Monica Goodling shrugged.
There wasn’t, she explained, much that she could do to help me.
The scene: the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room, February 26, 2002. The occasion: Senate confirmation hearings for Bush Third Circuit judicial nominee D. Brooks Smith. Smith was at the time the sitting Chief Judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania, where he had served since his appointment by Ronald Reagan fourteen years earlier.
At the time I had put aside a writing career to assist in the confirmation of Judge Smith, an old friend from college days. In an earlier life I had been a political director in the Reagan White House, our office tasked with working on the Senate confirmations of five Reagan Supreme Court nominees, most notably what became the infamous fight over Judge Robert Bork. With that particular arcane experience in my background, I had gotten back into the fray to help Smith, working with a quickly assembled group of Smith supporters from Pennsylvania, many of them Democrats and leading women attorneys appalled at the sudden political gauntlet the heretofore popular and uncontroversial Judge Smith was being forced to run — a confirmation process run by the iron-fisted hand of Judiciary Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy.
But even I, a veteran of judicial confirmation hearings who had also worked on the staff of a Senator, was appalled at what I discovered that February day. The Pennsylvania group, almost two dozen strong, had traveled to Washington on their own dime to show their support at the hearing. Pennsylvania’s Senator Arlen Specter told me that day he had never seen this kind of in-person, across-the-board support for a nominee on this kind of occasion in his then 22 years in the Senate. Realizing this would be the maximum moment to answer the cascade of phony charges being hurled at Smith by the liberal special interest groups, our volunteers had helped me put together the typical press packet of favorable clips and letters of support for Judge Smith to be handed out at the hearing, an unremarkable routine of Senate hearings.
Ms. Goodling, assigned by Justice to work on Smith’s nomination, was already in the hearing room when our group arrived. As our Pennsylvanians took seats, I looked around at the very familiar scene. The packed crowd of the public, the press tables filled to capacity, the television lights flooding the room as the cameras focused on Judge Smith. Carrying stacks of our press packet I headed for the press tables — and was stopped cold.
A woman identifying herself as an aide to Senator Leahy said that I would be prohibited from handing out the press releases. Looking over her shoulder I could see releases from the left-wing Alliance for Justice being methodically handed to the press under the watchful eye of the Alliance’s leader, lobbyist Nan Aaron, who stood at the rear of the room. I protested, pointing to the AFJ releases.
The Alliance for Justice, the Leahy aide snapped, was a “non-profit.” Our press releases were going to be confiscated, stashed under a nearby table. Can I talk to the press, I asked? No, she said, as I watched the opposition smoothly chatting with reporters at the table. I was to either take a seat or I would have to leave.
Dumbfounded at the unabashed nature of this attempt at intimidation I retreated and sought out Monica Goodling to protest. She listened sympathetically. There was a slight roll of the eyes as she made it clear that she recognized the atmosphere that Leahy had created. Yes, she said, this was outrageous. Thoroughly courteous and pleasant, Ms. Goodling was every inch the professional. She reminded me that as someone who had served on the Senate and White House staff myself I should know that on Capitol Hill the executive branch had no sway. Leahy’s Judiciary Committee was what it was, the staff responding to the tone set by the chairman. For the sake of Judge Smith I should just forget the press releases and quietly take my seat.
I did. But the episode turned out to be a mere snapshot of the way Leahy ran the Judiciary Committee, and is surely playing a role in Ms. Goodling’s recent decision to take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify to the Leahy-run Judiciary Committee on the current controversy over the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. The episode turned out to be only one example of how Leahy had allowed Judiciary to become the focus of a completely corrupted process.
Other examples, which were investigated at length for The Borking Rebellion, my book about Leahy’s chairmanship of Judiciary during the Smith confirmation hearing, are as follows.
Misleading a Witness and Obstruction of Justice: A liberal Pennsylvania doctor, a longtime friend of Smith’s, took it upon himself to praise Smith in an e-mail to fervid Smith opponents at the left-wing interest group the National Organization for Women (NOW). To his amazement the Smith supporter was shortly on the receiving end of a phone call from a woman identifying herself as an investigator for Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. Immediately she told an untruth: that Leahy was looking for “additional grounds to support Judge Smith.” The problem? Unbeknownst to the doctor, Leahy had already announced his opposition to Smith. It is a violation of Senate rules, found under a section entitled “Obstruction of Justice,” to misrepresent facts to a potential witness. The apparent reason for the call: to falsely represent Leahy’s views in the hopes of getting dirt on Judge Smith.
The attempt failed only after a vigorous threat — including a promise of disbarment proceedings against the investigator — by a staff member working for Republican Senator Arlen Specter. But launching a Senate investigator on a private citizen — and then lying to that witness — as the result of an e-mail to a special interest group was not the only sign of corruption at Leahy’s Judiciary Committee.
Oral and written questions asked and submitted to Smith by Democratic Senators turned out to have been written substantially by two left-wing groups, the Community Rights Counsel and Aaron’s Alliance for Justice. The most egregious offender was Senator Russell Feingold, a perceptive Smith law clerk tracing all but seven of twenty-eight Feingold questions to a secret AFJ/CRC memo that was leaked to the Smith forces. Leahy himself used almost identical text from the secret AFJ/CRC memo in a written question to Smith, without attribution, unaware that Smith’s clerk had the memo and thus knew the real source of Leahy’s question. Among others who allowed the groups to write their questions to Smith — all while implying the questions were their own — were Senators Kennedy, Biden and Maria Cantwell.
Lobbyist Nan Aaron confessed to a Democratic friend of Smith the reason for her presence in the hearing room that day. She was to “stay a bit, and then walk around a bit” I was told, and then leave. What for? Aaron’s physical movements and time in the room while Smith was testifying (his back to her) was to signal to Democratic Senators and their staff the degree of interest the groups had in defeating Judge Smith.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online