"Nothing says 'old-school Republican' better than Jeff Sessions"


That's former Hillary Clinton spokesman Phil Singer responding to reports that Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III will be taking Sen. Arlen Specter's spot as minority leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee. All eyes are focused on the committee, of course, since it will soon be deciding the fate of President Barack Obama's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Singer complained to The Chicago Tribune that promoting Sessions "is a tangible sign that the GOP has settled its internal debate on whether to forge a broader party or a purer one. They've clearly decided to go down the purity road." Expect to hear much more along those lines as the Republicans dig in against whatever "judicial activist" Obama nominates.

Not that Singer is necessarily wrong. The Grand Old Party ain't so grand anymore, and the confirmation battle is sure to bring out the worst. But the Democrats have their own record of confirmation shenanigans to account for as well. It'll certainly be rich to hear Obama officials lecturing the GOP on bipartisanship and "doing what's best for the country" with Vice President Joe Biden sitting around. In his own time on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden played a central role in the scorched earth fights over both Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

In his memoir My Grandfather's Son, for instance, Thomas alleges that Biden was intentionally dishonest throughout their confirmation dealings, claiming that Biden told him, "since I'd be nervous at first, he would start the questioning with a few 'softballs' that would help me relax and do my best." Instead, as Thomas tells it, Biden "threw a beanball straight at my head…[and] wrenched my words out of context."

It's also worth noting that Biden thought he might discredit Thomas by branding him as a loony libertarian. To that end, Biden waved around a copy of Richard Epstein's Takings, which argues that under the Fifth Amendment the government must pay just compensation to property holders affected by certain regulations, demanding to know if Thomas agreed with such lunacy. As Epstein later told Reason, "I took some pride in the fact that Joe Biden…said that anyone who believes what's in this book is certifiably unqualified to sit in on the Supreme Court. That's a compliment of sorts."