Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Partisan Zealotry Is Subverting the Nomination Process

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Partisan Zealotry Is Subverting the Nomination Process

Article excerpt

Though he had no ground for complaint himself, Bobby Inman had a point. It is true that men and women named to high government office these days are often savagely abused. We ought to think about what has gone wrong.

Lani Guinier, one of the victims, said on National Public Radio recently that what was said about her made her feel like Alice in Wonderland - who was so transformed after she fell down the rabbit hole that she hardly knew who she was. The people who advised her on the confirmation process, Guinier said, spoke "with a cynicism and a despair that were truly frightening."

The Guinier episode shows the main elements of the problem. Attacks are made on nominees, for reasons of ideology and politics, with a zealotry that knows no bounds of truth. The attackers are in both the press and the Senate. Nominees are ordered not to reply, and those who should defend them are too often inept or craven.

The Wall Street Journal led the attack on Guinier by calling her a "quota queen." That was a straightforward lie; she did not favor racial quotas. Then Republicans called her anti-democratic because she had written about assuring minorities political weight by using a form of proportional representation, which most democratic countries do, instead of creating gerrymandered black-majority districts.

Guinier was ordered by the White House to remain silent, as a courtesy to the Senate, until she had a confirmation hearing. But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joseph Biden, let the attacks build up without a prompt hearing. And then President Bill Clinton, ducking for political cover, dumped her.

That was a travesty of the constitutional confirmation process. The public, Guinier said recently, was denied a genuinely "robust debate about ideas and policies."

A few weeks ago The Wall Street Journal had a long editorial deploring a weirdly gerrymandered black-majority congressional district drawn in Louisiana. The criticism was right, but the editors might have had the decency to mention who was the prime critic of such districts: Lani Guinier.

More recently there was the case of Morton Halperin, a widely respected and notably hardheaded national security expert nominated to be an assistant secretary of defense. …

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