Where was the WSJ when Republicans were blocking Clinton nominees? On the side of obstruction

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund claimed that he and the Journal editorial page criticized Republican efforts to block former President Bill Clinton's judicial nominees -- more than 60 of whom Republicans denied even votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and that Fund himself wrote an editorial arguing that one particular Clinton nominee, Richard A. Paez, deserved a vote. But a Media Matters for America search* of Journal editorials revealed no instances of Fund or the editorial board condemning Republican efforts to block Paez. In fact, the newspaper actually criticized then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for allowing Paez's nomination to go to the full Senate. Several other Journal editorials also explicitly defended the Republicans' right to deny Clinton nominees an up-or-down vote.

Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews opposite Fund, former Democratic strategist Bob Shrum asserted that, while Fund and the Journal have criticized Senate Democratic filibusters of a handful of Bush judicial nominees, they never "editorialized against this same process under Bill Clinton." Fund responded by stating: "We did. ... I personally wrote the editorial saying Paez deserved a vote. ... I know others [Journal editorial board members] wrote others."

But in a March 17, 2000, editorial titled "Hatch v. Hatch," the Journal claimed Hatch "forgot" about the Clinton administration's "many legal and ethical evasions" when he "whisked through two liberal judicial nominees [Paez and Marsha L. Berzon]." The editorial declared that Hatch's role as a "Clinton enabler ... helps explain [his] decision to approve Judge Richard Paez to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals." The editorial claimed that Paez's condemnation of Californian anti-immigration Proposition 187 demonstrated his belief that "the 59% of Californians who approved it were bigots. ... Mr. Hatch apparently doesn't mind."

Other Journal editorials defended the Republicans' right to deny Clinton nominees a vote on the floor in even stronger terms:

  • A May 16, 2000, editorial titled "A GOP Judicial Debacle?" claimed that Hatch went "into the tank" by failing to "us[e] his Senate power to block" Clinton nominees such as then-District of Columbia Circuit nominee Allen Snyder. The editorial stated that "there are sound reasons for denying him a vote," including that Reagan-appointee Laurence Silberman's retirement "combined with a Snyder confirmation, would mean a 5-5 [Republican/Democrat appointee] split that could haunt the first year of a Bush Presidency." Labeling the Snyder nomination "an example of Beltway legal insiders looking out for their friends instead of for the broader public interest," the editorial even asserted that blocking such nominees is the committee chairman's raison d'être: "The Senate Judiciary chairman is paid to stand up to such pressure."
  • In a May 29, 1998, op-ed titled "Supreme Politics: Who'd Replace Justice Stevens?" current Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul A. Gigot also criticized Hatch for allowing Clinton nominees a floor vote. Gigot questioned Hatch's "brisk approval of Clinton lower-court nominees as a way to gain leverage and credibility for the more significant Supreme Court pick," noting that "Mr. Clinton has fooled Republicans before."
  • A November 4, 1997, editorial titled "Above the Law?", which defended the Republicans' right to block Clinton Justice Department nominee Bill Lann Lee (who never received Senate confirmation, instead assuming the position of acting assistant attorney general), suggested a series of "starting points for Chairman Hatch and his colleagues before acceding to the Lee nomination," or any judicial nominations for that matter:

    No nominations of any sort will be approved until this Administration starts enforcing the Supreme Court's Beck decision [which allowed unionized workers to withhold union dues used for political activities]. No new judges will be approved until the Clinton Administration nominates someone to run the criminal division at Justice, now vacant for two years. Alternatively, no more judicial nominations until Janet Reno appoints an independent counsel to investigate the Clinton fund-raising apparatus, as any normal reading of that statute now so clearly requires.

  • A February 15, 1996, editorial titled "The Clinton Judges -- II" noted that the "Senate Judiciary Committee may find itself 'too busy' to schedule hearings" before the November presidential election. The editorial argued that Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) had honed the "delay tactic" of blocking conservative judicial nominees when he was committee chair, so Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) was "not about to support" the nominations of James A. Beaty Jr. or J. Rich Leonard to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

From the May 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

SHRUM: I wish, by the way, that John Fund and The Wall Street Journal had editorialized against this same process under Bill Clinton.

FUND: We did. I can give you the dates, Bob. We did.

SHRUM: What John is saying would have more credibility.

FUND: We did.

SHRUM: Because the truth is -- who did you -- who? Who was being filibustered that you editorialized against?

FUND: I personally wrote the editorial saying Judge Paez deserved a vote. I personally wrote that.

SHRUM: And what about all the other Clinton judges that were filibustered?

FUND: I gave you the one I wrote. I know others wrote others.

*Based on a search for "Paez" under "all dates" in The Wall Street Journal on the Factiva database and the Journal's editorial page website, OpinionJournal.com.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
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