Now that we have a party change in the White House, this will be the first time we have an extensive, searchable online archive of punditry and speechifying covering all of the last administration.
It'll be fun to see who does an about face on issues like judicial confirmations, use of the filibuster, executive power, and other issues now that an imperial GOP presidency is likely to be replaced by an imperial Democratic one.
We saw a bit of this in the 1990s, with Republicans and Democrats doing a switch about the Senate’s proper role in the confirmation process, and among Republicans who were critical of President Clinton’s unauthorized wars in the Balkans but then argued for plenary war powers under President Bush.
I’m guessing we’ll see plenty of hackery over the next four, possibly eight years, from both sides, and I’m thinking that it’ll be fun to document it.
To kick things off, the first installment of HackWatch comes courtesy of Cato's Gene Healy. Your inaugural hack-tastic politico: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
Here's Kyl in 2005 (pdf) on the subject of using the Senate filibuster to hold up Supreme Court nominations:
Republicans seek to right a wrong that has undermined 214 years of tradition – wise, carefully thought-out tradition. The fact that the Senate rules theoretically allowed the filibuster of judicial nominations but were never used to that end is an important indicator of what is right, and why the precedent of allowing up-or-down votes is so well established. It is that precedent that has been attacked and which we seek to restore….
My friends argue that Republicans may want to filibuster a future Democratic President’s nominees. To that I say, I don’t think so, and even if true, I’m willing to give up that tool. It was never a power we thought we had in the past, and it is not one likely to be used in the future. I know some insist that we will someday want to block Democrat judges by filibuster. But I know my colleagues. I have heard them speak passionately, publicly and privately, about the injustice done to filibustered nominees. I think it highly unlikely that they will shift their views simply because the political worm has turned.
Here's Jon Kyl's warning to President-Elect Obama last month:
Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, warned president-elect Barack Obama that he would filibuster U.S. Supreme Court appointments if those nominees were too liberal.
Kyl, Arizona’s junior senator, expects Obama to appoint judges in the mold of U.S Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer. Those justices take a liberal view on cases related to social, law and order and business issues, Kyl said.
“He believes in justices that have empathy,” said Kyl, speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Phoenix. The attorneys group promotes conservative legal principles.
Kyl said if Obama goes with empathetic judges who do not base their decisions on the rule of law and legal precedents but instead the factors in each case, he would try to block those picks via filibuster.
Kyl has set the bar pretty high, here. So high, in fact, that I'm having a hard time envisioning how anyone could top him. There's really no wiggle room in those two statements. For that, I'm giving him a 10 out of 10 on the somewhat-arbitrary "Hackery Index."
If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.