Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jumpin' Judicial Jive...

To recap the fuzzy figures on the federal judge nomination fury:

Democrats have been claiming for some time that they have allowed confirmation of 95% of Bush II's judicial nominees.

When The New York Times ran a chart on May 18 showing that Bush II had a 53% nominee confirmation rate for federal appeals court seats, the lowest percentage for all appellate nominees going back to Truman, the right wing echo chamber went ape snot, howling like hyenas about the lies, half truths, and distortions from the left as confessed to by a liberal media source.

But the Times chart left some questions. How did they calculate their numbers, and how could the Dems have cooked a number so out of sync with what their theoretical ally, The Times, reported?

For starters, the right cherry picked the Times' numbers. While their numbers show that Bush II's appellate confirmation rate is 53% compared to Clinton's 59%, they also showed that the Bush II district court rate was 87% versus Clinton's 81% and concluded that the two president's averages were "roughly on par." But The Times didn't publish overall averages, and didn't provide raw figures that would allow average observers to calculate them for themselves.

I searched extensively through the web for a concise, comprehensive data table for government, mainstream media, or blogosphere sources of that data, came up with nothing, and asked readers for assistance. A friend sent me two links that answered some questions but created many more.

The first was a Washington Post article from December 2004 that states:

"Republicans say that Democrats have abused the filibuster by blocking 10 of the president's 229 judicial nominees in his first term."

This would substantiate the Dems' 95% acceptance claim (the exact percentage is closer to 96). I guessed at first that judges not confirmed by means other than filibuster would account for the discrepancy between the Dems' claim and the Times' numbers.

But another link from my friend made me guess again. From an interview with National Public Radio's congressional correspondent Brian Naylor and its Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving:

"The president's nominees to the district court level of the federal system have not been blocked. The conflict has come at the next level, the appeals court level, which is the intermediary step between trial courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. President Bush has had 57 nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals. Five never received hearings. Of the 52 who did, 42 have been confirmed, but 10 were blocked by Democrats' use of the filibuster to prevent a floor vote. Three of these nominees subsequently withdrew from consideration, but seven others have returned for renomination in the current Congress."

According to the Times' numbers, 13% of the district court nominees were not confirmed, so the NPR guys must have meant they fell out by means other than filibuster, or The New York Times is out to lunch, or the NPR guys are out to lunch, or The New York Times and NPR are both out to lunch (which won't be the first time that happened).

At the appellate level, if 42 of 57 appeals court nominees were confirmed, the confirmation rate is 73.7%, not the 53% that NYT reported. Even if we count the seven judges who were filibustered but nominated again twice, we get 42 of 64, or 65%.

In any case, the left has once again blown an opportunity to get its act together and decisively refute the right, which is further out to lunch than The New York Times and NPR combined. Those characters manufacture numbers out of thin air and their followers wash them down with the latest batch of grape Kool Aid.

The shame of all this is that in the "land of the free" and during "the information age," average citizens can't cut through the smoke screens to find accurate, coherent, comprehensive data that should be the coinage of national debate.

We truly live in Orwellian times.


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