PRESIDENT BUSH'S decision not to resubmit the nominations of four of his most controversial judicial picks is a welcome sign from an administration that, in the realm of judicial selection, has too often chosen confrontation over compromise. When the president, during the post-election lame-duck session, chose to renominate these appeals court nominees with no prospect they would be confirmed, the move struck us as gratuitously partisan. Now Mr. Bush deserves credit for putting some action behind his rhetoric of bipartisanship. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) correctly called the move "a welcome beginning" and "an opportunity for a fresh start on judicial nominations." As Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it, "This reversal is one of the first tangible signs that the president heard and is heeding the message from November's election."
Mr. Bush's move was a wise acknowledgment of political reality, but it was also right on the merits. Democrats had valid objections to the nominations of William J. Haynes II, William G. Myers III, Terrence W. Boyle Jr. and Michael B. Wallace. Mr. Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel, has been a key player in the military's policies on detentions and interrogations in the war on terrorism. Mr. Myers has a dreadful record of anti-environmental activism. Judge Boyle, who serves on the U.S. District Court in North Carolina, has a troubling history in civil rights cases. And the American Bar Association unanimously rated Mr. Wallace "unqualified" for service on the bench.
Now the onus is not only on the president to avoid more thumb-in-their-eye nominees, but also on Democrats, newly in control of the Senate, to make good on their end of the bargain: to give the president's nominees the timely and reasonable consideration that nominees have not always received in the past.