For the first time in six years, a presidential judicial nomination has been filibustered out of existence. Republicans may have been forced to accept a black president who won't shuck and jive at their command, but they drew the line at another Asian American sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Republicans, who endlessly, vociferously denounced judicial filibusters, filibustered Goodwin Liu's appointment to the Ninth Circuit. The Senate voted 52-43, failing by eight votes to end debate and advance Liu's nomination.
Only one Asian or Pacific Islander, the Second Circuit's Judge Denny Chin, sits on a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals bench. Chin's appointment sailed through the Senate 98-0 last year when Democrats and Independents controlled the 60-vote threshold, apparently filling the Republican quota.
Liu, an eminently qualified University of California legal scholar, had been filibustered by the likes of John Cornyn (R-TX), known for pushing anti-Asian immigration policy and paling around with the right-wing racist Rockford Institute.
"He is unfit to serve as a United States judge," drawled Cornyn of Rhodes Scholar and former Supreme Court clerk Liu. Liu had garnered wide support, including nods from such conservative icons as Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr and Bush Administration torture master John Yoo, as well as judicial experts and intellectuals across the political spectrum.
Cornyn and the GOP cohort demanded respect for George W. Bush and the racketeers and thugs he pushed onto the bench, but they demonstrated no respect for Barack Obama's nomination or Goodwin Liu's qualifications.
When Bush was president, Republicans, eager to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues bent on shredding the Constitution and allowing their corporate cronies and reactionary social engineers to run roughshod over Americans' rights and legal protections, demanded that no judicial appointment ever be filibustered. "Up'er don vote!" they drawled and twanged. "Up'er don vote!"
For those unfamiliar with regional, genetically-stilted dialect, they meant "up or down vote." Democrats meekly complied, conceding that elections had consequences. Today, corporations may pour unlimited funds into Republican coffers, and the Bill of Rights is an elective.
To be sure, Republicans canned Liu's nomination primarily because they want to wait until Barack Obama is gone so they can pack the courts with more ideologues who will oppress women and minorities, dismantle environmental, business and financial oversight, and give plutocrats free rein over ordinary Americans. But, it can be said that white supremacists would find it easier to dis the Asian nominee of a black President than the white nominee of a white President.
"Extraordinary circumstances" were the agreed grounds for a filibuster, and even the reactionary troglodyte Samuel Alito was spared a much-deserved filibuster. Republicans labelled respected jurists as "activist judges," and gloated over installing Republican ideologues whose rabid judicial engineering has driven the American legal landscape into the brutal wilderness of medieval patronage.
Republicans demanded their ideologues be confirmed without filibusters on principle, but demonstrated no principles in filibustering a judicial nominee exponentially more qualified than any Republican toady to ever don a black robe. In this, as in subsidies for oil moguls and compulsive serial adultery, the Republicans had no shame.
Actually, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) felt enough shame to vote, "Present."
"I wrote a law review article making a case that judges should not be filibustered, and that's the only thing I can do to protect my honor," Hatch said of his dishonoring himself, the nominee, and the President of the United States. A "Present" vote differs not on whit from a "No" vote, as it adds nothing toward mitigating the 60-vote threshold for cloture.
Four Senators did not vote. Max Baucus (D-MT) joined Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Jerry Moran (KS), and David Vitter (LA) in dishonor through abstinence. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the only Democrat voting against cloture, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the only Republican to vote for cloture.
"I stated during the Bush Administration that judicial nominations deserved an up or down vote...and my position has not changed," Murkowski said, personifying the apex of integrity among the morally bankrupt.
"His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue," twanged Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
During Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Liu had testified, "Judge Alito's record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse; where federal agents may point guns at ordinary citizens during a raid, even after no sign of resistance..." based on rulings Alito had made.
Graham and his Republicans cadre seized on Liu's simple listing of a right-wing judge's rulings as constituting an ideological radicalism so heinous as to be an "extraordinary circumstance" worthy of filibuster. Graham and his Republican horde no doubt believes shooting down unarmed children and pistol-whipping unresisting citizens is nothing to be ashamed of, so one would think pointing out those characteristics in nominee Alito would have been considered a positive character reference.
But, apparently, Republicans do have some shame. Just not enough to form a moral compass.