Monday, January 30, 2006

A Win-Win: Senators Kerry, Kennedy and Obama- and Judge Alito.

Like the famous elephant for whom the issue is not whether he can dance well, but that he can dance at all, so with Democratic Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy’s [Massachusetts’ Bobsey Twins] filibuster vote this afternoon [scheduled for 3:30 pm CST]. The filibuster effort won’t succeed [See here] and watch here,"Stalling Tactics" , but it is a political marvel that Kennedy and Kerry could muster as much support as they did.

The conventional wisdom is that this is too little, too late by the Dems to stop Judge Alito from being confirmed as the Supreme Court Justice to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It is expected that the Republicans almost surely have 62-64 votes to shut-off debate and break the filibuster effort [and they only need 60]. Moreover, it is expected that Judge Alito will be confirmed tomorrow with probably 58 votes [but possibly as many as 62], and, of course, he only needs 50 to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.

Lincoln Chafee, the very liberal Republican Senator from Rhode Island, who will not support a filibuster, is the only Republican Senator likely to vote against Judge Alito’s confirmation [Although, Olympia Snowe, one of the two quite liberal Republican Senators from Maine, could surprise and turn on Alito]. And, it is expected that at least four and maybe five, or so, Democrat Senators will support Judge Alito’s confirmation, including Ben Nelsen [D-NE], Tim Johnson [D-SD][who does not want to be tossed out of office by the voters for opposing Bush judges, as was his former fellow senator from South Dakota, Tom Daschle], Robert Byrd [D-WVA] [for whom liberal Illinois Senator Barack Obama has been out raising money for Bryd’s Senate re-election efforts] and Kent Conrad [D-ND].

Bill Kristol, of the Weekly Standard and Fox, commented today on the Fox News Channel, that the filibuster effort is being driven by Senator Kerry’s concern that Al Gore might be getting ahead of him in the 2008 Presidential sweepstakes. This concern resulted from Al Gore’s recent speech about warrantless NSA wiretap/intercepts, which attacked President Bush for exceeding the scope of his power under the Constitution and the law, as 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee Gore would put it. Senator Kennedy, who views himself as somehow the moral leader of the Senate [See here] and here, is, as usual, doing the bidding of the far left wing of the Democratic Party.

Sitting in his five star hotel in Davos, Switzerland, Senator Kerry got reports of the success of Gore’s efforts to revitalize his standing on the Left, and thought to himself “This cannot be.” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan laughed and remarked at a press briefing last week, this was the first time a senate filibuster was led by a “yodeling U. S. Senator from Davos.”

And yet, maybe Senator Kerry had the last laugh, or last yodel:

…[T]his is what is really stunning, he [Kerry] has forced …or induced three quarters of Senate Democrats to vote this afternoon against closure; he has got senior Democrats who said it’s a bad idea to try to filibuster: Diane Feinstein of California; Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader; Pat Leahy, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and [possible presidential primary candidate] Joe Biden. Senior Democrats have reversed themselves because of the pressure that Kerry and Kennedy have succeeded in generating from the left wing of the Democratic Party, on these senators…For all their attempts to be moderate, the left wing of the Democratic Party dominates [See here, the hard left and the hard right often dominate their important party decisions].

Bill Kristol, commenting on a Fox News Channel report, January 30, 2006.

But, the junior Senator [and perhaps 2008 VP candidate] from the State of Illinois [Senator Obama], while voting yes on filibuster and no on Judge Alito, is not entirely comfortable with Kerry’s and Kennedy’s political gambit. Could this be a case of Senator Obama trying to have his cake and eat it, too—that is, vote against Judge Alito but inoculate himself from the problem that Presidential candidates from the Senate often have, taking some bad votes?

These last minute efforts, using procedural maneuvers inside the beltway, I think, has been the wrong way of going about it. And, we need to recognize because Judge Alito will be confirmed that if we are going to oppose a nominee, that we’ve got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake and frankly, I am not sure that we’ve successfully done that.

Senator Barack Obama [D-IL], speaking on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sunday, January 29, 2006, and as video streamed, in part, earlier today on the FNC web site.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at