Memo-gate Shows New Tone Has Not Come to Washington

During his campaign for president, then-Governor George W. Bush said he wanted to “change the tone” in Washington. His idea was to bring the bipartisan atmosphere that worked so well for him in dealing with the Texas legislature to the nation’s capital. For a while, his efforts appeared to be working. President Bush attended Democrat leadership meetings to show that he was willing to listen to the other side.

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Democrats showed a willingness to put partisanship aside and rally behind the commander-in-chief. As we have now learned through a series of leaked memos, the veil of bipartisanship actually covered an iron mask of liberal, partisan efforts to politicize both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

As was recently revealed by the Wall Street Journal, a series of memos written by Democrat staffers for their Senate bosses describe in detail tactics to use in order to attack President Bush’s judicial nominees. The memos highlight meetings between senators and liberal special interest groups bent on defeating any high-level judicial nominee with a perceived strong conservative background. On the surface, one may say that these groups were doing exactly what is expected of them: lobbying legislators for a particular outcome to particular legislation or nominations.

However, the memos go much deeper than that. The memos outline strategies which border on unethical and clearly demonstrate the politicizing of committee activities which should stand above politics.

In a memo dated April 17, 2002, and addressed to Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy, the staffer describes the desires of Elaine Jones of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for the Senate Judiciary Committee to “hold off on any 6th Circuit nominees until the University of Michigan case regarding the constitutionality of affirmative action in higher education is decided by the en banc 6th Circuit.”

The staffer goes on to write, “The thinking is that the current 6th Circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, that new judge will be able, under 6th Circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it.”

The staffer states that the Legal Defense Fund asked then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Democrat Patrick Leahy to schedule the hearing for the nominee to the 6th Circuit at a later date. The staffer expresses concern “about the propriety of scheduling hearings based on the resolution of a particular case” and notes that the 6th Circuit is “in dire need of additional judges.” Despite the obvious questions of ethics that arise from such actions, the staffer recommends to Sen. Kennedy that the nominee, Julia Scott Gibbons, “be scheduled for a later hearing.”

In other memos to both Sen. Kennedy and Democrat Sen. Richard Durbin, staffers document efforts by liberal special interest groups to influence the scheduling of Judiciary Committee hearings in order for the groups to have more time to mount an attack on a particular Bush nominee. In a memo to Sen. Durbin dated October 15, 2001, a staffer writes, “The groups are asking that the Committee hold a second hearing on Pickering in a few weeks, when they will have had adequate time to research him fully.”

The staffer continues, “The decision to schedule Pickering’s hearing was made by Senator Leahy himself, not his staff, so the groups are likely to ask you to intercede personally. They will also seek assurances that they will receive adequate warning of future controversial nominees.”

So much for the era of bipartisanship. Barely a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which killed nearly 3,000 people, Democrats were showing that they were in the pocket of those on the far left. Groups like NARAL, Alliance for Justice, and the NAACP were not just trying to influence the vote on certain nominees, they were also calling the shots on the scheduling of hearings and the Democrats were listening. This is beyond the pale.

Another memo to Sen. Durbin stresses the need to delay action on D.C. Circuit Court nominee Miguel Estrada. The memo labels Estrada as “especially dangerous.” Included in the reasons for this label was the fact that “he is Latino.” The staffer writes, “They want you to hold off on Estrada as long as possible.”

The appropriate emotion after reading such nonsense should be nothing short of outrage. First, it appears quite evident that the Democrats were basing committee operations on the will of far left groups, given the amount of time Miguel Estrada’s nomination sat in limbo. In addition, one can only imagine the uproar both in the public and in the media if a Republican had mentioned wanting to postpone consideration of a judicial nominee because of race. The office holder would be branded a racist so fast your head would spin, and yet, these memos are barely recording a blip of national media coverage.

Couple these Judiciary Committee memos with the memo produced for Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence committee, and a serious case can be made for an investigation. In Rockefeller’s memo, strategies are outlined which would use classified intelligence information to help the Democrats make a case against the war in Iraq. The Intelligence Committee was built to be above politics, and yet the Democrats have been caught red-handed trying to use sensitive intelligence information for political gain.

As Americans, we cannot allow this to stand. There is definitely a new tone in Washington, and it is deafening. It is the tone of obstruct at any cost. It is the tone of politics comes first, and the business of the American people comes last. We must hold these legislators accountable, and we must send a clear message that politics has its place and that place is not in the exploitation of intelligence information or the obstruction of judicial nominees. It’s time for a new tone in Washington, and 2004 can’t get here soon enough.