Senatorial Crockery

Anthrax and the war in Afghanistan notwithstanding, Senate Republicans have
elected to play domestic hardball. Recently, they delayed a foreign-aid bill to
protest what The Wall Street Journal editorial page called "unprecedented
stonewalling" on the president's judicial appointments by the Senate Judiciary
Committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Yet what may be truly
without precedent is the numeric sleight of hand used to condemn Leahy. The Wall
Street Journal
complains that "10 months into this Administration Mr. Leahy has
confirmed a mere eight of the 60 judicial nominations Mr. Bush has made." Leahy,
however, has only been Judiciary Committee chairman since June 6, when Democrats
took full control of the Senate.

Extending its calendrical games further, the Journal notes that Bush made 44
of his 60 nominations "by the August recess," suggesting that Leahy has had
plenty of time to consider them. But as of October 18, the day the Journal
editorialized, Leahy had had just a month and a half since Congress returned from
recess in early September. That's not much time. A recent study by People for the
American Way (PFAW), based on Congressional Research Service reports, found that
even during the George H.W. Bush administration--long before squabbling over
judicial appointments became a Senate pastime--it took an average of 77 days for
an appellate court nominee to get a hearing.

And these are just the most transparent deceptions. Because of the different
types of judicial appointments (circuit, district) and the many different time
frames by which you could measure the Senate's pace in dealing with them (a
two-year Congress, a full presidential term, a month, a day), you can tell
virtually any tale you'd like about nominee blocking and dress it up in
statistics. Citing a meeting with Senator Orrin Hatch in which he divulged
"statistics" that made a "convincing case" that Leahy was stalling, the National
Review Online
's Kate O'Beirne convolutedly observed:

Under both Democratic and Republican Senates, with a
single exception ... the judicial nominees of President Bush's predecessors, when
nominated before Labor Day, all were confirmed by the end of that year. Under
Chairman Leahy, only eight of President Bush's 44 judicial nominees have made it
to the Senate floor for approval. So, in contrast with his predecessors, whose
judicial nominations enjoyed confirmation rates ranging from 93 percent to 100
percent, President Bush currently has an 18 percent approval rate for his

The most obvious manipulation here is the old one--pretending that the party
defection of James Jeffords never happened and blaming Leahy for the whole year
of 2001 even though he took over only in June. O'Beirne's claim that Bush's
"predecessors" had confirmation rates ranging from 93 percent to 100 percent,
meanwhile, elides the whole history of Republican holds on Clinton's judicial
nominees. Here's a less twisted figure: During the 106th Congress, the last of
Clinton's presidency, more than half of his appellate court nominees were blocked
by the Republican Senate.

Osama bin Laden: Spook

Even as forensic geologists try to pinpoint Osama bin Laden's location in
mineral-rich Afghanistan by examining the rock face shown in his jihad-rousing
video, The American Spectator's R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., in a lame attempt at
humor, wonders if bin Laden could be a hoax. "Have you noticed that he is wearing
a Timex Ironman Triathlon wrist watch and camouflage clothes that are either Army
surplus or right out of the National Rifle Association catalogue?" asks Tyrrell in
a recent column published in The Washington Times. "And does anyone doubt that
the beard is a fake? It looks like horsehair to me."

Tyrrell concludes that the bin Laden video is "obvious propaganda from Western
intelligence." Interestingly, some have suggested roughly the same thing about
the image of Bert from Sesame Street that has been appearing on protest posters
featuring Osama bin Laden in Bangladesh. Tyrrell and al-Qaeda are partners in
conspiracy theories.