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Does She Realize That She's Next?

It’s not often that a federal elected official feels compelled to respond to an opinion column emanating from the media in her state, but that what Sen. Mary Landrieu did with this one. How she responded, including what she chose to include or to exclude in her reply, speaks volumes.

First, Landrieu claims that Shannen Coffin (interestingly, The Times got his name wrong on his own column!) “mischaracterized the debate of the past several years in the Senate over President Bush's judicial nominees.” Reading his column, I’m not sure where she could say that unless she thinks he’s saying she’s voting against nominees merely to be obstructionist.

Then, she tries to buttress this assertion by pointing out that:

I joined my Senate colleagues in confirming 204 of 214 of President Bush's judicial nominees. This is a fact, and it hardly paints a picture of "liberal obstructionism." Rather, it shows senators taking seriously their role to look closely at the views and qualifications of judicial nominees who, when confirmed, often far outlast the term of the president who appointed them. More than 60 out of 248 of President Clinton's judicial nominations were blocked by procedural maneuvering without even the benefit of a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Wrong: this is a disingenuous remark trying to equate the instances under Pres. Clinton where these nominees never commanded a majority in committee or on the Senate floor with the present cases under Pres. Bush where, if one takes the failed cloture motions against Democratic filibustering (in which every case Landrieu voted not to allow a nominee to come to a vote) as evidence, all of these 10 nominees enjoy both committee and Senate majorities.

Landrieu doesn’t tell you that the step she and her liberal Democrat colleagues have taken is unprecedented in Senate history (her body’s own researchers reveal this). All Coffin and others ask is that Landrieu stop subverting the idea of the filibuster to impose their minority preferences on the will of the majority, a practice not allowed in the Constitution, not even allowed by Senate rules on judicial nominations until 1949, and never successfully on Circuit Court nominees until the Bush presidency. Quite contrary to her statement, her actions display the height of arrogance and irresponsibility. It’s childish, in fact, like throwing a temper-tantrum to get back at the winners of policy conflicts.

Responsible senators want the Senate to exercise its duty to advise and (perhaps) give consent the president on judicial nominations. Landrieu and others want to subvert this. Why should she fear allowing a vote if she truly cares about the Senate and the people of Louisiana? Only an obstructionist would behave differently, so her explanation rings entirely hollow.

But, believe it or not, her remarks on judicial nominations aren’t the biggest fairy tale she tells in her column. Get a load of this:

The nonpartisan publication The National Journal recently ranked me as one of the most moderate senators of either party. That does not speak to a record of extremism; it speaks to a record built on votes based on what is right for the people of Louisiana and our nation.

However, other partisan groups paint a very different picture. The most venerable conservative group that ranks legislators by their votes, the American Conservative Union, gives Landrieu a lifetime score of 15, where 0 is the “perfect” liberal score. This slightly outdoes the liberal group that has been doing this scoring the longest, the Americans for Democratic Action, who just give her almost a 79 where 100 is the “perfect” liberal score. Both rank her as the most liberal senator in Louisiana history. If that makes her “moderate” in the Senate, there are no real moderates there.

The attitude expressed in her column demonstrates a distinct disconnection with the people she claims to represent. Perhaps Landrieu didn’t take to heart the fact that she won the two narrowest elections consecutively for the Senate since 1996. Perhaps she doesn’t see that the people of Louisiana are less and less inclined to take what she says at face value without critical appraisal. As the billboards across the state declare, referring to Sen. David Vitter’s decisive win last year, “Sister Senator Mary Landrieu, you’re next.”

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