Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Brownback's Brain

[Posted by reader_iam]

Some of the "thinking" demonstrated in this article is why I would have serious problems with Sen. Sam Brownback as a presidential candidate. Brownback has agreed to remove his block on a judicial nomination to the federal bench, which was also holding up action on more than a dozen other nominees (!). He had blocked the nomination because Judge Janet Neff had attended the same-sex commitment ceremony of a long-time friend and neighbor.
Mr. Brownback, who has been criticized for blocking the nomination, said he would also no longer press a proposed solution he offered on Dec. 8 that garnered even more criticism: that he would remove his block if Judge Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions.

In an interview last week, Mr. Brownback said that he still believed Judge Neff’s behavior raised serious questions about her impartiality and that he was likely to vote against her. But he said he did not realize his proposal — asking a nominee to agree in advance to remove herself from deciding a whole category of cases — was so unusual as to be possibly unprecedented. Legal scholars said it raised constitutional questions of separation of powers for a senator to demand that a judge commit to behavior on the bench in exchange for a vote.

He didn't realize the request was unusual and inappropriate? That says a lot about his thinking skills and judgment. And if he had no one on his staff smart enough to figure that out, or comfortable enough to question Brownback's thinking, then that says something about the level and type of people with which one could assume he'd surround himself.
Mr. Brownback said that he believed Judge Neff’s attendance at the 2002 ceremony merited further investigation, but that he had not meant to set any precedent with his proposal. “It was the last day of the session and I was just trying to provide some accommodation to see if we could make this thing go forward,” he said.

He said that “this is a big hot-button issue” and that Judge Neff had not made it clear that her presence at the ceremony did not mean she could not rule without bias in deciding cases involving same-sex unions. “I’d like to know more factually about what took place,” he said.

Further "investigation"? "Like to know more factually about what took place"? Judge Neff explained the circumstances. How does he want to "investigate"--interview all of the attendees? Scrutinize any photos and videotapes taken that day? What "facts"? What does he want to know? Whether Neff, who didn't perform the (symbolic only) ceremony but did contribute a homily, failed to slip in some disapproving, you're-going-to-hell message? Whether she congratulated the long-term friend of her family too enthusiastically about her happiness? What is he talking about? His attempt to put an investigative, "we-need-to-know-more" figleaf on his opposition is simply laughable. He should know it's laughable. I would say it's laughable to think of a man who doesn't know it's laughable as a serious presidential candidate, except that it's just not a funny thought.

Another thing that doesn't pass the laugh test is the implication that Brownback thinks judicial nominees whose personal beliefs comport with his own should be taken at their word when they say they won't be guided by their private views, but not those whose beliefs differ.
On Oct. 12, Judge Neff answered a long list of written questions from Mr. Brownback. In her letter, she said she would decide any cases that came before her according to the law and the Constitution and would not be guided by her personal views. That is the same pledge that several conservative Republican judicial nominees made when asked whether their blunt personal statements opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriages would affect their performance on the bench.

Brownback supported those nominations, of course. Guess he had all the "facts" he needed.

If Brownback doesn't want to vote for Neff because she doesn't reflect his beliefs or that of his constituency (in the larger sense), fine. If he wants to question her during hearings as to whether she took TWO sips of champagne during the ceremonial toast and what that really means, fine. He'll look like an ass, but fine. But to hold up a whole block of nominees; to request that a judge take an unethical, inappropriate pledge; and then try to say he just needed more time for an "investigation" into the "facts" of an event the judge attended in her private life?

Puh-leeze. How dumb does he "think" we are?