Nicholas Confessore

Nicholas Confessore is a reporter for The New York Times. Previously he was an American Prospect senior correspondent and an editor of The Washington Monthly.

Recent Articles

King of the Hill?

E arly in December, as the Florida Supreme Court mulled over Al Gore's fate, a few dozen reporters crowded into a Senate press gallery for a conference with the newly elected Democratic leadership. After several minutes of introductions, a reporter called out a question to Thomas Daschle, the Democratic minority leader since 1994. If the Senate turned out to be 50-50, the reporter asked Daschle, "what would be your title?" The question was intended literally; with Congress's upper chamber split down the middle, there would no longer technically be a minority to lead. But the uncertainty was as good a metaphor as any for our peculiar political moment. For if the final days of election 2000 seemed to recapitulate all the worst tropes--the armies of lawyer-partisans, the careless talk of coups--of the era coming to a close, it was then, in the Senate, that one could glimpse the era that lay ahead. Even as George W. Bush grasped the tattered mantle of victory...

Lowering the Bar

I t wasn't surprising that during the fight over John Ashcroft's nomination for attorney general, one side seemed especially eager to discuss his putative racism while the other side eschewed the matter. But it was surprising that his defenders were the eager ones. "I have never known John Ashcroft to be a racist," proclaimed Oklahoma Representative J.C. Watts, who testified on Ashcroft's behalf. "It is not pleasant for me to hear terms such as racism applied to you," sniffed Bob Smith, sometime-Republican senator of New Hampshire, with a nod to his old colleague. "Branding a good man with the ugly slur of 'racist' without justification or cause is intolerable," Missouri Republican Kenny Hulshof told the Senate Judiciary Committee. But who, exactly, was branding Ashcroft a racist? "Let me be very clear about one thing," Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced when he gaveled to order the first day of hearings. "This is not about whether...

This Time, It's Personal

It was, on the whole, an unusual display of Democratic solidarity. On April 27, all nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- backed, according to ranking member Patrick Leahy, by the entire Democratic caucus -- signed a letter to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales about George W. Bush's proposed nominations to the federal bench. "We are not going to be rolled over," promised New York's Charles Schumer, who called the letter a "shot across the bow." The confirmation process, warned Leahy, "may grind to a screeching halt." But not because Gonzales and Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch were planning to fill several dozen of the nearly 100 vacancies on the federal bench with staunch conservatives. No, the offense at hand was far more grave: At a confirmation hearing in early April, Hatch had hinted that he might change an obscure policy called the "blue slip," which senators have traditionally used to exercise near-veto power over judicial nominees. During the Clinton...

The Plutocrat as Populist

"W e are so far behind," exclaims Terry McAuliffe, gazing out his window toward the Capitol. "I got a briefing last night that absolutely shocked me. I'm not going to give you the numbers. Let's just say they"--the Republicans--"have 50 times as many e-mail addresses as we have. It's unacceptable." McAuliffe has had to use this word a lot lately. It wasn't just the carpeting at Democratic National Committee headquarters, which "smelled terrible, " and which McAuliffe had fumigated even before he was elected DNC chairman last February. The whole place was decrepit. There was, for instance, the DNC's internal computer system, a 14-year-old relic that no one in the building used. "What is our technology?" he asks no one in particular. "We don't have any." The Democrats' direct-mail list, a crucial fundraising and mobilization tool, was one-tenth the size of the Republicans'. The national voter files--an all-important database that synthesizes demographic and voter registration data,...

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