October 11, 2005

The Obsequious Instruments of His Pleasure

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A lot of people are onto this now, but it merits reprinting far and wide. Andrew Sullivan points out that in the Federalist Papers (No. 76), Alexander Hamilton writes on the reason why the Senate must confirm any nominees put forth by the president. Remember that the Federalist Papers were written chiefly by Hamilton and Madison as a means of explaining the Constitution to the people of New York, defending it against those who wanted to reject it. They are a primary source for interpretation--the Supreme Court's job. Also consider the nature of Harriet Miers' nomination, and why Bush chose her. With that in mind:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

That last part is the most relevant: the authority of the Senate to confirm nominees was put into place so that the president "would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of ... being in some way or other personally allied to him."

I would strongly point this out to those who believe that Supreme Court nominees should just be rubber-stamped by Congress as a political privilege for the president. According to the founding fathers themselves, this was never intended, and Bush should be ashamed of himself.

The thing is, you know he isn't, and never will be.

Posted by Luis at October 11, 2005 12:36 AM

Thanks for explaining all about This new Supreme Court Mess- I at a gut level had been thinking it was a disrespectful nomination...but you cut to the chase. I have been lurking at your blog for monthes- it is indeed a good read. Come by http://watergatesummer.blogspot.com/, it too is a humble little political blog....Thanks for the great insights...

Posted by: allie mcneil at October 11, 2005 06:20 AM

Excellent postings - I like your research acumen! Thank you for a high-quality blog.

Posted by: nemo at October 13, 2005 02:53 AM

Um... wish I could take credit, but Andrew Sullivan was the source, had the material. The rest was just a Wikipedia lookup and a Google Search...

Posted by: Luis at October 13, 2005 02:58 AM