown time and time again that he believes the purpose of government is to obey the will of the President. And he has nominated and promoted those individuals who have proven their loyalty to the President by obeying even the most questionable requests.
America deserves a Supreme Court justice who obeys the Constitution, not a Justice who obeys the President.
We must break the "polite politics" frame and break it now.
© 2005 Jeffrey Feldman