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The Meaningless Statement

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In confirmation choreography, one of the most important steps is the well-rehearsed statement that appears to address a concern but is actually meaningless.

Bill Mears has this story on the Goodwin Liu confirmation hearing for CNN. Liu told the committee, "I would have no difficulty or objection of any sort to enforcing the law as written in enforcing the death penalty." What does that mean? Nothing.

Capital cases are sufficiently complex that a judge who wants to can always stretch some rule of law to justify a vote to reverse and claim he is merely enforcing the law. Having read all of the capital case opinions of Judge Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit, for example, there is no doubt in my mind that he approaches the capital cases in exactly that way. The key question is whether Goodwin Liu would do the same. That statement does nothing to assure us he will not.

I did not see the whole hearing, but apparently Liu has not backed off from the substance of his attacks on Samuel Alito. This story by Ben Pershing in the WaPo says he only admitted to using "overly flowery language." As Senator Kyl correctly pointed out, the attack was not "flowery," it was vicious.

It does not appear from press reports that Liu has any understanding of just how far out in left field his death penalty paper was. I'll have more to say when I can get a transcript.

Howler of the day award goes to Senator Leahy:

"I hope they will keep the same open mind kept by Democratic senators," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the committee. "I hope they will not apply a double standard to this extraordinary nominee."
Open mind? What they did with the Miguel Estrada nomination is an "open mind"? If Senator Leahy gets his wish, and the Republicans treat Liu the same way the Democrats treated comparable Republican nominees, then a filibuster is certain.

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Dick Cheney knew how to address Senator Leahy.

"Judge Alito's record envisions an America . . . where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man."

That statement is more than racially-charged--it is racially offensive. Good to see how our post-racial president chooses his nominees.

So we are to believe that his writings and articles as a law professor would have no bearing on his decision-making as a judge.

Was he disingenuous then or now?

I think we all know the answer.

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