We recently reported on a brewing scandal on Capitol Hill involving revelations about memos written by aides to Senate Democrats Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin. The memos provided embarrassing insights into Senate Democrats’ strategies for defeating President Bush’s judicial nominees. Manuel Miranda, former Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, is the only casualty of the scandal thus far; he has been accused of leaking memos to the media last year. Senate Democrats howled for an immediate investigation by Senate Sergeant at Arms Bill Pickle. Such an investigation is unprecedented, but Pickle’s final report is due March 5.
A few of the memos are posted at the Internet website of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary. The memos are filled with observations like “most of Bush’s nominees are Nazis.” One memo divides the President’s appellate court nominees into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. In one striking burst of honesty, however, an aide to Senator Durbin characterized most of President Clinton’s judicial nominees as “impeachable.”
Another striking thing about the memos is the deference Kennedy and Durbin’s staffs show to left-wing advocacy groups. In one memo for Senator Kennedy, the author writes that Judiciary Committee Democrats can’t approve a nominee until they “check with the gay rights groups.”
The Sergeant at Arms and Miranda both agree that these memos are only the tip of the iceberg. Some details of Pickle’s investigation were leaked to the Boston Globe in late January. Globe reporter Charlie Savage wrote that Republican aides accessed “hundreds of memos” about the Democrats’ strategies to block judicial nominations. In his resignation letter to Senator Frist, Miranda refers to “thousands of documents” accessed by another young Republican staffer. He says that staffer only read about five percent of them, and that he, Miranda, looked at only about five percent of those.
Miranda charges that the memos that have not yet been released are far more damaging to the Senate Democrats. In one of his first public interviews, he says the memos show that money, more than liberal politics, is what drives opposition to the President’s nominees. On abortion, for example, he told CNS News’ Jeff Johnson, that abortion clinics and trial lawyers are the driving force behind the pro-choice agenda. He told Johnson the combination of the abortion clinics’ lobby and trial lawyers makes “the enormity of the money that is behind the Democrats’ push?astounding and shocking.”
Meanwhile, controversy continues to surround Judiciary Committee Chairman Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. Conservatives have criticized Hatch for being too deferential to the Democrats in this scandal. The criticism has become so intense that The Hill newspaper reports that three Senate Republicans warned conservatives to lay off Hatch. And the senators asked the conservatives to “suspend their strong statements on behalf of Miranda.” Conservatives had criticized Hatch for pushing Miranda out before Pickle’s report was finished. They were baffled, “It makes no sense,” one said after the meeting.