Judicial Nominees and Ideological Extremism

President Obama will announce three new nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today. On Sunday, I was on a panel on MSNBC’s Up With Steve Kornacki, discussing the looming showdown over Republican obstruction of the president’s appointments to the federal bench. One major point: while Republicans, under Bush, pressed for ideologically extreme nominees to the D.C. Circuit (and other federal courts), they are now portraying Obama’s nominees–all mainstream legal thinkers–as extremists from the other side. Here’s one clip from the show:

Other clips from the show are here; we also discussed the retirement of Michele Bachmann from the House.


Michele Bachmann, one of a kind?

People who make their living debunking politicians’ statements are shedding a few tears today over the loss of the low-hanging fruit of Michele Bachmann:

“She was great to cover because she was consistently and unapologetically wrong,” Washington Post fact-checker Glen Kessler told Poynter in an email. “But others will fill the breach, I am sure!” In a post bidding her adieu, Kessler wrote that Bachmann’s absence “will leave the Capitol a much less interesting place to fact check.”

Bachmann is hardly a one-of-a-kind Republican. Armed with her Christian legal education, her submission to her husband, and her commitment to studying, teaching, and legislating from her “Christian worldview,” Bachmann was a model of the religious right candidate. She wasn’t the first, and she won’t be the last.

Her star might have risen during the tea party era, but, as Ed Kilgore notes:

she really did complicate the lives of those who wanted to neatly divide today’s radicalized conservative movement into secular and religious “wings,” or treat the Tea Party as something new and different from yesterday’s extremists. She was probably the first nationally prominent pol to consistently label herself as a “constitutional conservative,” a self-identifying term that is still growing like topsy in usage and may well become ubiquitous on the Right before long, despite or perhaps because of its arrogance and its assertion of eternally valid governing models and cultural standards from the distant past. 

There are a lot of theories about why Bachmann isn’t running again: her apparently shrinking shot at beating her Democratic rival, and a Congressional ethics and and law enforcement probes into alleged campaign finance improprieties. (The former campaign staffer who filed the complaint with the Federal Election Commission, Peter Waldron, has his own rather interesting history.) But it’s worth recalling, too, that even powerful Republicans–no strangers to promoting conspiracy theories for political gain–found her McCarthyism a bridge too far, particularly when it came to her anti-Muslim witch hunts. 

Fact-checkers, bloggers, and listicle specialists might be mourning the traffic lost from Bachmann’s  mockable syntax, rhetorical excesses, and her often comical absence of self-restraint. But there will be other candidates and (sadly) lawmakers who share Bachmann’s religiosity, education, and outlook. Will they make things as “interesting” as Bachmann does? I wouldn’t rule it out.

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