Humpty Dumpty and Alice of WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS fame were in dialogue. Were they talking about the United States Senate?
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean ? neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master ? that’s all.”
Was Charles Dodson, better known as Lewis Carroll, the secret scripter for the United States Senate “compromise” foisted upon the Senate by fourteen Senators, supposedly to avoid a vote on the Constitutional Option (as proponents term it) or Nuclear Option (as opponents and loose-lipped proponents term it)? He or his ghost may have been. The agreement, such as it is, optimistically may be said to provide for normal majority votes on nominees for the Federal Judiciary.
However, the compromise agreement would be inapplicable were there extraordinary circumstances.
What are extraordinary circumstances? The agreement does not define them ? or even hint at what they may be. According to BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (Seventh Edition, West Group, 1999), at 236, “extraordinary circumstances” are defined as: “A highly unusual set of facts that are not commonly associated with a particular thing or event.”
What would qualify in this context? A nominee of whom one or more of the various leftwing pressure groups disapproves? A nominee who is not outspokenly pro-abortion? A nominee who believes in ? or, perish the thought, if a sitting judge actually has practiced ? judicial restraint? A nominee who adjudicates but does not legislate from the bench? A nominee who in his or her private life practices or attempts to practice traditional Christian or Jewish virtues? A nominee who is a practicing Roman Catholic? A nominee who is not of the John Edwards “Trial Lawyer” type?
Watch your tea cup. The same nasty Senator from Nevada who has called Justice Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment” and President George W. Bush a “loser” may knock it over. Then who knows how Humpty Dumpty would define the term extraordinary circumstances?
In sum, while the compromise may restore normalcy to the advise-and-consent proceedings of half a dozen or so long-pending nominations, it portends trouble about, shall one say, emergency circumstances.